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Friday, 21 January 2011

Thanet- Advantages and Disadvantages.

The Isle of Thanet, situated in North East Kent, was once the 'place to be', and a popular tourist resort for many. Spearheaded by the town of Margate, people from across the country used to make their way to the friendly, charming South East of the country. Not only was it blessed with terrific scenery and marvellous beaches, but there were also numerous entertainment facilities available including the theme park Dreamland, an outdoor swimming pool, historic museums and a popular greyhound racing track. Over the years, the district has attracted influential figures who were lured by the beauty of the area including Queen Victoria who spent many summers in Broadstairs as a child, famous artists Vincent Van Gogh and Joseph Turner who lived in Ramsgate and Margate respectively, as well as groundbreaking philosophers Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels. Oh, and it would be impossible for me not to mention the fact that British Prime Minister Edward Heath was a pupil at my school, Chatham House Grammar in Ramsgate.

However, starting with the invasion of the Mods and Rockers in the 1960's, together with the rise of unemployment and poverty, and the destruction of the entertainment facilities,  Thanet has taken part in a steady decline, and whilst the beaches and scenery still remain, there is a feeling of despair and deprivation attached to the towns in the district. Statistics demonstrate this grim appraisal:
  • In a study of resilience to economic downturns, Thanet was poorly rated at 295th out of 324 districts.
  • Unemployment levels are nearly twice the South East of England as a whole.
  • Health is worse in Thanet than in England on average.
  • Life expectancy is lower than for England.
  • Teenage pregnancies are high compared to the England average.
  • Significantly higher than average rate of mental health problems.
 Nevertheless, despite this, I've always had an affinity to Thanet and can become rather defensive when it is lambasted by sneering criticism. Whilst there are obvious negatives to the area, it would be churlish to ignore the positives that come from living and visiting the towns and villages across the Isle. Let's get the bad news out the way first, shall we?

Disadvantages of Thanet:
  • Job Prospects and employment- Unfortunately Thanet does not offer many opportunities in the job market. Of course there is work available; however the variety is severely limited. As aforementioned, the statistics revealing unemployment rates do not make pretty reading.
  • Nightlife- Despite the presence of a large younger generation, the district does not contain any night 'hotspots'. The nearest things to nightclubs are 'The Dolphin' (Broadstairs) and 'The Sovereign' (Ramsgate), but these, whilst being popular, are nothing more than Pubs. Arguably there are two clubs in the region, 'Club Caprice' and 'Escape', however the former is not an enticing proposition in the slightest (could be funny, though) and the latter is now only open for specially booked events. The commute to Canterbury has now become a welcome antidote and regular occurrence for many Thanetians.
  • Feeling of depravity- When walking around the towns across the Isle, it must be acknowledged that there is a general feeling of despair and desperation. Maybe this is linked to the numerous ugly buildings as encapsulated by terrible eyesore 'Arlington House' in Margate. Who in their right mind commissioned for such a horrific building to be constructed? It looks like something out of George Orwell's '1984' dystopian novel. Margate and Ramsgate, in particular, often seem rather run down with this being demonstrated by the hordes of people that frequent outside the Job Centre's in the towns.
  • Margate and Ramsgate High Streets- Leading on from this, it would be foolish to ignore the poor quality of the High Streets in Thanet's biggest towns. Both are fairly dreary and can resemble a ghost town, due to the numerous shops that have closed down in recent years.
  • Westwood Cross- A rather controversial choice due to the number of jobs it has created and the way it has expanded commercial interests across the Isle. Nevertheless, the shopping centre, in between Margate and Ramsgate, has directly led to the demise of both these towns. Once it was a necessity for people to do their shopping in a town, but this has been replaced by the arduous trek to Westwood. Unlike all the towns and villages in Thanet, Westwood severely lacks any charm or character, and instead resembles a soulless, characterless and materialistic wasteland.
  • Declining number of events and 'things to do'- Largely due to the incompetence of the Thanet Council, there is now a dearth of events and enjoyable facilities available to the population. No longer is there an outdoor swimming pool complex, a greyhound racing track, a theme park, a nightclub, a hovercraft from Ramsgate to Belgium, a motor museum, or a powerboat weekend. The list really could go on forever. However, instead of concentrating on rejuvenating and investing in the area, an implausible decision was made to spend SEVEN Million Pounds (probably more) on The Turner Centre- a soon to be Art Gallery. Ludicrous.
  • Cliftonville- Once regarded as the 'posh side' of Margate, Cliftonville, despite having some lovely houses and architecture, has been transformed completely. Partly due to the influx of thousands of refugees from Kosovo and Albania, and disregard by the government, the place has no resemblance to the attractive town it once was. A great shame.
  • Live Music, Comedy and Sport- Well, I may be being a bit picky here, but it seems incredibly difficult to attract top Music Artists and Comedians to Thanet. This sort of entertainment would be a very attractive proposition for the population, and would stop the moan that there is 'nothing to do'. Oh, and finally, wouldn't it be nice if we had a decent Sports team to support?
Advantages of Thanet:
  • History- There is no doubting the tremendous History of the Isle. This is illustrated in the following link:
  • Beaches- As has been allured to previously; Thanet really does have some of the most beautiful, sought after beaches in the country and a decent(ish) climate to match. A lot of people spend copious amounts of money to visit the seaside, yet the beauty of the North Kent Coast is situated right on Thanet's residents’ doors. Indeed, mainly due to the illustrious coastline, Thanet and surrounding areas has been named in among the dozen most desirable destinations in the world for 2011.  Here are a few examples of the magnificent beaches:

  • Proximity to France- A definite benefit of living in Thanet is the closeness of France. Travelling by ferry from Dover, just outside the Isle, to Calais takes only an hour and a quarter, and can sometimes cost as little as a pound for a foot passenger. Modelling itself as the 'gateway to Europe', Ramsgate has begun offering journeys to Ostend, Belgium, via the North Sea. Furthermore, for those preferring a direct route to Paris in the shape of the Eurostar, it only takes half an hour driving to get to Ashford International.
  • High speed rail: Combined with this is one of the most exciting developments in recent years; the launch of the High Speed Rail service between Ramsgate and London, where it now only takes 84 minutes to travel. Not only does this make visiting Thanet a more feasible option, but it also allows those working in London the opportunity to live in the Isle and commute to their daily jobs.
  • Kent International Airport, Manston- That's right, Thanet has its own international airport!  Expansion in recent years has ensured that the country's longest runway now offers flights to other countries for keen travellers, as well as maintaining its cargo links.  For those interested, this year the airport is offering flights to Madeira, Greece, Croatia, Scotland, Spain, Italy and Portugal. As interest gradually increases, the variety of destinations are also likely to expand. Despite the recent absence of the military, there is still an RAF Manston History Museum on site, as is the Spitfire and Hurricane memorial for aviation fans.
  • Canterbury- One of England's most beautiful and traditional cities is only a short drive or train journey (roughly 15-20 minutes) from Thanet. Containing a historic Cathedral, a city wall, the ruins of St Augustine’s Abbey, a Norman Castle, the oldest school in England, The Marlowe Theatre, two Universities, and The St Lawrence Ground, home to Kent Country Cricket Club, living in or visiting Thanet makes a day trip to Canterbury an essential requirement.
  • Broadstairs Folk Week- One of the major highlights of the year is always Broadstairs Folk Week; a popular summer festival which constantly manages to bring the community together. Featuring some of the biggest Folk artists and bands in the country, activities for the young and old, and impulsive street parities, Folk Week is something worth anticipating and definitely frequenting.
  • Theatres- Margate has in its ranks the second oldest theatre in the country, The Theatre Royal, and the smallest one, the appropriately named 'Tom Thumb'. Both are wonderfully designed, archaic throwbacks to a former world.
  • Broadstairs- Talking of former worlds, entering Broadstairs is similar to being transported into the Victorian age. With lots of independent shops, carefully constructed buildings, and streets, Broadstairs is the most idyllic of Thanet towns.
  • Sunsets- Britain’s greatest artist, Joseph Turner, used to go to Margate to capture the magnificent sunset, and if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for everyone. There aren’t many better sights than watching the sun set in North Thanet above the sea on a glorious summer’s day.
  • Schools and education- Grammar schools still remain strong in Thanet, despite the governments increasing insistence to abolish them. The merger of Chatham House (all boys) and Clarendon House (all girls) in Ramsgate has certainly been a controversial one, but the higher tier education system in the region remains strong. The High Schools/Comprehensives are also improving, as has been encapsulated by the steady rise and improvement of the Marlowe Academy, once regarded as the worst school in the country.
  • Margate Old Town- The high street may leave a lot to be desired, but the Old Town of Margate is a charming area. It comes alive in the summer with live music acts, and fun fairs.
So there we have it, a lengthy appraisal of the advantages and disadvantages of living in or visiting Thanet. Of course there are things that I’ve missed out, and if anyone feels that there have been any major admissions, I’ll be sure to include them. Rather than listening to the media, the only way to get a true understanding of a place is to visit it, and I would definitely encourage you to do so.
Thanks for reading.


  1. I love Ramsgate. So much potential to be more of a tourist destination, I think - if a lot of facilities/places were improved. Also how ridiculously long has it taken for the Turner to open? I swear it's been a work in progress for about ten years or something.

  2. Define "incompetence"? In this case you need to support you argument in regard to the number of events, which are in fact a great many? Who pays for them? Have you thought about that?