Visitors often ask me why there are so many places to drink in the centre of Whitstable. People who live here complain that their lives are blighted by noisy, drunken behaviour, especially in the summer, so what can we do?
One way to control the growth of licensed premises is to bring in a special saturation policy. We have them in St Margaret’s Street and Orange Street in Canterbury but nowhere else and none have been added in the district since 2008. They require public consultation to be brought in, which is a good thing, and change the dynamic so that anyone wanting to open another licensed venue would have to show it did not add to the cumulative impact of other such premises in the street or area. Otherwise the application will normally be refused.
In the current situation it is very difficult for the Licensing Committee at the Council to refuse applications, even when there are loads of other drinking places nearby and neighbours are upset that their lives have been blighted by them.
Labour would bring in a special saturation along the high street and in particular along our beach to prevent new bars opening in areas which are badly lit and already attract people who drink on the beach away from police, such as the proposed development at the Kent & London by the Oyster Stores.
The response to our local petition for a new Police Constable in town shows that fear of crime is increasing, particularly at night. With no local police station, people are worried and we need some fresh thinking.
The temporary one way system in Whitstable has caused real difficulty for local shops these past three weeks. Isn’t it time the council considered how we could use our car parks to support local business better?
At one point last week, drivers venturing into Whitstable would have found themselves turned away from Middle Wall Car Park, Cromwell Road, Cornwallis Circle and struggling to park centrally as the capacity of Gladstone Road car park has been halved. The temporary one way system caused by the closure of Sea Street and the development of the Oval may be coping, but local trade on our high street has drop substantially and confused many residents who rely on local buses to venture into town during the week.
Last week myself and fellow candidate Chris Cornell visited local shop keepers to talk to them about the disruption. One shop keeper was clear that something needs to be done. “For years I’ve been saying to the council that the strength of this high street depends largely on the Gorrell Tank Car Park and for the third year in a row it is about to be temporarily closed” said one local shopkeeper. “The council really appreciate that their actions affect our takings”.
As the council roll out more infuriating machines to car parks down the high street, Labour would like to see local residents given half an hour’s free parking to encourage them to use local shops. Freeing up the high street would make buses run easier, prevent queueing and make it far safer where roads are narrow. It would stop our loading bays being filled with people popping in for a print of milk.
Canterbury City Council already use free parking as a means to attract shoppers to Herne Bay, so why not Whitstable?
As the council continues to raise the price of parking in our car parks and outside your house, we think that the money their new automatic plate recognition (ANPR) machines swallow because the machines don’t give change, could be better spent. A Labour council would run a honest, independent consultation on parking in town and support local businesses by using the council car parks differently.
On a lovely sunny day, Valentines day we visited Windsor House to join the residents for their weekly coffee session. Windsor House is an iconic block of independent/ sheltered flats for older people situated in the middle of Whitstable. Flats in Windsor House are very popular and are snapped up quickly when they become available. The residents are very well supported by their managers who will always go the extra mile for them to ensure their wellbeing and safety.
We were warmly welcomed by the Chair of the Residents Committee, Trevor Liberson and introduced to the residents. Many of the residents already know Bernadette, the Labour Councillor for Gorrell and Chris Cornell and I were introduced as the Labour candidates for Gorrell in the upcoming local elections.
The chair and residents shared some of their concerns with us which were mostly related to their environment. Parking in the grounds of Windsor House, uneven pathways which are treacherous for many residents as they have to use walking frames or wheelchairs. Other concerns raised were the state of the roof and the number of oven hoods which were beginning to fail in the flats. The residents were appreciative of the support they had received from Bernadette, in particular getting the yellow lines painted in the grounds. She is also working to get a 20 mph zone introduced in the area of Windsor House . Labour councillors have also been active in helping several residents in relation to benefits and housing issues; with two residents taking time to talk with Bernadette about their cases.
Some of the residents expressed concern that as you got older you were often unseen by society and politicians and stereotyped and patronised. I totally support this feeling as having turned 70 this year I am tired of being marginalised or written off. The concerns of older people are usually the concerns of the whole community. Having a well funded NHS ,good transport links, housing, local shops and libraries, a clean and safe environment, good schools. Creating a community which will be a good place to live for everybody regardless of age.
Labour Councillors will continue to support this valued community and to work to create a well-funded safe and vital community for everyone-not just for the few.