Eleanor Cooksey writes:
We often use this quote but, as far as I know, have never applied it to thinking about this part of the country. Thanet (the area of Kent made up of Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate) doesn’t tend to crop up in discussions about places that are doing new or interesting things, in the way, that for example, we talk about Totnes with its own currency, or Hay with its literary festival now gone international. Thanet, despite being in the south east, has high unemployment, relatively low income levels and poor health indicators.
However, after having spent a week in Thanet, I am struck by how it does appear to contain elements of what we think will be significant in the future. There are three features in particular which make me think this:
1. Old people make up a significant proportion of the population here. When working on futures projects, we often talk about the ‘ageing population’ with perhaps a reference to the impact this will have on the workplace, but I am not sure we have thought through what it means for general day-to-day living. What I see here is a perhaps a taster. It means that I see many bungalows with neat gardens full of paving stones, gravel and flower pots (meaning no stairs, lawns or flower beds to worry about). I see lots and lots of small cafes offering all-day breakfasts for very good value, where people, who may be living on their own and therefore less inclined to cook for themselves, can get a meal without incurring great expense. On the pavements and in garages, I see mobility vehicles. At the sparkly new Westwood Cross shopping centre built in the area, I couldn’t help noticing that, in addition to M&S, Debenhams, Thorntons and the like, there was also a shop specialising in mobility vehicles.
2. Renewable energy is very visible in the form of the Thanet Offshore Windfarm. On completion this year it is scheduled to have 100 wind turbines, making it, according to the website, the largest operational windfarm anywhere in the world.
3. There are new ways of growing food. Kent has traditionally been regarded as the ‘garden of England’ and the new Thanet Earth greenhouse complex represents a way of achieving this in a resource efficient and technologically enhanced way. Thanet Earth grows salad vegetables hydroponically (meaning the roots of the plants are in a type of rock wool as oppose to soil). Everything in the glasshouses is computer controlled – from the blinds in the ceilings to opening the windows, the liquid feed make-up, the heating, lighting and carbon dioxide levels.
So if you want to experience the future, or at least parts of it, go to Thanet.
 The quote is actually ‘The future is already here – it is just unevenly distributed’ and is from William Gibson.
The image is of Thanet wind farm and is from Warwick Energy, used with thanks.