Friday, 7 March 2014

Be careful what you wish for

It's good to make a stand against the big boys and girls who do things we don't like, and Whitstable is awfully good at this, sometimes successfully seeing off plans which might detrimentally alter the character of our town - though realistically (and maybe cynically) I suspect some 'changes of heart' like the Harris & Hoole/Tesco coffee shop withdrawal are made for economic reasons and just coincidentally seem like a climb-down.

The anonymously-produced satirical blog and pamphlet The Whitstable Pioneer is currently enjoying a bit of fun with the town's history of protesting and, while I'm not comfortable with poking fun at individuals, some of the points made do strike a chord with those of us who follow the local news. One of these points is how enthusiastic campaigners may come to feel dangerously sure that they speak for all.

It's so easy for any of us to get carried away by something we feel strongly about, and assume a) that everyone else feels the same and b) that there won't be any inconvenient consequences.

I've recently observed three examples of b). One of these is that with Harris & Hoole pulling out, the large former Clinton Cards premises in the High Street continues to languish empty, which unhelpfully counteracts our proud boast of a low empty shop rate in Whitstable.

Secondly, an acquaintance was telling me about her reaction from Network Rail when she asked them to trim some trees behind her garden which border the railway line. When she mentioned the name 'Whitstable', this immediately rang alarm bells and resulted in unhelpfulness. Since the much-publicised action a year or so ago when protestors chained themselves to some trees that Network Rail wanted to chop back, our town seems to have earned itself a big red flashing warning sign saying PROCEED WITH EXTREME CAUTION IN WHITSTABLE pinned up in the Network Rail tree department.

The third 'inconvenient consequence' concerns another coffee bar - Costa - which endured a graffiti protest before opening about four years ago. I've heard that the High Street business is already earmarked for an uplift and refurbishment. It would appear that, because of the initial hostility, Costa gave Whitstable only its lowest-grade offering in terms of furnishing and equipment in case the cafe was shunned.

In fact, it's proved to be one of the most popular Costas in the area and the staff have been struggling to cope with queues and inadequate machinery.

Be careful what you wish for.

*Observations are my own, and I am boringly neutral about most local issues.


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