Published: 06:00, 31 December 2020
Wow. 2020, eh? Who saw that coming?
This time last year we celebrated its dawning all punch drunk after relentless Brexit talk and political shenanigans which ended with a December General Election. It all seems a very long time ago doesn't it?
But while the pandemic unsurprisingly dominated the headlines as it rode the months like a terrifying rollercoaster, there was plenty of other news going on in this fine county of ours.
So let's kick off this review by revisiting some perennial favourites.
We've been waiting years for those behind plans for the multi-billion pound London Resort - due to be built on the Swanscombe Peninsula - to finally do something other than talk up the project. And 2020 has seen another 12 months pass with no signs yet of the bulldozers moving in.
The year started with Dartford MP Gareth Johnson saying those behind the project were drinking in the "last chance saloon". But there were some signs of life as a public consultation - primarily held virtually - took place which saw the majority taking part support the ambitious scheme.
Will work start in 2022 as promised? And will the first park open in 2024? Well, just remember when it was first announced in 2012 it was supposed to be up and running by 2019. But let's remain optimistic.
The weight of newsprint written about Manston Airport since it closed back in 2014 must rival that of a jumbo jet. This year was set to be the one in which a final decision on whether the airfield near Ramsgate would return as a cargo air hub was to be made and debate over its future end.
The government certainly kept us waiting. Originally, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps was to make a decision in January. That was pushed back to May. But it wasn't until July he finally gave RiverOak Strategic Partners, which owned the site, the green light for flights to resume.
However, by ignoring the advice of the Planning Inspectorate which said it shouldn't open, he opened a can of worms which saw campaigners rise up and legally challenge the decision. As we prepare to enter 2021, the minister has promised more details as to why he made the decision he did. Expect this to rumble on for months to come. Meanwhile, Manston is currently being used as Covid testing site and will be one of a number of Brexit lorry parks in 2021. So it's keeping busy at least.
Staying with transport, the Lower Thames Crossing all seemed a foregone conclusion before the pandemic struck. But its rising cost - it will now set the taxpayer back £8.2billion rather than the £5.3bn originally estimated - has raised plenty of issues.
A planning application for the tunnel linking east of Gravesend with Essex was pulled at the last minute by Highways England after being told the existing proposal would be denied. A tweaked application is set to be submitted by Easter of 2021.
In January, Ashford MP Damian Green joined other Kent politicians warning of overcrowding on the county's high-speed services. He said peak services could be operating at full capacity within five years and called for extra services to be introduced. Who would have thought by the end of the year rail use would be at its lowest since the mid-19th century while Eurostar pulled the plug on its international services from Ashford and Ebbsfleet until 2022?
Although you may - or may not - wish to spare a moment for Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson. He sailed into Dover in February on his company's super-swanky new £550m cruise ship complete with tattoo parlours (specialising in anchors, one assumes), nightclubs and live music venues ready for its first season on the high seas. Talk about bad timing.
But perhaps the transport issue which got most people hot under the collar was the springing up during the summer of a host of cycle and bus lanes and reduced speed limits across the county - almost all with little to no warning.
It was part of local authorities looking to grab a share of government funding for greener transport options. It didn't go down well in lots of places and a third were scrapped within weeks.
As if being battered by a global health crisis wasn't enough, the weather wasn't all that much kinder at the start of the year. As concerns were beginning to grow over the emerging cases of coronavirus in February, it all got a bit Biblical when the county was hit first by Storm Ciara and then Storm Dennis. Both brought high winds and torrential rain. Ferry services were suspended, the bridges at Dartford and Sheppey were closed and train tracks in Sevenoaks were blocked after a trampoline was blown out of a garden and on to the rails.
The good folk of Yalding, near Maidstone, were wondering where all their much-promised flood defences had got to when 200 had to flee their properties as floodwater levels rose.
High winds in August brought tragedy to a family as they walked through woods in Bobbing, near Sittingbourne.
Eight-year-old Maisy Mayne, and her sister, Isla, four, were hit by a falling tree as they walked with their grandparents. Tragically, Maisy was killed. Her sister was rushed to a London hospital and is now on the road to recovery.
Mourners lined the streets to bid her a final farewell at her funeral.
The sons of Debbie Griggs raised a few eyebrows at the start of the year after insisting their father, Andrew, was innocent of her murder - despite being convicted and jailed for life in October 2019 - and started a social media campaign in a bid to locate her. They believe she is still alive. Debbie went missing from the family home in Deal on May 1999 and has never been seen since.
Meanwhile, the family of Sarah Wellgreen, who lived in New Ash Green, continue to wait for the discovery of her body. Her former partner Ben Lacomba had been found guilty of her murder the year before but has so far refused to reveal where he concealed her remains. A police search was officially called off, but volunteers continue in a bid to finally bring closure.
The 1987 bedsit murders in Tunbridge Wells have been one of the longest unsolved killings in the county. But, out of the blue, a 66-year-old man from East Sussex was arrested and charged in December over the deaths of Wendy Knell and Caroline Pierce, who were killed five months apart 33 years ago.
He is due to face trial in July.
The number of asylum-seekers risking their lives continued throughout the year while efforts to stop the criminal gangs looking to profit from their desperation escalated. The new year saw hundreds make the trip and every time the weather eased during the year more would cram into tiny inflatable craft and make the trip.
Many had warned about an impending tragedy and this year saw several. In August a Sudanese teenager was found on the coast in France after drowning, while in October a Kurdish-Iranian family all died off the coast of Dunkirk. Rasoul Iran-Nejad, 35, Shiva Mohammad Panahi, 35, Anita, nine, and Armin, six all perished. Their 15-month-old son, Artin, is also believed to have died although his body has not been recovered.
Such was the strain on local authorities, KCC declared in the summer it was no longer able to care for unaccompanied child asylum-seekers as it had reached capacity to do so safely - a situation only eased earlier this month.
In September tempers flared as far-right groups marched through Dover on the same day as a pro-refugee event was taking place.
The political debate over the issue rose like the tide during the year, with Home Secretary Priti Patel in November declaring a new deal with French officials which would see increased patrols along the French coast.
Sadly, it remains an issue likely to be repeated during 2021.
Dover's former MP Charlie Elphicke has, meanwhile, spent the festive season behind bars after he was jailed for two years in September after being found guilty of sexual assaults on two women.
Elphicke, 49, who has been succeeded as MP for Dover and Deal by wife Natalie, denied all three allegations made against him but was found guilty by the jury. The judge described him as a "sexual predator". He's vowed to appeal the verdict.
Staying with politics, Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch revealed in June she was battling breast cancer. The 45-year-old has been undergoing chemotherapy for the condition and has received support from Westminster colleagues and constituents.
The killing in Minneapolis of George Floyd sparked a global wave of protests over racial inequality. And the Black Lives Matter movement proved one of the most vocal in 2020.
It sparked plenty of conversations about statues and names of places in the county which may have links to the slave trade. Just earlier this month, it resulted in Medway Council changing the name of the Sir John Hawkins car park in Chatham - he had profited from the trade - and switched to the far more palatable St John's car park due to its proximity to St John's church.
Despite the disruption caused by the pandemic, plenty of key developments got the nod during the year.
Movie and TV producers such as Netflix, Amazon and HBO continue to be linked with a development in Ashford as work began on transforming a former railway works into a creative hub. The studios are being built on the 12-acre Newtown site and are planned to open next year.
Meanwhile, the UK's biggest solar farm, boasting 880,000 panels to capture the sunlight, was given the go-ahead despite campaigners' bid to fight it. To be built in Graveney, betweeen Faversham and Whitstable, it should generate enough power for 91,000 homes.
There could be development at two of Kent's most famous headquarters too.
Kent Police confirmed this year it was planning to sell its Maidstone HQ declaring the landmark site as no longer delivering value for money.
It came hot on the heels of Kent County Council saying it was considering moving from its County Hall HQ in the county town for the same reason.
Not wanting to be left out, Medway Council - which also launched its official bid to become the UK's City of Culture in 2025 this year - also raised a question mark over its Gun Wharf home in Chatham as part of a review of costs.
Meanwhile, in September, there was talk of a major overhaul of Kent's councils - scrapping local authorities and merging areas in a bid to save millions. But we've been here before so don't expect any changes any time soon.
Talking of KCC, its IT experts found it was under attack by cyber crooks in April after its Kent Commercial Services company found itself subject to a malware attack. The people behind it demanded a ransom of £800,000 be paid in online currency Bitcoin to unlock the data, prompting a major review of the authority's security. It didn't pay up and although some data leaked onto the dark web, no personal details of any taxpayer did.
Former leader of KCC, Paul Carter, could have been forgiven for thinking 2020 had some bright points, however, when he was knighted in the delayed Queen's Birthday Honours List.
While tackling the Covid crisis was top of its list of priorities, the East Kent Hospitals Trust - which runs the William Harvey in Ashford, QEQM in Margate and Kent & Canterbury hospitals, found itself at the centre of a major probe into preventable baby deaths.
Parents went public with their grief and the trust apologised. But legal cases continue.
Legal challenges to plans to overhaul stroke services in the county failed - paving the way for existing units at the QEQM, Medway Maritime in Gillingham and Tunbridge Wells at Pembury hospitals to close and be replaced with hyper-acute centres at the William Harvey, Dartford's Darent Valley and Maidstone hospitals.
Animal lovers mourned the death in January of a giant sperm whale which had been spotted swimming way off its normal course down the Thames Estuary. First spotted off the coast of Whitstable, it was found dead after washing up on the beach on Sheppey.
There was drama too in May when armed police and a helicopter were called to reports of a tiger roaming woods near Sevenoaks. However, the alarm had been raised after someone had spotted a tiger sculpture close to the home of its artist who had installed it some 20 years before.
And a family in Eastchurch on Sheppey got that sinking feeling when their home toppled off a cliff.
The ironically named Cliffhanger home was the victim of erosion of the coast which saw its owners forced to recover her property from down on the beach. Some 12 homes in the area had to be evacuated.
There was better news for the former home of filmmaker Derek Jarman in Dungeness. Art Fund raised the £3.5m asking price to buy the late star's property to use it as an artists' retreat.
Funds were swollen by £16,000 by a signed jacket which featured the autographs of the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Scarlett Johansson, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Sir Elton John which was sold at auction.
Properties in the east of the county were looking to cash in, at the start of the year, on golf's The Open being held in Sandwich. Prices for Airbnb homes tripled with some charging an eye-watering £7,600 a night. The virus put paid to their money-making plans as the event was postponed until next summer.
For many of us, the TV offered a refuge from the madness which 2020 revelled in and there was plenty to cheer in two of the biggest reality TV shows.
Laura Adlington, from Halling, dazzled the judges with her flavours in the latest series of the Great British Bake Off, reaching the final - a feat emulated by Dartford YouTube star Hrvy on Strictly Come Dancing who waltzed his way into the hearts of viewers.
And as with any year, we bid farewell to a host of well known names.
Speedway ace Danny Ayes died after he took his own life at his home in Suffolk in February. He had made his name with the Kent Kings, based in Sittingbourne, leaving the side in 2016.
Hundreds of mourners turned out in February to bid a final farewell to Billy and Joe Smith whose bodies were found in woodland in Sevenoaks at the end of December. The pair, who had taken their own lives, had appeared on the TV show My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.
Forces sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn - the voice of (They'll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover - died at the grand old age of 103 in June prompting a host of tributes.
And Ronald Forfar, best known for playing Scouse rascal Freddie Boswell in Carla Lane's 1980s hit sitcom Bread died at the age of 81 in October. He had spent the last years of his life living in Rochester.