Wednesday, March 17, 2010

500 Local Jobs And A Visitor Centre? Oops!

Happy Paddy's Day! Er, that's actually got nothing to do with the next bit.

No, it's back to Thanet Earth with a bump. There's my old TV chum John Craven up there when he visited the 38m hectare greenhouse while it was under construction. Remember when this one slipped under the planning radar as an 'agricultural' (as opposed to industrial) development, we were promised 500 local jobs and a visitor centre? Well, as I exclusively revealed last week the visitor centre's on hold and the Ramsgate staffing agency detailed to hand out all those local jobs has shut.

Now intrepid yourfannitinnit reporter Tom Betts has followed up my scoop with a front page splash today on the types of people employed at the conservatory on the patio of the garden of England. And the best they could come up with? The majority of the 83 people working for the marketing department are British. Not Thanetian. British. Of the other 350 or so working there at any one time, it's a mix of Polish, Estonian, Hungarian, Latvian, Slovakian, Lithuanian, Nigerian, Dutch and British.

My point here is not to reignite the recent argy-bargy about foreign workers. Apart from the light pollution, some queries over the water table, the fact that none of their produce actually touches Thanet earth and, er, the light pollution, I'm actually rather in favour of the place. And despite describing their tomatoes as 'watery pip bags' a while back, I'm currently munching my way through a delicious pack of their 'sunstream' red 'uns. Good luck to the lads and lasses of whatever nationality who work there I say! As Thanet Earth point out:
'To clarify a frequent misunderstanding, we wish to make clear that it would be unlawful for any of the employer-companies at Thanet Earth to discriminate either positively or negatively on grounds of nationality, just as it would be unlawful for us to do so on grounds of race, gender, age, religion or belief, sexual orientation or disability.'

No, my argument is with our beloved council who, whenever someone applies for planning permission to dig up our lovely island soil to plonk a whopping great load of sheds on it, cry 'Jobs!' 'There are so many unemployed in Thanet,' they whine, 'that we should be bending over forwards to accommodate these nice people who are going to bring us all these lovely, lovely jobs'. Bull. It's a promise they simply can't make. Maybe some locals were employed fitting the office carpets. And some slum landlords will have rented out their hovels to the poor eastern European lads. A few shop keepers might benefit. But Thanet jobs for Thanet people? Pull the other one, it's got bell peppers on it!

Click here to read full story in yourfannitinnit


Anonymous said...

Thanet like anywhere cannot work in isolation, Thanet jobs for European people and likewise the reverse applies elsewhere.

DrM. said...

I attended a briefing from Thanet Earth at the Christchurch campus this month, as did several councillors, so I'l share a personal view.

They were asked about the visitor centre and the answer is a simple one. Because of the risk of carrying in unfriendly and parasitic insects into the greenhouses, they have been told they can't offer wider public access but plan to create a smaller centre to show off their hydroponics work and produce.

The jobs issue is an emotive and difficult one and they were pressed on this. A number of the staff have to be experienced and skilled in this kind of intensive agricultural work and these come from the low countries which has a large industry of this kind. I believe that even the 'specialist' bumble bees are imported too!

They declined to be drawn on the remainder of the workforce make-up beyond insisting that they do not discriminate and neither do the agencies they use under EU law. This may reveal the kind of challenge revealed by the television documentary a few weeks ago by the BBC which looked at the myths' surrounding immigrant workers.

Jobs exist and these are in many cases low or semi-skilled but they can't discriminate between 'Local' and EU applicants. It appears the latter may have been more successful which leaves me to wonder why?

Any council has the best intentions for the local workforce in encouraging new business, particularly to an area with high unemployment. There is however a much bigger picture here, as you point out, and that involves the impact of a borderless EU and the right to work. I've just had breakfast at my hotel in London and nobody here, from reception to the restaurant might be considered 'local' and are mostly from eastern Europe and very capable and polite they are too!

A council can facilitate the prospect for potential for employment but the catchment area is now as big as Europe and I really don't know how government can solve this problem without a) discrimination and b)a local workforce which is willing and capable to compete aggressively with EU workers on both quality of work and cost of employment

Anonymous said...

If that's the case then why does the topic of jobs weigh in so heavily with every contentious planning application? China Gateway? Promises of thousands ofjobs in a modern warehousing set-up if it ever gets set-up? 'We must give permission to these firms as they're promising jobs' despite there never being any real evidence of jobs.

Next time a company comes along promising jobs can we assume Dr. Moores will say to the full council/cabinet/planning committee meeting, 'We can't really expect real jobs for Thanet folk so let's turn away this company that will create noise/pollution/gridlock our roads etc.'?

Was the briefing at the campus the public meeting arranged by Christ Church as part of their community involvement or was it some private event?

Steve Higgins @ SMEG said...

Shouldn't Tom be looking at the number and nationality of benefits claimants in Thanet verses the nationality of Thanet residents?

More of a story than "Employer Employs Employable People - and its Legal", don't you think?

Anonymous said...

Actually, paddys day does have something to do with it. While the workers at Thanet earth may work a long shift today and deserve a pint at the end of it, the shirkers who avoid work at all costs may swap their usual
White lightening for the black stuff. Or most probably do both, and throw some hand sanitiser in for good measure.

All courtesy of us, via a giro.

Richard Eastcliff said...

Thanks for the update Doc. Strangely I find myself agreeing with most of what you say.

However, I also agree with 7:56am. When these large developments are at the planning stage our council always attempts to push them through by trumpeting jobs, in the full knowledge that they are hardly likely to be Thanet jobs for Thanet people. Don't you think this is, at the very least, sleight of hand?

Anonymous said...

I have the opinion that councillors and such like people in positions to make improvements in our area don’t actually put enough care and consideration into the decisions they make. They seem to be unable to foresee the negative affects of development. They only need a few good reasons to grant permission over many good reasons not to. Not enough is being done to conserve and promote the good things about this area.
Just look around you and see what Thanet is becoming - a hotch botch of ugly tin sheds, greenhouses, concrete buildings , dual carriageways and caravan parks. Even our un interrupted sea views have been spoilt with expensive in efficient wind farms. Would be nice to see a bit of though for conservation and the the landscape.

Anonymous said...

The Visitors Centre should have been a condition of the planning consent. What I dont understand is with all the detailed planning that went into this project and with similar projects aleady up and running in Europe, why Thanet Earth "forgot" that the visitors to the centre may csrry with them unfriendly and papasitic insects. Its a good job the Eden project has no concerns.

LJN said...

If visitors can't be allowed in because they might bring parasites, what about the 350 workers? Do they live permanently in the sheds/greenhouse? Surely they must come in everyday from the contaminated outside world?
The designers must have known about the contamination issues from the start. The visitor centre was evidently a ploy to get planning permission. I agree, if jobs and visitor centre were used to gain permission, they should be written in as a condition. A lesson for future applications.

Anonymous said...

What next? Kew Gardens and Wisley closed because visitors might bring in parasites? We may live in Thanet but we're not all stupid. I remember this was pretty much presented as the new Eden Project when planning permission was on the table. Think how many of our schools and colleges would benefit from the opportunity to visit an operation like this on their doorstep.

Truth is they probably never wanted visitors in the first place. Empty promises again.

Readit said...

Thanet has more than its fair share of parasites and none of them wanted a job there

Anonymous said...

The British are by nature lazy and only stir their stumps in a national crisis. They have never wanted to do a fair day's work for a fair day's pay. That goes for generations of MPs with their snouts in the trough, senior civil servants on 250,000 a year plus six figure golden goodbyes for a 37.5 hour week, bankers with seven figure bonuses, councillors raking backhanders off developers, right down to the second generation unemployables pushing the third generation around Thanet.

Never forget that this country was built on the backs of hard working Scots and Irish, and now eastern Europeans. Happy St Patrick's Day.

Bertie Biggles said...

The issue of 'Thanet Jobs' is quietly got round by Thanet Earth by stating 'no discrimination' etc etc but fails to address where they advertise and where their various agencies advertise and how. If you cast your minds back to the initial recruitment process, can anyone recall big adverts in our local press or radio, or come to it, any adverts at all? A Folkestone/Dover based 'agency' was used initially and recruited out of Thanet. The lady I spoke to last year at an agency handling recruitment for Thanet Earth in Folkestone, was, you have it, East European.
There are too many in Thanet who assume our jobless are scroats and scroungers when in fact they just need a level playing field for job opportunities. Have they had such a situation with employment at Thanet Earth? I don't think so.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7.57., you have a serious reality perception problem. Every country has a share of lazy people. No exceptions. Even Poland.
I would say your remarks are racist.
As for "can't discriminate". Do me a favour. Employers bloody well discriminate when it suits them.

Love the remark about their produce never touching Thanet's earth. Hehe.

Anonymous said...

Actually this country was built on the exploitation of the "third" world.

Anonymous said...

When this country was built Scotland and Ireland were the third world.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone see the CH4 documentary on agricultural work being carried out by British people who were currently unemployed? I think the missing link is that how many people currently receiving a giro (as said by 10am) would swap it for a long day in a greenhouse?

Anonymous said...

I once told a Thanetian who had been unemployed for 8 months that there was plenty of work going at Tesco. He nearly decked me for daring to suggest that he should lower himself to such menial work.

Thing is he didn't look like a f*cking brain surgeon. In fact he was propping up the bar.

Anonymous said...

I am employed by Thanet Earth. I am a Thanetian, and have worked there for a year now. I see many arguments on here that don't seem to add up. You seem to think that Thanet companies should employ Thanet people - exclusively?? Should that go for London jobs and London people too?? Thanet Earth is a little different from The Eden Project - one is a business that supplies fresh produce, and one is a tourist attraction. I would have thought you would be glad they don't let people roam unchecked around the greenhouses, after all, unlike what is grown at The Eden Project people eat what comes out of these greenhouses