Gale's Herne Bay View  (August 6th 2008)

I received, this week, a well-meaning but anonymous phone call telling me that "there are no plans to create a tourist information centre in the Herne Bay Council offices and no plans for it to be manned".

Wrong.  Plain wrong.  The Leader of the Council, John Gilbey has reaffirmed to me in person this week that the Council does indeed plan to convert the vacant space in the Council Offices into a tourist information centre, that if negotiations are successful that centre will not only provide existing services but will sell bus and rail and theatre tickets as well and that the centre will be manned and open at weekends during the season..  Such a centre, immediately adjacent to the Town's main car and coach park will be immediately accessible to visitors upon arrival and to shoppers.

I also understand that there are a number of serious and exciting parties expressing, even in these hard times, interest in filling the vacated bandstand space.  So instead of heeding the political opportunists, looking backwards and trying to preserve the Bay in aspic let us now look forward.  We could begin by glass-roofing the Bandstand and installing a winter ice rink. And then move on to the redevelopment of the bus-depot site and the High Street.
Miss Herne Bay
photos courtesy of Style Photography,  Herne Bay
The Town needs more hotel beds for visitors.  For that reason I applaud the decision of a planning inspector to grant, upon appeal, consent for an hotel on the Beltinge industrial site.  This proposal was, you will recall, rejected in spite of support by local Reculver Conservative Councillors, on the twin grounds that it might inhibit investment in a golf-course hotel and that the site was zoned for industrial use.
Canterbury City knows rather better than most that tourism is one of the largest and most important industries and that hotels employ far more people than empty industrial warehouses.  If we wait for the much-vaunted "first class hotel" to be built adjacent to the golf course we may well be old aged before the doors are open and the town needs cheap and cheerful bedspace, for those visiting friends and family, for holidaymakers and for businessmen who prefer sea to city air and it needs those beds now. The decision is taken. Let's get on with it.

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A dithering government wants Herne Bay to dither still further over the regeneration plan an go out to further "consultation".  The delay may be frustrating but it may also give the Council the chance to reconsider the "sports shed" proposal.

A letter from a senior Council Officer tells me that the City "has no requirement to build a roller hockey stadium".  I am old-fashioned enough to believe that the City does have a duty to pay attention to the needs of the two thirds of its population that live on the coastal strip in Whitstable, Tankerton, Chestfield, Herne Bay and the surrounding villages.  Many of those, of all ages, are active and want decent sports stadium facilities to meet not only the roller hockey but all other indoor and outdoor spectator-sport needs. We have, and should seize, the chance to build those facilities.  Expensive, possibly, but a question of determination and priorities.

And while on the subject of responsibilities the City has no "requirement" to invest squillions of pounds in re-building the Marlowe Theatre on a crowded inner-city site with inadequate car parking and road access.  A brand-new sub-regional performance venue located off either the A2 or the A299 Thanet way would be more accessible  not just from Canterbury but from Dover, Thanet and Swale and even Ashford also, and would probably provide for more people  with better access in greater comfort.  If the Sports Hall saga is anything to go by, though, the "not thought of here" civil service doctrine will be applied.  I shall probably be pushing up daisies by the time this project is financed and brought to fruition but I have a feeling that this may prove to be yet another entry in the catalogue of opportunities missed!

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A bouquet to those at County and City Halls who have driven ahead with the redevelopment of the Cabin Youth Centre.  The Bay desperately needs this facility and it is exciting to watch it rising from the rubble and to look forward to the day when the doors open to, particularly, the young people of the Town.

And finally, and because I shall be on holiday with Suzy and our dogs on Carnival Day, our best wishes to Miss Herne Bay and her Court, and to all those who put so much effort into organising the event, for sunshine and a truly glorious day

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