Sunday, 3 May 2009

Sunday Ramble

Some thoughts from the secondhand book trade here, I gather that Chaucer Bookshop in Canterbury has closed, this does rather make one feel part of a dieing breed.

For my own part I can only say that shop sales are holding up very well indeed despite the recession, or possibly because of it, I don’t recall my stock being as good as it is now for a very long time.

Internet sales on the other hand are way down most markedly our sales via, I had better explain how this works.

As well as selling new books Amazon can sell you out of print and secondhand books via a third party i.e. secondhand booksellers around the world.

Of our stock of about 30,000 titles about 2,500 of them we list on a database which we upload to Amazon and if you search for a book on Amazon and one of ours come up, when you buy it you pay Amazon who put the money into our bank account, they send us your name and address and we post the book to you.

We have been doing this for about ten years, so have considerable experience in this area and I would say if our online sales are considerably reduced so are most other peoples.

Our biggest problem at the moment is the deteriorating standard of ordinary behaviour in the town centre and I gather this is a problem in most other towns, another broken shop window this weekend.

I should point out that the individual that did this first tried and failed to kick in the window of the undertaker opposite us gave up and crossed the road and kicked ours in.

Much of this problem emanates from the 24 hour licensing laws prior to which we had one broken in seven years.

When the police arrived they had other ideas as to why things had deteriorated particularly badly recently, these being that the council had taken to rehousing problem families in the town centres and worst of all concentrating them in the tower blocks.

If the council were to go out of their way to think of a way to break our town’s economies, I would say to do this during the recession would be about the best plan they could come up with.

On the one hand we have a Conservative opposition nationally that say that they intend to deal with antisocial behaviour, yet locally a Conservative council that appears to be doing their best to make things worse.

I am not unaware that the short-term beneficiaries of this are the companies running out of town shopping and leisure facilities so perhaps the council is doing this deliberately.

It is crunch time for Pleasurama this Thursday when the Council cabinet hold a meeting to decide if the developer should be allowed to both renege on the development agreement and build the development. The council are being very secretive about this meeting so no details are publicly available and the press and public are to be excluded.

My understanding of the situation is as follows:

The detail of the agreement state:

“1. On exchange of the development agreement, the developer will pay a deposit of £55,000.

2. Following exchange of the development agreement, within 3 months, the developer will enter into a highways agreement with Kent County Council as specified in the planning permission. The works refer to a new roundabout and bus lay-by in Marine Esplanade.

3. The Site Lease Completion Date is the date 10 working days after the date of completion of the Highways Agreement.

4. On the Site Lease Completion Date:

a. The developer is to pay £550,000 to the Council which will include the deposit of £55,000.

b. The Site Leases of the hotel suite, the mixed use site and the residential premises will be granted to the Developer.

c. The developer will enter into an option agreement in favour of the Council, whereby the Council will be granted an option to aquire the Developers interest in the hotel site and the cliff stairway lease.

d. The Developer will provide a £5.6m performance bond in favour of the Council.

5. SFP Ventures (UK) limited is not entitled to assign the Development Agreement.”

I have been told by a number of different sources, although only one named the figure so it may be inaccurate that, the developer hasn’t deposited the bond and wishes to renege on the agreement and deposit a cash amount of £1,000,000 in a bank account as a guarantee.

It is my understanding that this money would be sourced from a British Virgin Islands company with doubts about it’s certificate of authenticity for money laundering purposes.

The sum appears to be insufficient if the development fails in some way.

The new plans go against strong EA recommendations both for a FRA and emergency escapes, so the building is likely to be blighted and the bond needed for this reason alone.

One of the biggest problems for the new Pleasurama development will be that of people throwing bricks and rubble etc from the cliff top at the building and onto the cars and people below.

I thought perhaps that this could be mitigated by redesigning the development so that the it was against the cliff face and the cliff top extended above the development with a step in front of it to catch objects dropped from the cliff top.

I have consulted with the man who designed the cliff façade repairs and he tells me that unfortunately they haven’t been done in a way that would allow the building to be built against the cliff.

I am fast coming to the conclusion that if the developer had consulted with me before the cliff façade repairs and the access road work commenced I could have saved him millions of pounds.

The developer’s agent now says that he and the contractor will consult with me over the problems with the development if the cabinet decides to let them drop the bond.


  1. Dear Michael.
    Thank you!
    It is brilliant to find this update. There are so many rumours surrounding this development and absolutely NO information from TDC (who in my view should be acting much more responsibly in keeping the public informed on such a major seafront development). The whole thing is farcical!
    We had the official launch of phase 1 build last August with deposits taken and a planned start date of last September!! Why don't they come clean about all this.
    Meanwhile Ramsgate seafront looks an utter eyesore. We have unsightly hoardings around the site, right beside the main sands, that have been in place for several years now: We have what was a beautiful grade 2 listed Royal Victoria Pavillion that was badly neglected by the previous owners and is similarly boarded up: We have the grade 2 Marina Restaurant further along the main seafront which is partially demolished and no sign of the promised restoration due to start latest end March: While further along within the Ramsgate conservation area, we have 4 vulnerable, exposed arches within the viaduct which have remained an utter eyesore and totally unprotected for over 30 years. The full stop is the demolished sea water filled swimming pool which use to grace the seafront and would have been a fantastic asset to the town, now a car park and virtual no-go area after dark.
    I utterly despair of what is being allowed to happen to Ramsgate.

  2. More like the whole of Thanet unless it is a "pet project" and it's success has some benefits to a very few. Went to Broadstairs today and the whole town was heaving, the Dickens museum was open, there were craft fairs and plenty for the masses to do. This is what we need, but to be fair none of this has been generated by the council, (but maybe by Broadstairs town council!) why dont they just let individuals get on with entreprenal enterprise not think they have to control it all the time! (or not!?)

  3. I hope they will be offering you a consultancy fee Michael.

    After our email correspondence today ... law, duty, oath, demeanour and rights to anonymity etc er indoors took out the camera.

    The result is I now have my piccie on my blog profile.

    I think she decided to assist a nuber of internet warriors who have tried to threaten me. Let us have no mix ups on the ID people. This is he ... take your best hit !

    It is the insurance proposal form she asked me to sign that I am beginning to be a tad suspicious about.

    Initially she asked me to pose holding a target over my heart.

    Important point though. My impending sixtieth and that book token ....

  4. Re: the declining "ordinary" behavior, I really don't think you can blame 24 hour licensing too much, as other countries have similar relaxed drinking regulations without the yob culture we have in this country. I really think it's just a continuation of the declining standards over the past 30 or so years. I'm probably a little younger than you Michael, but I'm still old enough to remember getting the ruler over the knuckles at school; I remember when we all respected the police, almost without question (& I grew up in a rough part of South London, not a cosy middle-class subrbia); and I remember when it was considered quite shocking for a woman to be drunk in public (now they brag about it). In the late 80s & 90s we were all paying for a generation being raised without discipline, & now we're paying double, for a generation raised by PARENTS who's had no disipline...

  5. I will do another post about the Pleasurama development later today as I now know a bit more.

    Peter you may be right, its just that the council seem to do such stupid things that make the situation worse, like licensing takeaways to stay open until 4 am in areas where people live and have to get some sleep so they can go to work in the morning.

    Just near to here they have planted several lampposts right next to buildings making it easy for drunks to climb them.

    I have lived in a part of the town centre that has problems at night time since I mover here 20 years ago and they certainly got a lot worse when 24 hour licensing came in, also in the last 6 months things have got very much worse.


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