Sunday, 5 April 2009

Pleasurama council press releases and Kent International Airport Sunday ramble

I do rather feel that I let everyone in Ramsgate down last year when I failed to get some sort of leisure use for the Pleasurama site. This year I am pursuing the matter more vigorously and am beginning to feel that the council has probably stepped beyond the law on this one.

First there is the matter of material change, as I understand this if the developer changes the plans considerably from those approved he has to seek a new planning permission, as far as I am aware there have been 6 sets of plans so far click here to see what I mean.

The latest set of plans show a very different building from the 2003 plans approved by the council.

Next there is the environment agency letter click here to read as far as I can see unless their strong recommendations are heeded it is very unlikely that any part of the development will be insurable.

Then we come to the problems of dealing with a company based in a based in a country with very lax financial regulation, probably the company was set up there so the developer could avoid paying UK taxes on the profits from the sale of the apartments, shop units and hotel.

The difficulty though is that companies like these are often used to launder money derived from crime, as far as I have been able to ascertain the council would have to provide a certificate of authentication for money laundering purposes before it could accept a substantial amount of money from any company.

In the case of these offshore companies this just isn’t possible, the council can’t just say we have received several million pounds without being able to produce reasonable evidence that the money wasn’t derived from crime.

Then we come to the bond that should have had to be deposited before any work commenced, this should have been a substantial sum of money deposited by the developer so that the council had enough money to sort out the problems should the developer not finish the development properly.

For example having removed Ramsgate’s main leisure car park and replaced it with a road layout that appears to be both dangerous and unusable as drop off point, should the developer decide to walk away from the whole awful mess the council would have the money to put things right.

I now come to what would be a suitable development there and how the problem should be dealt with, first the safety issues should be dealt with, by this I mean a proper flood risk assessment by a reputable firm, H R Wallingford who did the assessment for the turner contemporary are probably the best firm for this.

These flood risk assessments are fairly complex for these very demanding sites between a cliff and a sea defence click here to look at their website and see what I mean.

The other safety issue is the arched incline from the cliff top to Marina Esplanade and the buildings that form Granville Marina, this is an unusual structure where a road is on top of Victorian houses. For the most part the whole structure is in a pretty sorry state and it would seem unlikely that it would be able to support traffic for the life of any new development on the Pleasurama site.

As far as the design of any new development goes it would seem likely that it will need adequate two way access for large vehicles, pedestrian escape to the cliff top and to be built on and far enough behind an adequate sea defence.

I can only see two ways of achieving this one is for the building to be built against the cliff face with the cliff top extended over it and a road tunnel under the back of the building, the other is to have a smaller development further from the cliff face.

I now come to the issue of the council’s press releases these take about a week to ten days to appear on the councils website, so that they often have lost much of their purpose by the time you can view them there. They also do not have feeds so that you can’t get them to appear on another website as they are posted.

I emailed the chief executive and two of the council press officers about this with a no cost solution and the offer to help them implement it last week, I didn’t get a reply but I told them that I wouldn’t pursue the matter, if they didn’t want to.

It’s not a matter of serious public or environmental local safety and frankly I only have time to address those and issues that relate to local history like the maritime museum.

So if anyone wants to take up the press release issue please let me know and I will forward the correspondence to you.

Looking at the comment here and on the other local blogs the issue that seems to be attracting most interest is the airport expansion.

There are two main issues here one being that some of the residents of Ramsgate and Herne Bay don’t want to live under a busy noisy flight path, this issue would be the same for an airport anywhere especially as it is linked to peoples health and quality of life. The other problem though the one that relates to the underground drinking water supply complicates the issue here in Thanet.

Thanet District Council have said that there is widespread support from the public locally, but this doesn’t seem to fit with what local people are saying, I do speak to local people that support airport expansion but they are very much in the minority, does anyone know what the council base their information on?

In my bookshop I have the largest range of aviation books that I know of in the southeast, so a lot of my customers are aeroplane enthusiasts but even the majority of them seem to be against expansion.

I believe the main reason for this is that they tend to be people that understand technical issues and therefore understand the environmental problems only too clearly.

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