News this week that Euroferrys intend to start a service between Ramsgate and Bolougne is encouraging, in Thanet and Ramsgate in particular we need to be planning now how we can best take advantage of the return of European tourists.
There is no doubt that in the last few years Ramsgate has seen an influx of new and wealthier residents and now with the return of an ordinary ferry service, the town should be in a better position than most to cope with the recession.
One major problem that needs addressing is the number of empty shops in the town, talking to local estate agents much of the problem here seems to be that rents are unreasonably high, they reflect values before Westwood Cross and the recession as do the business rates.
I am wondering if it is possible that some part of the council, possibly the empty buildings department, could get together with the landlords of the empty shops and the rating valuation department of the Inland Revenue and come up with some sort of strategy to alleviate the problem.
Ramsgate still has potential to become the new Brighton, well not exactly but and despite the recession there are still retail chains that are expanding, like Iceland into Broadstairs. However in these difficult times we need to be looking at ways to attract them here rather than elsewhere.
There is a new breed of retailer that seems do be doing very nicely in our town centres, Wilkinsons, Peacocks, Poundland and so on, however we seem to have most of them already, I would appreciate it if anyone knows of any of these chains that we haven’t got here yet, so I could contact them.
The news that Preston Steam Museum Trust is to take over the maritime museum and associated historic vessels has the potential to provide Ramsgate with a major leisure attraction click the link for their website http://www.prestonservices.co.uk/tsm/index.html
What I envisage here is a major steam and maritime leisure experience based around the maritime museum, Cervia, Sundowner incorporating tours round the existing assets lighthouse, magazine, Sailors Church and so on. Using the old mainline railway tunnel to display larger exhibits. The Steam Trust has no shortage of potential exhibits and in Ramsgate we have so many under used resources, the Royal Victoria Pavilion and Wescliffe Hall to name two. This of course needs to be combined with the reinstatement of reduced mooring fees for historic vessels in the part of the harbour next to the emerging café culture.
Ramsgate first has published its 2009 manifesto click on the link to view it http://www.parish-council.com/ramsgate/index.asp?pageid=97489 there are some controversial proposals and it certainly makes interesting reading.
It would seem that the whole of the eastern undercliff from the lift to the car park that used to be the marina swimming pool needs a serious review. Firstly the sea defences in this area seem to be inadequate a situation that has not been helped by putting in the new road layout down there without any flood risk assessment. Proper proposals to protect the pavilion the existing housing and any new development down there, experts that I have consulted both within the council and elsewhere generally seem to be of the opinion that the new road layout is too low and will have to be changed.
What remains of the Granville Marina development has historically flooded during ordinary storms and without some allowance for rising sea levels we are storing up considerable problems for the future. This combined with the problems associated with the arched viaduct that forms the access road incline means that future treatment of the whole area needs reviewing.
It may well be that the new developer will actually get on with The Royal Sands Development on the Pleasurama site or they may be put of with the problems associated with such a difficult site as the previous developers have.
For any of you new to the problems surrounding the Pleasurama site, it was once a Victorian station which when closed the station building became Ramsgate’s main amusement arcade and the surrounding land the seafront fun fair. When the arcade was closed the leaseholder had plans for it to become a factory sales outlet, the council put in a new road network for this which had the effect of removing all of the existing seafront car parking, the main building burnt down and eventually the council that owns the freehold managed to get the leasehold back but not the insurance money to rebuild anything. Various plans and tenders were submitted for the site the eventual plans chosen were passed during the change of administration and in the confusion plans were passed for a building that towered 3 meters above the cliff top. The building was to have been a gull winged roofed construction loosely based around 1930s seaside architecture. The problem that all of the subsequent developers have had is that plans have been passed for a 5 story building but there is only realistically space for a 4 story building. Attempts to fit a 5 storey building into this space have included chopping off the gull wings, which removes any architectural merit the building may have been said to have and even plans of a Tardis like nature with the inside bigger than the outside click on the link to look at my website about this http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/tdc/id35.htm
Over the past 20 years the whole area has pretty much fallen apart, fires demolition and so on although the cliff façade behind the site has been repaired, the cliffs either side of the site are in very bad shape, neglect of Ramsgate’s cliffs have caused serious collapses in the past click on the link to see what I mean http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/collapse/
One thing is certain after so many years of a head in the sand approach Ramsgate needs a coordinated plan both to deal with its infrastructure problems and some good leisure facilities both for the people who live here and potential tourists.
Ramsgate First and the new town council may be able to achieve some of this but Thanet District Council needs to give us its full support, I have said for a long time that we really need a cabinet member whose portfolio is Ramsgate.