Canterbury Con: car parking charges at Lidl, Sturry Road

Lidl won’t be getting a penny more off me after ticket fiasco

I had a wonderful Christmas present from Lidl last year. They charged me £90 for the use of their car park.

This came as a bit of a surprise to me. I’ve been using their car park, on Sturry Road, Canterbury, on and off, for about six years now.

I used it for work as the delivery office is just around the corner, on Military Road.

It’s a bit cheeky, I know, but I always used to make a point of shopping there on my way home. Last financial year, 2016-2017, I spent a total of £732.81 in Lidl, so they were reasonably well compensated for their loss.

I’d stopped using it recently as I’d found another place to park, but on this particular day, in the run up to Christmas, with all the extra staff and the extra vans in the staff car park, the usual places were full, and I ended up back in Lidl car park again.

What I hadn’t realised is that in the interim period its status had changed, and there was now a strict time limit on how long you could stay.

Fair enough. Lidl don’t really want stray postal workers using their car park and filling up their spaces; although, I have to say, even at peak periods, it was never completely full.

So you can imagine, when I got the parking charge notice I was mortified. That’s well over a day’s pay for me. So I decided to contest the charge on the basis that I hadn’t seen the signs.

This is entirely true. I arrived in the dark and I left in the dark and, no matter how many signs there were, or how well lit, I wasn’t looking so I hadn’t seen them.

I made my appeal, and they rejected my appeal. There are enough signs, they said, and I should have seen them. Then I made an appeal to the Independent Appeals Service (IAS).

My argument was this: the prima facie evidence that I hadn’t seen the signs is that I was parked there in the first place. QED. Had I seen the signs I would naturally have opted to park somewhere else.

The IAS also rejected my appeal, which seemed questionable to me.

All they did was to repeat what the parking company had said, while failing to give any weight to my argument; which makes me wonder how independent the Independent Appeals Service really is.

What strikes me is that this is sheer, unadulterated profiteering.

Lidl pay Athena ANPR Ltd. to administer their car park, so they are already fully compensated for the work they do.

Having been caught out once, I obviously have no intention of parking there again.

So why not give me the benefit of the doubt and let me off with a warning? Would that really have hurt? Instead of which they have pocketed the fine to add to their already considerable profits.

So thank you Lidl.

Your choice of Athena ANPR to police your car park has cost me £90; but it has cost you much, much more as I never intend to use your shop again. Ever.


From The Whitstable Gazette 01/03/18

The editor welcomes letters on any topical subject, but reserves the right to edit them. Letters must include your name and address even when emailed and a daytime telephone number.

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Whitstable Heritage: the Invicta Engine

Invicta would be wasted, and in danger, at harbour

I’ve just read the Whitstable Area Member Panel (WAMP) report on the relocation of the Invicta Engine, in which they recommend that it be moved to the proposed new development on the South Quay.

The report actually identifies four possible locations, two in Canterbury, and two in Whitstable, but then proceeds to dismiss all but the last: wrongly in my opinion.

First things first: it is obvious that it should be in Whitstable.

You don’t often associate our quaint little town with the epic landscape of Britain’s industrial past do you? And yet here it is: a steam engine, built by Robert Stephenson & Co, who also built the Rocket, pulling the world’s first scheduled passenger train along the Crab and Winkle line, from Canterbury to Whitstable.

In fact it only worked the Whitstable end of the line, from South Street to Bogshole, being far too puny to make the Church Street gradient. The rest of the way was served by static engines hauling the carriages by cable. Nevertheless, it is a significant artefact from Britain’s industrial heritage, and intimately connected with the history of our town.

The first problem with the WAMP report is that it simply wrong on the facts.

It dates the engine from 1825, when it was actually made in 1829, and then says that it was delivered to Whitstable Harbour in 1832, when it had already been working for two years by that time, long before the Harbour was even built.

This doesn’t bode well for the report’s conclusions, does it?

It also fails to take into consideration the fact that the Harbour location is actually five feet below the sea defence wall. If – God forbid! – there was ever a major flood, then this priceless object could be significantly damaged. Or even worse. The South Quay was last flooded in 2013.

Meanwhile we already have a museum in the town, with room to house the engine immediately, and enough space outside to build a custom made home for it in the future.

What would its purpose be in the harbour? It would sit in a glass box and serve as a backdrop to people’s shopping and dining experience.

In the museum it could be so much more.



From The Whitstable Gazette 25/01/18

The editor welcomes letters on any topical subject, but reserves the right to edit them. Letters must include your name and address even when emailed and a daytime telephone number.

Send letters to: The Editor, Room B119 Canterbury College, New Dover Road, Canterbury CT1 3AJ

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East Kent Health: new “super hospital” for Canterbury

Peculiar link between health and a developer’s profits

Mark Quinn, managing director of Quinn Estates, has offered to build a “super-hospital” in Canterbury, in exchange for permission to build 2,000 new houses.

Will the nurses and ancillary staff working at the hospital be able to afford these properties, I wonder?

How many of them will be social houses at affordable rents?

I think we already know the answers to both of those questions.

Don’t you think there’s something peculiar about a system that links the health needs of a whole region to the profit requirements of a property developer?

Mark Quinn is a businessman, not a charity, and one thing is certain: he expects to make money on the deal, or he wouldn’t be offering it.

Meanwhile we learned this week that Virgin Care, part of Richard Branson’s business empire, appears to have been paid a settlement by the NHS after it failed to win a bid to provide children’s services in Surrey.

The company immediately started legal proceedings. According to the Daily Telegraph, board papers for one of the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) involved in the case state that its “liability” amounted to £328,000.

Just let that sink in for a moment.

That’s £328,000 of public money reportedly paid out by the NHS to a private company, whose multi-billionaire boss resides on a Caribbean Island for tax purposes.

East Kent CCGs have also given contracts to corporations and are equally open to being sued.

Of course, if the new hospital is built in Canterbury, that would mean a downgrading of services in Margate and Ashford, something I’m certain that the people of those two towns will resist.

The idea that we have to go begging to property developers, or that the choices on offer force one region to compete with another in a bidding process, is surely a measure of just how degraded the service has become.

In 2005 Jeremy Hunt co-authored a book which called for the replacement of the NHS with an insurance market system on the American model.

That process is already well underway. Let’s hope we can stop it before it’s too late.


From The Whitstable Gazette 07/12/17

The editor welcomes letters on any topical subject, but reserves the right to edit them. Letters must include your name and address even when emailed and a daytime telephone number.

Send letters to: The Editor, Room B119 Canterbury College, New Dover Road, Canterbury CT1 3AJ

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Whitstable holidays: American Sea Scouts visit Kent

My brother came over from America earlier in the year. He had a bunch of sea scouts with him. They were from the Sea Scout Ship 876 from the Syracuse region of central New York State.

When they arrived at the scout camp near Maidstone, the manager gave them an American flag which he had in his collection. It was very old, having only 49 stars on it.

They ran it up the flagpole and stood to attention doing the sea scout salute, which is the same as a normal salute, only using three fingers instead of four. Whenever the leader wanted their attention she would hold up three fingers and everyone would go quiet.

There were sixteen of them including the adults. I know this because they had a routine: whenever they had gathered together they would each call out their number with varying degrees of energy and enthusiasm. I quickly became number seventeen.

I had booked a holiday from work, and tried to spend as much time as possible with them. My nephew, Isaac, was there. They called my brother “Mr Stone”, and me “Uncle Mr Stone”.

On the Monday they were supposed to have gone out on the Greta, a working Thames barge moored in Whitstable. Unfortunately the manager forgot to put it in the book and the Greta was in dry dock at the time.

Instead they spent the day in Whitstable with the local sea scouts. My niece, Beatrix, who lives in the town, joined them after school. They went out paddle boarding and also took turns on the back of a jet ski. The driver was showing off, skidding across the water and doing somersaults over the waves.

Afterwards Beatrix decided she wanted to join the sea scouts too. She was breathless with excitement. I could see why. It looked like a lot of fun to me.

Other trips included a visit to Chatham dockyards, home of the British Navy, as well as to Dover Castle and to Greenwich Observatory. Being sea scouts it was Naval history they were most interested in.

The highlight for me was a day out in Canterbury. We went on a punt along the River Stour, which was a revelation. It was the first time I had seen the city from this unusual angle, ducking under the low bridges and seeing the backs of all the old buildings. The talk was entertaining too.

I think the women were far too distracted by the sleek, tanned, muscled legs of the young men doing the talking and the punting, however, to notice the backs of any old buildings.

We also visited the Cathedral and, despite the fact there were works going on, and the nave was shrouded in scaffolding, they were still hugely impressed. Most of them had never seen anything so old before.

They drank in the story of Saint Thomas Becket and the murder in the Cathedral with a kind of hushed awe. It reminded me how deep and compelling our history can be.

Afterwards I took a party of them round the cloisters, where there was a rehearsal going on. A choir were singing to the accompaniment of tuned glasses full of water, which made an eerie, ethereal sound. It was really moving, and a privilege to have witnessed it in the historic atmosphere behind Canterbury Cathedral.

I asked one of the lads what he thought. “Cool,” he said.

You can’t get a higher accolade from a teenage boy.


From The Whitstable Gazette 24/08/17

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250 word max please

Whitstable & Canterbury history: Watling Street by John Higgs

Age old question still relevant

Watling Street is a new book by John Higgs.

As the name suggests, it involves a journey along the old Roman road that stretched between Canterbury and Wroxeter, and which was itself laid over a prehistoric trackway which may have gone all the way from Dover to Angelsea.

That, at least, is the journey that our author takes.

Written in the same year as the Brexit referendum, John uses the symbol of the road as a way of examining the conflicts of identity that lie at the heart of the British psyche.

Who are we, exactly?

Picts, Celts, Romans, Saxons and Normans, Cavaliers and Roundheads, all fought for control of this road. More recently we’ve seen our country divided along ideological grounds, between Leavers and Remainers, between traditionalists and innovators, between those who “want our country back” and those who seek to give our land a new mythic identity.

The question is: what is the nature of the country we want back? And whose country is it anyway, given that most of it is privately owned and off-limits to the majority?

On the Canterbury leg of his journey John is accompanied by a certain well-known writer and postal worker of your acquaintance; which is how I managed to get a copy of the book before its publishing date.

Of course the most famous story about Canterbury is the one telling of the rivalry between Archbishop Thomas Becket and his former friend and mentor Henry II, which, as we all know, ended in bloodshed.

John and I use this story to illustrate the perennial conflict between politics and spirituality; between the ruthless politician willing to kill for his ambitions, and the spiritually engaged person willing to die.

In the process we draw parallels with a more recent conflict: that between Tony Blair, the politician responsible for the violence in Iraq, and Brian Haw, his most prominent critic.

Tony Blair, of course, is internationally renowned, while Brian Haw is in danger of being forgotten. It is this injustice that we seek to redress.

If you’d like to find our more about Watling Street, John Higgs will be appearing at Waterstones in Canterbury on Wednesday the 19th July at 6.30pm.

You may well spot a certain well-known postal worker in the audience.



Podcast featuring John Higgs and CJ Stone talking about Brian Haw (plus oodles of other interesting stuff):

John Higgs writing about Watling Street for the BBC:

John Higgs’ blog:

Oddfellow’s Casino – The Ghosts of Watling St (Official Video): song based upon Watling Street by John Higgs:

John will be appearing at Waterstone’s Rose Lane branch on Wednesday 19th July at 18.30. Details here:

Further appearances:


Whitstable politics: Rosie Duffield our new MP

At last we have someone who understands our concerns

First of all can I offer my heartiest congratulations to Rosie Duffield on her stunning victory in Canterbury last week.

At last we have an MP who understands our concerns, who has lived a life not unlike our own, and who will be able to represent the broad majority of her constituents in Parliament.

You can’t say that about Julian Brazier: a person about as remote from ordinary voters lives as it is possible to imagine.

I’ve had a few run ins with him over the years: most notably during our campaign to keep the Royal Mail delivery office open in Whitstable.

About 30 postal workers lobbied him after work. He listened politely, nodding energetically at all our points, and then hot-footed it directly to Royal Mail management and sided with them instead.

That says all you need to know about Julian Brazier. On the side of management and against the workers. On the side of profit and against public services. On the side of a remote and distant decision making process and against local people’s needs.

It was the same during the campaign to keep our Crown Post Office. Sir Julian sided with Post Office Ltd, saying “I have no problem with the Post Office moving into another store as part of a franchise.”

Had it been up to him, and the Post Office been moved into Budgens as was planned, there would not now be a Post Office in the centre of Whitstable, and no prospect of there ever being one in the future.

He was always quick to see a photo opportunity, and slow to give any real, practical help. Thus it was he turned up at the CHEK march against the downgrading of services at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital on June 3rd, while voting consistently with the government on legislation designed to undermine the Health Service.

Finally there is the little matter of his annual courtesy visit to the delivery office every Christmas. People used to run from their desks to hide, so patronising and out of touch was he.

At least this year it will be Rosie Duffield paying us a visit, a much more salubrious prospect.


From The Whitstable Gazette, 15/06/2017

The editor welcomes letters on any topical subject, but reserves the right to edit them. Letters must include your name and address even when emailed and a daytime telephone number.
Send letters to:
The Editor, 5-8 Boorman Way, Estuary View Business Park, Whitstable, Kent CT5 3SE,
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Whitstable Views: National Health Service, more concerned with money than with health?


My Dad was seriously ill a while back. He’s 86 years old and getting increasingly fragile.

My sister called me up. He had a urinary infection. When I saw him he was stuck in bed, shivering, unable to move. He was unsteady on his feet and needed help to walk

We called the doctor, who took one look and said he should be in hospital.

What followed was really disturbing.

The doctor rang the hospital. Obviously I was only privy to one half of the conversation, but I could guess the other half by what I heard the doctor saying.

The conversation lasted for some time – maybe half an hour or more – during which time the doctor’s voice became increasingly agitated.

It was obvious that the hospital were refusing to take my Dad. They seemed to be finding every excuse not to send an ambulance.

I think they must have asked the doctor why he didn’t treat my Dad at home.

“Because he’s very fragile, and I’m worried that he might fall over.”

A couple of days before Dad had tripped over in the hall when coming home. He’d fallen on his face and had some bruising around the eye and his forehead was badly grazed.

This was a completely separate issue from the urinary infection, but having been told about it, the hospital now decided to take this as their primary concern.

They said he would have to go to A&E for tests.

It was about 11pm by now, and we were told that it might take up to 4 hours for the ambulance to arrive.

Bad idea

nhs-logo-image-1-296169897It was at this point that we decided that going to hospital was probably a bad idea: as if waiting half the night for an ambulance, and then being taken to A&E in Canterbury to spend more time on a trolley before being seen, would help his urinary infection.

Luckily I wasn’t working so I opted to stay with him instead

What was really worrying though was to hear the obvious reluctance of a hospital to take in a sick person.

I would guess this was for financial reasons. Such is the state of the NHS today, more concerned with money than with health.

Whitstable Philosophy: Sun Bear in the Old Buttermarket

Bus journey

I had a lovely bus journey over to Canterbury on Saturday. What glorious weather we’ve been having. Mind you, having said that, probably by the time this column is published it will be pouring down.

At first I was going to drive, but then I thought, what the hell: I might as well take the bus.

The advantage of the bus is you can sit on the top deck and watch the world go by. It was great seeing all the new little lambs gamboling in the sunshine, to see the blossoms on the trees and to know that Spring has come at last. Plus, of course, you can afford to have a drink or two without worrying about going over the limit.

A friend and I sat in the Old Buttermarket on the Burgate and downed a couple of pints while we watched the world go by. My only complaint would be the prices. It’s not cheap going out for a drink in Canterbury.

At a certain point an old guy got up from a table, while a group of youngsters sat down in his place, and in the ensuing melee a glass went over, shattering all over the cobbles.

Sun Bear

My friend got up immediately and started picking the glass up. After he’d got back – having handed the pieces of glass to the barmaid – he told me this story. He said he’d seen a speaker over in Glastonbury a few years back, a Native American chief called Sun Bear.

Someone asked the chief to talk about the Native American way of healing.

The chief paused and thought for a while, pondering the question. Then he said, “sometimes when something falls over on the sidewalk, everyone walks right passed it. It becomes an obstruction. The flow is blocked. People have to move to the side. Maybe they bump into one another. Maybe they get angry and carry the anger around with them for the rest of the day. Sometimes healing is very simple,” he said. “All you have to do is to remove the obstruction.”

From The Whitstable Gazette.

Whitstable Education: The Chaucer Technology School


I was sad the hear of the closure of the Chaucer Technology School in 2014 as my son was a pupil there.

When Joe failed his Kent Test he was very depressed. We chose the Chaucer as the only school looking anything like a Comprehensive in the area at the time. In order to get into the school he had to do another test; which he passed, with flying colours.

This cheered him up no end.

Joe went on to get three A levels and a First Class Honours degree. He now works in the photography industry as a freelance technician and is much in demand for his skills and his practical intelligence.

The Kent Test would have condemned him as a failure at the age of eleven. It was the Chaucer which gave him the confidence to discover where his real intelligence lay.

I’m puzzled at how the Chaucer ended up failing as a school. When my son went there, in the nineties, it was a first class institution.


My own schooling was undertaken at Sheldon Heath Comprehensive School in Birmingham. It was the first specially built comprehensive in the country and the largest.

That too, like the Chaucer, went through emergency measures recently. It closed and was re-opened as the King Edward IV Sheldon Heath Academy in 2010.

And yet the school that I went to was anything but a failure. It was a flagship school of the newly devised comprehensive system and served me and my contemporaries very well. A number of my friends went on to get degrees and to forge successful careers.

The only explanation I can think of is that successive governments have messed around so much with the education system, pulling it first one way, and then the other, that they have undermined the very foundations of education in this country.

The latest news is that the Chaucer is likely to re-open at some point in the future, but as a secondary, rather than a technology school, which sounds like an admission of failure to me.

A first class education is a right, not a privilege, and should be available to all.

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