Saturday, 17 October 2009

Royal Sands Development Ramsgate the most dangerous bit.

I don’t know how many of you bothered to read the engineers principle condition report on the Marina Esplanade Façade adjacent to Wellington Crescent.

This is a report by a professional firm of civil engineers commissioned by Thanet District Council.

I don’t know how much I had to do with this report being commissioned, I had been asking the council about the advisability of building so close to what appeared to be a tall and rather dangerous cliff for some time, before it was commissioned.

I had a fairly long discussion about this with a friend of mine recently and realised that I hadn’t made the significance of this report clear enough.

Bright enough chap but no engineer, what he had assumed was that the concrete cliff façade was built to hold the cliff up and stop it from collapsing. His logic ran along the lines of:

It’s made out of concrete; concrete is strong; therefore if properly maintained it will stop the cliff from falling down and demolishing the new development.

Obviously he had completely misunderstood the cliff façade, this is a concrete wall about 20 metres tall and averagely about a quarter of a metre thick in old money this equates to something over 60 feet tall about as thick as a 2 brick garden wall and about 300 yards long.

Any engineer looking at this will tell you that without the cliff face to hold it up a puff of wind would blow it over, it has one sole purpose which is to prevent the chalk from weathering, something that causes bits of chalk to drop off.

The biggest of the repairs to the façade can be explained in layman’s terms thus; a big bit had come lose from the rest of it and moved out away from the cliff a bit, so they screwed it to the chalk behind to stop it falling down.

Having got that out of my system here are a few quotes from the report and notes on their significance.

“Marina Esplanade Façade is in a condition that would be defined as short serviceable life.”

I take this to mean that the façade won’t last as long as the new building.

“Evidence of particle migration at the top surface also gives rise to concerns that hydrostatic may be imposing on the structure forces, which the concrete barrier is not designed to resist.”

I take this to mean that an unknown amount of chalk has slipped down and is lose behind the barrier pressing against it.

“It is considered that erection of a tower crane for construction purposes should be erected at lest 22 metres away from the edge of the façade topside.”

I take this to mean, the whole thing is riddled with tunnels and cracked chalk, so since we just don’t know how strong it is treat it as a lose pile with its sides sloping at 45 degrees. As the cliff is 22 metres high don’t put anything heavy closer than 22 metres from the edge the edge.

“the wall is thinner than the designed thickness”

I take this to mean that when constructed the contractor didn’t follow the plans.

Lets assume for a moment that the repairs had worked out as was hoped, even then we would have had a cliff riddled with tunnels and caves, some of which have been discovered and others which if they are there haven’t been discovered. This cliff has sustained considerable damage because of lack of maintenance to the surface above, so the chalk has many cracks in it.

I should point out here very clearly that nothing has been done to strengthen the cliff itself apart from a small amount of filling of some open holes on the front of the façade.
The pictures in the post were taken by me this morning, sorry I only had my ancient pocket camera with me, it’s more kilo pixels than mega but it gives you some idea.
You can see things are not as they should be.
I am afraid the brown streaks in the picture above may mean the reinforcing rods are still rusting.
As you can see from the picture above the nice new coating comes down not to a solid foundation but muddy chalky soil.
Here you can see the lack of proper foundation under one of the thicker bits.
When I asked the council experts about the vegetation growing out of the cracks, I was told that these weren’t cracks but the vegetation was growing out of seagull droppings that had landed on the cliff face.


  1. Michael - we need you on TDC. Please do your public duty and stand. You will be overwhelmong elected.

  2. There's a hole in my facadeOctober 17, 2009 9:13 pm

    Independents needed in Dane valley, Michael! Bird dung! As your pictures illustrate, serious plant life in unfilled cracks is the problem and the neat array of weeds and their damaging roots in your first picture show weeds growing in unfilled circular holes that presumably mark the strengthening rod locations; their uniformity alone gives the game away of negligent filling by contractors. Did TDC inspect the work properly or just pay the contractor's bill like they used to do for Mears?

  3. I'm with Nick there, go for it Michael. You (& also Tony Flaig) really CARE about Thanet!

  4. I cannot understand why TDC appear to be ignoring these warning signs. The evidence suggests to me that TDC are either incompetent or too frightened to admit their mistakes.

    This is demonstrated by their seagull droppings explanation. Which is risible.

    The state of the cliffs is clearly parlous.

    This matter has turned serious.

  5. Hitler said in Mein Kampf - the bigger lie you tell the more people with believe it - another well-known expression is "Never explain, never apologise". TDC do not like eating humble pie but we are the poor sods paying for the pie.

  6. It's as funny as 'the recycling bags were contaminated' and 'our operatives will be retrained'.

  7. Good work Michael in putting into language that we all can understand, we need a lot more de-mistification, in relation to the musings of The council.

  8. NickD Peter I have to admit that I have no desire to enter politics and even if I had I don’t think it would help, my reasoning goes like this:

    Stand as an independent, no power to change anything.

    Stand as Labour, we need the money for this site, don’t rock the boat.

    Stand as Conservative, we need the money for this site, don’t rock the boat.

    You have to understand the council stand to get millions of pounds if the development is built and the building of it should produce a lot of employment locally.

    The sad truth here is that building between the cliff and the foreshore is much more difficult and expensive than anyone wants to admit and may not be commercially viable at all, for the most part that is why despite having lots of wonderful sites with amazing sea views on the prom, no one has ever built a residential development on any of them.

    There’s a hole……… I believe the uniform holes are for ventilation and in possibly drainage if the don’t keep up the cliff top maintenance, and as such the vegetation growing from them is the least harmful.

    The ground anchor (strengthening rods or screws that hold the lose bit on) holes have been filled.

    It’s the cracks that worry me, for the most part these are in the block infill between the concrete pillars with the arches on top, I believe that they were filled before the thing had its protective coating (paint to you and me) applied. Trouble is that they seem to lack any sort of foundation whatsoever and I think it may be a case of as there is nothing holding them up from the bottom the gaps have opened up since they were filled. There are also a few cracks now appearing in the main structure I hardly like to consider the implication of these, perhaps it’s enough to say that I had taken a stick down there to prod into the lack of foundations when I took the photographs but bottled out at the last moment.

    JH The matter has always been serious, you have to appreciate that the council has just spent the best part of a million on the repairs. Consider this if you will, right at the beginning of the repairs I sent the supervising engineer photographic evidence that there were no foundations under the part that had been exposed, he replied agreeing with me, I still have his email on file, however no action was taken and the repairs continued as if the there were proper foundations.

    18.06 Hitler also said “I go the way that providence dictates with the assurance of a sleepwalker”. I believe this could be applied to most politicians.

    MaisieGrace, yes I two asked about this one and got an answer in newspeak that I couldn’t comprehend, that particular department probably has a song: My old mans a recycling operative. He wears protective headgear and lives in affordable housing. He wears contaminated trousers and we will redact that.

    Old Woman of Margate, when it comes to the engineering side I now see that I should have done much more to demystify what I had been saying and will try to do so in the future, demystifying local government I think may be a bit more difficult.

  9. A construction safety advisor notes Michael that your photos were taken this morning...Building sites are very dangerous places as I'm sure your aware, which is why the contractor has gone to great lengths to secure the site... given your comments regarding the imminent collapse of the cliff I would strongly advise that any further photographs are taken from outside the hoarding, where you won't put either yourself or the emergency services at risk should this inevitable collapse occur.

  10. 12.31 Firstly I take a building site to mean somewhere that building is occurring, the previous 11 years seem to suggest that we should wait and see for a definition.

    I am afraid to say that the contractor went to great lengths to leave the double gates wide open something that meant I had somewhere to park the car, which was convenient and saved me for paying for parking.

    Next time I see him perhaps I should ask for a key in case it is locked, as I think I would incur greater risk climbing over the fence, what do you think?

    I certainly wouldn’t say the collapse is inevitable in the near future, I take “short serviceable life” to mean something in the order of five to twenty years and have written to the chap that wrote the report asking him exactly what it does mean.

    As far as the emergency cervices are concerned, if it had collapsed while I was there it would have presumably saved them the trouble of digging the thousand or so people out if it had collapsed after the building was occupied, so I assume that would have saved them much grater risk than they would have incurred in trying to dig me out.


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