What comes first, the chicken or the egg? But seriously, what does come first when you are applying for money from a government quango? Your business case for the money, or the money? Well we would think it would have to be your business case which you submit first, then on the strength of it, you maybe awarded the money that you have applied for. However, that does not appear to be the case when Sir Roger De Haan (pictured) and his company Folkestone Harbour (GP) Ltd submitted a £5 million pound bid to the Regional Growth Fund supported by South East Local Enterprise Partnership, Shepway District Council & Kent County Council
Folkestone Harbour (GP) Ltd is a private company which is wholly owned subsidiary of Folkestone Harbour Holdings Ltd which in turn is 100% owned by Sir Roger De Haan. Recently the company received £5 million pounds of public money to fund “the development of the public access route from the northern side of the harbour, across the disused railway viaduct, swing bridge and through the old Folkestone Harbour station, enabling a route to the future development and to the already-refurbished Harbour Arm to be fully opened up to safe, public access.“
On the 29th Jan 2016, the SELEP Funding Full Business case was submitted, the funding was for the “exceptional costs of providing essential infrastructure on the site.”
However, it would appear that a year earlier on the 29th Jan 2015 to be exact, the £5 million from SELEP was awarded according to the Folkestone Seafront Website. There is a glaring contradiction here. Was Folkestone Harbour (GP) Ltd and Sir Roger awarded the money before they put their business case forward?
The £5 million of “exceptional costs” from public funding have paid for Beach Nourishment, (approx) £1.37 million, Site Levels Raising (approx) £2.32 million and (approx) £1.4 million for the Link to the Harbour arm via the bridge which spans Folkestone Harbour.
In the full business case they speak of the “Public Realm” these are such areas as where the water fountain are, the walk way across to the harbour arm and the harbour arm itself. The ‘public realm’ in an article published in the Guardian in July 2017, says that such spaces are actually ‘pseudo-public space‘ for all intents and purposes. They look, feel and appear to be public spaces but when one delves more deeply into the land ownership, they are actually owned by a developer. In the case of the public realm areas we know as the water fountain area, the walkway and the harbour arm, they are owned by Sir Roger De Haan.
Although we the public can access this public realm, which has the ‘look and feel of public land,’ these sites, owned by Sir Roger – which are ‘also known as privately owned public spaces or “Pops” – are not subject to ordinary local authority bylaws but rather governed by restrictions drawn up by the landowner,’ ie Sir Roger.
‘What regulations/bylaws are people passing through Sir Roger’s land subject to, and where can members of the public view these regulations/bylaws?’
‘Under existing laws, public access to pseudo-public spaces remains at the discretion of the landowner’ – Sir Roger, who is allowed to draw up his own rules for “acceptable behaviour”‘ on his land ‘and alter them at will. He is not obliged to make the regulations/bylaws public.’ No such rules are available on Folkestone Harbour Company website or the Folkestone Seafront website.
The result is that unless Sir Roger ‘chooses to volunteer the information, members of the public/visitors to his sites have no way of knowing what regulations/bylaws they are bound by on his open spaces such as the water fountain area (pictured), the walkway, or the Harbour Arm; and whether activities they enjoy a legal right to in other public areas – be they taking photos, holding a political protest or simply sitting down and having a nap – are permitted, or whether they will result in removal’ by his personnel.
This lack of information; which appears not to be provided to the public by Sir Roger is very worrying indeed. ‘Being able to know what rules you are being governed by, and how to challenge those rules, is a fundamental part of living in a democracy.’ Sian Berry leader of the Green Party in the London Assembly, said in the Guardian Article. We fully agree with her. However, it could appear to the public that Sir Roger may not believe in democracy, by not publishing the regulations/bylaws.
Sir Roger has the power to coerce us in what appear to be public spaces and squares, as he has the power over us so we must at least know what those powers are, where he gets them from, and how he can be held accountable, to paraphrase Daniel Moylan in the Guardian article.
So we ask Sir Roger or his right hand man, Trevor “Ming the Merciless” Minter (pictured), to publish these regulations/bylaws for the sake of transparency, accountability and openness.
Another issues addressed in the full business case are GP’s. In Folkestone we currently have an ongoing problem with this issue of GP’s. The business case states that “4 additional GP jobs will be required.“
So where will the GP’s come from to man the GP surgery which ‘will directly serve the population of the Folkestone Seafront development’, when not even GP surgeries can attract new GP’s to the area?
It appears Sir Roger is big on informing us how much money he is spending to revive Folkestone. However, it appears he nor Damian Collins MP, or our local CCG can tell us where the GP’s are to come from and where we can find the regulations/bylaws which bind us when on his property.
The Shepwayvox Team
Some of the quotes in inverted commas have been taken from a Guardian Post run on the 24th July 2017