Saturday, 18 April 2009

The Pleasurama questions and Thanet District Council’s Chief Executive’s promise.

I put three questions to Richard Samuel the chief executive of Thanet District Council on 26th March about aspects of the Pleasurama development, this is a quote from my email to him:

“I have been told that as work has started on the access road work is deemed to have started on the development and therefore the consent didn’t expire after five years.

1 Does this mean that planning consent is granted in perpetuity for this development?

I have been told that before work can start on the development a bond has to be placed in a bank account, last time I asked about a month ago and after the five years had expired the bond had not been placed.

2 Does this mean that work has not officially started on the development and therefore planning consent has expired?

3 I gather that SFP as a company would need to have supplied you with a certificate of authenticity for prevention of money laundering purposes does such a certificate exist?”

I am very loathe to go down the official complaint road with the council as it costs them and therefore us a tidy sum of money, so I have had a considerable correspondence with Richard since then trying to get answers to my questions so I was very pleased to get the following email from him promising answers this week.

“Subject: Re: Pleasurama
Date: 09/04/2009 19:18:20 GMT Standard Time
From: Richard.Samuel@thanet.gov.uk
Reply To:
To: MichaelChild@aol.com

An officer will reply to you on this next week. I have made some initial inquiries and I understand the obligations under the Proceeds of Crime legislation are not quite as you say. I think you may be confusing due diligence procedures with irregularities in the deposit of funds which do not come into effect until funds are received. However I am not the expert and you will receive a fuller reply shortly.

Richard Samuel
Chief Executive
Thanet District Council
Council Offices
Margate
Kent”

Strangely though I haven’t had any reply and I am now wondering if perhaps they just don’t know the answers, my main concerns are that we don’t get another five years of building site and another summer without temporary leisure use for the site.

17 comments:

  1. If the council didn't have to spend so many hours researching and answering questions from you they would have more time to deal with the Pleasurama site. It may only take a few minutes to type a question but to provide an accurate answer for publishing in the public domain may take many hours at considerable expense.

    Yes, I know all about demorcracy and freedom of information, but you can't deny that you take up a considerable amount of the council's resources. Do you ever consider that?

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  2. the trouble is they arent dealing with it the site is not being built on and to say work has started is a farce thats like sayingbecause you have bought a carpet for a new house you have already built it. What else would the planning department be doing cos they dont make a very good job of plans the amount of substandard housing in Cliftonville they have allowed is proof of that

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  3. 16.51 The problem here is that after 5 years we still have bad and dangerous plans for a building to be constructed in a manner that conflicts with the environment agency’s strong recommendations.

    As far as I can see the council and the developer are both coming round to my way of thinking about the access road by that I mean that it isn’t fit for purpose and that the development will have no public transport access.

    Unfortunately it has been built at considerable expense if the council had stopped to answer my questions about it properly before it was built the money wouldn’t have been wasted.

    Now personally I feel that the question, in the light of the new money laundering regulations will the council be able to receive payment for the site if it is money sourced from a BVI company? Is a valid one that could save the council several million pounds in the future if the answer is no.

    Not as important as the question, next time we have a major tidal surge storm, (like we did in 1953 when a 12 ton crane that had been working on the beach was thrown by the sea into the middle of the site by the sea) how do the people trapped inside the building escape without the emergency escapes that the environment agency strongly recommend?

    The big problem here is that no one involved has experience of building a large residential development between the cliff face and the sea, we have plenty of land between the cliff face and the sea here in Thanet but never a development of this kind.

    Five years of fooling around because the developer would have to comply to current safety regulations if they resubmitted plans that were suitable for the site.

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  4. Vexatious describes your comments Michael, a bit like Malcolm K and Bertie B

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  5. 17.34 I am quite happy to have my comment likened to that of those two, however I am not against development there but want one that the EA considers safe and that the council are sure they can receive payment for the site, what would you suggest?

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  6. You arent vexacious Michael you are trying to point out the folly of their ways, as they are too arrogant to do so themselves, which we know from old!Northdown house case in point - there were no covenants, those protesting that there were "were mischief makers and should know better"
    Was interested to see the officers are still recommending selling the maritime museum, Michael, only just had time to read the cabinet minutes. Agree they shouldnt sell off part of the strategic harbour too, very short sighted - keep on Malcolm! Why were only the asset sales of Ramsgate discussed i was told all the other disposals arent until being discussed until June - presumably delayed until the local KCC elections are over?
    Keep up the good work it needs eccentrics like you to bring TDC to book! (what a pun!)

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  7. Michael, re. your 17.29 posting. I realise your intentions are good but what bothers me is that you are making statements such as "The problem here is that after 5 years we still have bad and dangerous plans for a building". This is just your interpretation of the situation. You may be wrong and there may well be others who think differently.

    I'm just very uneasy about you using our (the residents) resources to try and further your argument. Imagine if we all did it!

    If you have a positive argument try and enforce it. I believe you're questioning some issues that have already been the subject of a judicial review. If that is the case then surely there must be an appeal process.

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  8. Oh dear the politicians (and their superstar club) should really get out more.

    I raised this matter up some time ago regarding the money laundering act with the TDC solicitor dealing with that matter, he stated that it [Pleasurama] complied with the act and that a bank had authenticated it...mmmmm.

    Apparently vexatious poster, TDC can pay some 75,0000 plus on the betterment of this structure and waste god knows what elsewhere and you have the nerve to accuse local tax payers as being vexatious, get a life.

    MK

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  9. Come on guys, if you are so certain of your view point and really do care about the local community, do something about it. Take legal action, get elected, do anything positive!!

    To further frustrate what you already believe to be an inefficient system of government is hardly a positive move.

    Action speaks louder than words.

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  10. 21.40 it would be helpful if you could give yourself a nickname I find it difficult to maintain a dialogue with a series of numbers.

    So far we have had 6 sets of plans, even a set where peoples heads and a lorry was shown embedded in the concrete ceilings where the architect had tried to fit the building into the space that just isn’t high enough for it. The architect’s solution in this case was to rub out the drawing of the people and draw a shorter lorry.

    The solution to getting lorry access on the latest set of plans is just as bad the architect has put a two way road behind the building because he has finally given up and accepted the fact that there just isn’t enough height to get a lorry under the building at all. The problem though is that the road is so narrow that there isn’t enough space for a lorry to pass a car, so between the back of the building there is now a very narrow canyon with a road at the bottom, what will happen if there is some sort of traffic accident down there with two vehicles jammed in this very narrow space perhaps on fire god alone knows.

    As far as flood risk and escape goes it is the EAs concerns that haven’t been addressed click on the link to read their letter about this http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/ea/ so far the second contractor that was going to build the development Knight Construction have built the access road without a flood risk assessment against the EAs wishes, it is made of lose slabs laid on sand on top of the sea defences where any Ramsgate resident will tell you large waves break when we have a big storm. Well Knight Developments have now pulled out leaving a road to be adopted by KCC that isn’t fit for purpose and when the sea turns it into a pile of rubble we will pick up the tab.

    Ok so five different sets of plans are you suggesting that the other four were good plans fit for purpose on one occasion the plans were redrawn because I pointed out that they showed a building that was 1.5 meters taller on the inside than on the outside.

    Now I have discussed the new plans with the planning officer on the case and the developer’s agent and neither could explain the aspects of them that I considered to be bad.

    I think the problem with the judicial review is that the money laundering regulations have been tightened considerably since it occurred and the councils legal department has been reduced considerably, so I am not satisfied that they are certain of the position now when dealing with a BVI company.

    As far as my questions about the bond and the legality of the planning consent goes without the bond if the developer decides to walk away from this mess leaving the bad works already completed there will be no money to put things right. Nor can I see how the plans can still be valid as the bond that had to be placed before work started wasn’t placed before the five years elapsed and the planning consent expired.
    The problem here is if we get a bad development built against the advice of the EA it will mot likely be uninsurable, and as the developer is an offshore company they will be able to walk away from the problems leaving us to pay to sort it out.

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  11. first anon posting. the elephant in the room is that if the council were doing their jobs properly in the first place, michael would not have to keep pulling them up on theirr shortcomings. The real issue here is public money is being pi$$ed up the wall by incompetance on a grand scale. Ramsgates main seafront leisure site has been wasteland for 10 years.

    Stop bleating that Michael asking a few questions helps prolong the agony.

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  12. From Anonymous 21.40:

    I think you've missed the point of my comments. I'm not questioning the issues, just what you are doing about them.

    You may well be correct with your comments, although I'm not sure how you arrive at your measurements as the plans I've seen don't include any. I repeat, this is only your opinion of the situation and you could be wrong.

    Although I can understand what you're trying to do I think you're barking up the wrong tree and wasting our resources. Quite honestly I'm appalled that the planning officer should visit you to discuss the situation. Bearing in mind it is OUR council, not yours, will the planning officer now extend the same privilege to me, my mates and the bloke down the road? We all have the same rights.

    I believe you are out of order to put him in the position whereby he feels it necessary to visit you, and he is wrong to succumb in such a manner to the pressures of an unqualified armchair critic. Maybe it was your coffee but I suspect this blog may have had something to do with it.

    We already have what appear to be legally binding decisions from T.D.C. some of which have also been the subject of a judicial review. T.D.C. are hardly likely to change their minds as to do so would be to admit they were wrong in the first place.

    If you think the council has broken the law, take legal action. If you have genuine safety concerns take them to a higher authority. That is your right.

    Imagine the situation if we all acted in the same manner as you and tried to retrospectively massage the council into our way of thinking. Or did you not realise that we all have different points of view and that it is the council's responsibility to serve all of us.

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  13. Stop Manston Expansion Group said: "public money is being pi$$ed up the wall by incompetance on a grand scale". If you can substantiate this, why don't you do something positive about it?

    If you can't substantiate it why don't you keep quiet!

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  14. 21.58 Within the limited time I have and with my limited resources I do the best I can.

    As far as measurements go I have paper copies of the plans these are scale drawings mostly 1:250 so the measurements I derived by using a scale ruler in the ordinary way. When a section is 1.5m longer than the corresponding elevation on the same sheet and I have a copy of the email from the planning department thanking me for pointing it out it is a little hard to see how I was wrong. This was however just an example of the many flaws with all of the sets of plans it took the EA about a year to get a set of plans with ODN marked on them so they could determine the floodline.

    I have asked the council planning department to put linier scales on plans before publishing them on the internet, so that people can derive measurements from them, without the tiny cost of doing this (it could be done with a rubber stamp) all of the plans the council has published on the internet at considerable public expense are pretty much useless.

    As far as council officers visiting me to discuss plans, matters of local history etc it is a simple matter I run a bookshop and many of them pop in after work to buy books to read, this has been going on for over 20 years I even publish local history books written by them.

    Of course as Pleasurama has developed we should have had the proper public consultation we were promised, at the very least every time the plans changed, so that you me and the bloke down the road were kept informed.

    Let me remind you that had no fuss been made the development would have been built, with the roof above the cliff, adjacent to the dangerous cliff with no space to repair it, below the static flood line without even storm shutters.

    As the judicial review took place before the money laundering act that came into force 15 December 2007 I don’t think even the chief executive or any of the other officers are certain of the legal position or I would have had the reply that I was promised by now.

    Thanet Resident the problem here is that it is highly probable that had any one involved had experience of building between a cliff and the shoreline the development would have been designed against the cliff face, meaning that the developer would have funded the cliff repairs that would probably been done differently, the half a million the council put aside to spend on this is in their budget.

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  15. Michael, are you're telling me that the planning officer came to discuss the plans in his own time? Or could the exchange of information be better described as out of hours "chit chat".

    Are you telling me that without your intervention the development would have been built by now, and that there were no other contributory factors to the amended plans and failure to start work?

    With regard to detail on the plans, I didn't accuse you of being wrong, in fact I said you may well be correct. But planning permission only seeks to guide the way our town develops and includes the use and appearance of land and buildings within the Local Development Framework. I guess detail is not necessarily relevant for this purpose.

    It is building regulations that set standards for the design and construction of buildings to ensure safety. As I understand it building regulations can be enforced during and after construction, but the construction will not be approved until the regulations have been met. Perhaps you are a bit premature and using the wrong plans for your determinations.

    Is it possible that the developer or someone within the planning system may have picked up on a few anomalies and just not told you, or has this multi million pound project been put on hold just because of your deliberations?

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  16. Thanet Resident yes in his own time but the meeting was official and arranged by the head of planning Brian White who also wanted to come but didn’t have time.

    No quite a lot of people including Dave Green and ERA have been involved at different times however I have stuck with it as I can read the plans accurately because of my engineering background.

    The plans have to be right with respect to the flood and escape issues strongly recommended by the EA the FRA would be based on detailed tidal flow and wave height predictions and would specify exactly how high the sea defence should be and how far behind it would be safe to build. It would also have incorporated in it emergency escape details as does the one for the Turner Contemporary. You may remember what happened with the experimental Turner 1 where the people involved, experts perhaps underestimated the power of the sea in this area, that made them quite sensitive to getting a proper FRA done.

    Well look at it like this if the had gone ahead and started pile driving down there as they wanted to the cliff would have collapsed on them click on the link and read 6.34 http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/tdc/report.htm

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  17. Full marks to the planning officer if he visited in his own time, presumably without reward! I'm afraid my earlier comments still apply as it's a dangerous precedent to set. If it happens on a regular basis it could be construed as "establish procedure" which should be available to all of us. I don't think the planning officer would like that, nor would I as a tax payer.

    Just for the record, I also have an engineering background and can also read plans. If the plans do not have linear scales on them I would interpret that as they illustrative only and are not to suitable to derive dimensions from.

    The inspection report just confirms in detail what I have often thought when looking at the façade. I'm not quite sure of your point here. The report was written 4 years ago, after planning permission was granted, and before construction started. Surely this is evidence that having obtained planning permission, safety details are being considered in line with Building Regulations, H.S.E. etc.

    I note it was T.D.C. who commissioned the report. Are you saying that it was only your intervention that made them read it?

    As a casual observer who often has extended periods of absence I'm not sure if there was any pile driving before the repairs were carried out. If there wasn't the report may be the reason why. I don't see any problem with this.

    If there was pile driving then maybe there are other circumstances that the council considered but have not told you about, or they may have been negligent. In this scenario, surely the H.S.E. could be held to be negligent.

    If, as you suggest in your preamble to the report pile driving has taken place, surely this is evidence that work has started on the project, which then protects the planning permission contrary to yours and other comments on this blog.

    I suspect you are making your profound judgements without being in possession of all the facts, and your influence is not as great as you make out. I am still concerned that you are frustrating the process at our expense rather than helping it. Of course this is your democratic right, but I'm not sure it's helpful.

    Reading through some of your accusations I still cannot understand why you have not done something more positive than write emails - unless of course you have a hidden agenda.

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