Cllr Rick Everitt, Leader of Thanet District Council writes:
Much of what we do as district councillors is everyday detail – chasing up missed bin collections, dealing with housing or parking issues, reporting dumped rubbish.
For the residents immediately affected, these can be important matters. And there is personal satisfaction to be had in getting them resolved. Who doesn’t like to help people out if they can? But individually these things don’t usually make news.
Due to our district’s geographical position, however, and especially its extensive coastline, we have more than our fair share of major projects. Dreamland, the former Pleasurama site in Ramsgate, Manston, Thanet Parkway are just a few obvious examples.
Another one obviously is Ramsgate Port and Harbour, where structural economic change has overtaken something that worked well for the district in the past. Now it is our responsibility to make sure that we adapt and change to reflect the new reality. The harbour continues to thrive, but the port is underused and often seen as a financial burden, although some of the headline loss figures which appear in the media can be misleading. If we take a positive view, we can also see it as a massive opportunity, for Ramsgate, the district as a whole, and the council.
At the beginning of this month we published on our website the feasibility study prepared for the council by consultants WSP. It’s not prescriptive about the way forward. It’s not groundbreaking and to some extent it tells us things we already knew. But it does provide a framework in which we can have an informed discussion about the port’s future. And that’s what I am hoping we will be able to do over the next few months.
We need to put aside previous concerns that the council has a fixed agenda and some of our past critics need to recognise that some existing commitments can’t just be wished away because they appear inconvenient to what they would prefer to happen there.
We didn’t ask WSP to provide a vision, because we want that vision to be shaped locally.
I know there are many people in Ramsgate who are passionate about the town and its future. Well, so am I, and now we need to work together to come up with plans that can be delivered, because in reality it’s a big job for a small district council. We are going to need help.
Personally, I think the port needs an iconic attraction that brings new visitors to the town, perhaps utilising an environmentally friendly shuttle bus from Thanet Parkway station, and that may well be something which celebrates Ramsgate’s maritime heritage.
It would need to be underpinned by enhanced pedestrian links to the harbour and the town centre, in order that the port becomes a focus not an add-on and so it can help support all our existing businesses and attractions, as well as encouraging new ones.
Residents know that Ramsgate already has a lot to offer, but in my view it does need a signature attraction to achieve the critical mass that will make it a more substantial destination.
Is that achievable? I don’t know, but it’s clear we won’t find out unless we try. The next three months are all about what residents, stakeholders and businesses want to see, not just me as leader of the council. But we all want Thanet to succeed. So let’s be positive and aim high.
Cllr Rick Everitt, Leader