Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Royal Sands Development Ramsgate securing the cliff face that had moved.

My recent posts about this development has meant that I have had various dialogues with several engineers that specialise in various aspects of chalk and problems related to different projects involving its stability.
One aspect of the report on the condition of the cliff façade that has generated particular interest is how the bit of it that was on the move had been dealt with, the following is a quote from the report.

“There is an area of the façade, which is severely cracked and has experienced outward displacement. This indicates that load resistance failure and requires a serious engineering solution possibly ground anchors. The drawings indicate that the façade was to be constructed to a minimum thickness of 310 mm, however inspection through the weepholes, show varying dimensions down to 230 mm.”

Obviously with the total lack of public consultation about this major project there is scant information about how this problem was addressed, or how successful the work done to this part of the cliff was.
I did take some pictures click on them to enlarge and there is this quote from Dave Green’s Eastcliff Matters blog:

“The area of cliff facade which has not yet received the specified anti-carbonation coating is awaiting stabilisation works which are currently being designed. Testing undertaken during the construction phase indicated that a section of cliff facade in this location is not sufficiently stable. The solution to this will involve the installation of a series of ground anchors which will tie the concrete facade to solid chalk several metres behind the face of the facade. A new reinforced concrete 'badge' will be cast over the existing facade in this location to allow the new anchors to be tensioned sufficiently to stabilise the existing structure. Once complete, the works will receive the same coloured coating as the rest of the facade to protect it from future chloride and carbonation attack. The design has taken longer than anticipated, and work was hoped to commence onsite in October. However, our consultant has been slightly delayed by the company who produced the geotechnical information but has now completed the design work and will produce contract drawings/documentation next week for pricing. I think we should now be in a position to return to site and commence these additional works at the beginning of December.”

For the non technical reading this it easiest to liken it to screwing the concrete wall in front of the chalk cliff to the chalk behind, to stop it from collapsing.

What really riles me though is the arrogance of the people involved in assuming that local people wouldn’t be interested in such a major civil engineering project, so they didn’t tell us what was going on, just as they haven’t told us why a lot more of the promenade has now been boarded off in the last week.


  1. Well there's a surprise, someone does know what they're doing but just didn't bother to tell you.

    Such procedures are routinely used in road construction and many other situations. Hardly a "major civil engineering project".

  2. To the anonymouse above,

    Why, in your opinion, did they not bother to tell Michael? Do you think their arrogance was to blame?

  3. I think you'll find they did tell Michael, and everyone else. I don't think it was a secret that the cliff face was being repaired.

    Do you not think it arrogant of Michael that he should expect the contractors or the council keep him informed of the techniques used as well.

    I must admit, Michael does seem to have a special relationship with the council, having plans dropped in to him, personal visits by planning officers etc. If I want a copy of plans I have to pay for them, and have you tried talking to a planning officer recently!

  4. 17.30 Thank you for your comment which I find particularly helpful as it highlights an area where I have obviously not made myself clear.

    Please understand it isn’t that I think they should have been bothering to tell me, but that they should have been engaging in consultation with all of us and that they should have been informing us Ramsgate residents about what they are doing.

    As far as I am aware the largest and most demanding project in Ramsgate since the construction of the harbour, the council have already spent the best part of £1,000,000 of our money on the cliff repairs.

    Something I consider to be both a major civil engineering project and also a project that has gone badly wrong, if I had had my house repaired and painted with masonry paint last year I wouldn’t expect lots of cracks to have appeared yet, nor would I expect vegetation including a small tree to be growing out of them.

    As an example of what I mean about engaging the people of Ramsgate in this project, there is nothing about the project on the contractors website and nothing actually explaining what is going on the councils website

    As far as I can see the only up to date information on this project on the web appears here and on a few other local blogs, something that seems inadequate to me.

  5. Michael, are you sure that the work isn't being carried out under a penalty clause, at no extra cost to the residents? Maybe this is why publicity is being kept to a minimum, possibly because a clause in the contract requires this.

    The simple truth is we don't know, and maybe we shouldn't know at this stage. What is important is a safe and successful outcome, and at the moment this is looking likely.

    I'm having trouble understanding your position on this. You have been banging on for ages about the cliff being unsafe, and now it's being rectified you're still not happy.

    Those of us that are interested in the "nuts and bolts" of the work can always go and have a look.

  6. 9.52 I believe that it was when I first noticed that the council had approved plans for a development that was bigger on the inside than it was on the outside, something the planning department hadn’t noticed, that they started what you could call a special dialogue on this one.

    9.52 and 10.59 You have I believed missed the main points about the cliff repairs which are:

    The engineer who produced the report on which the repairs are based used the original cliff façade design drawings and because of this was working on the assumption that the whole thing was sitting on a concrete foundation 1 metre square and 250 metres long, sitting on solid chalk.

    When the work started and the bottom of the façade was exposed I noticed that the foundation was in fact not there and it was sitting on soft chalky soil, everywhere you could see the bottom of the façade.

    I then informed both the engineer and the council and sent the engineer photographs of the lack of foundations.

    The council being the council had already accepted the contract to repair the façade assuming that it had a foundation, so the repairs went ahead anyway regardless of this, when I went down there the other day it still had no foundation and I posted photographs showing this.

  7. Structures built on chalk dont always have to have a huge foundation. I worked on a barn conversion once expecting loads of underpinning and the engineers said the chalk was strong enough. Admittedly the Barn had been there 600 years and wasn't at the bottom of a cliff 100 yards from the sea

  8. Don a couple of thoughts here the façade about 65 feet high and mostly less than a foot thick was constructed between about 70 and 50 years ago (bits at different times) and the report on it says it now has a short serviceable life. The building also about 65 feet high will be about 4 yards away from it.

    The sea isn’t about 100 yards away from it, less than ten at an ordinary high tide I think you will find, which is why the councils assurances it will be built to the existing plans, that don’t seem to have had either the flood risk assessment or the emergency escapes strongly recommended by the environment agency, worry me.

    As for the solid chalk it just isn’t there, the stuff that is, is like garden soil with bits of chalk in it.

  9. Is there an engineer's report that states if the foundation does or doesn't exist?

    I think you will find chalk is fairly stable if protected from weathering, which is the purpose of the façade. If experts have subsequently discovered that the façade itself requires extra lateral support, do you think they haven't evaluated the vertical aspect as well?

  10. The design drawings for the arches show concrete foundations extending over 1 metre in front of the base of the arches these foundations do not in fact exist, see picts in previous post.

  11. So are you saying the engineer is incompetent? Or are you saying the council have contracted the engineer to work from a piece of paper?

  12. Michael, clarification would be helpful. Your pics show repairs underway now to repairs completed last year? The thickness of the original was not to specification? Should that not have been monitored by TDC? TDC is one of the most secretive and evasive councils in the land and it should not surprise us to find it sparse with info that makes it look,yet again, incompetent.
    Looking at the bulging, cracking and plant life one can only speculate when the next section is going to need further extensive repair as other 'thin' work not to spec gives way.

  13. 17.18 Neither the inspection was done before the ground level at the bottom of the cliff was lowered to the level of the new development and the lack of foundations exposed.

    17.27 I think you have got a bit confused here between the repair something I have no information about so I can’t comment on it and the original structure built between 70 and 50 years ago which was not built to specification. As TDC didn’t exist at the time it was built I don’t believe they can be said to incompetent with regard to this.

    17.18 and 17.27 As it needs illustrations to show what I mean properly I will do a new post for you incorporating these.

  14. Surely an engineeer would have investigated the foundations, not just looked at a 50 year old piece of paper!


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