Sunday, 24 January 2010

Sunday ramble reflections on a week’s blogging pinball, walk and a few pictures.

The last week on the blog has been pretty active starting with Euroferries, the thing that puzzles me here is that Euroferries don’t appear to have acted improperly, by this I mean that when things went wrong they paid the money back to people who had left deposits and yet when the BBCs inside out team contacted me about it during the week, they said that Euroferries was refusing to talk to them.

I very much hope this isn’t the end of the road for what would have been something highly beneficial for the area, we really do need to attract a foot passenger ferry service to Ramsgate.

The Pleasurama saga goes on and as you will have seen from ECRs blog, now it’s the drains.

My understanding here is that Cardy Construction intend to lay the roof drainage pipe along Harbour Parade during the next few weeks and that they are doing it now so as to cause minimal disruption to the traders there.

I believe that this work will only be on Harbour Parade not on the site, I have no problem with this at all, it is normal practice to drain a roof in this way and conforms to EA advice.

I don’t normally go into problems that relate top the development that are not fundamental issues of public safety, frankly I don’t have the time but in this case I will explain something of the problems with the drains.

The drainage system for this area is a mixed surface water and sewage system, the pipe comes from the cliff top where the open derelict arches are at Granville Marina, the contents flowing through the Pleasurama site and along Harbour Parade.

It has various problems that have lead to flooding at the arches, the old underground toilets near the pavilion and some of the cellars in Harbour Parade, these problems are caused when we have heavy rain and the system can’t cope.

There is an outfall pipe into the sea opposite Granville Marina which has a pressure activated valve on it that is supposed to open when the system can’t cope, unfortunately this doesn’t seem to work properly.

There is also a maze of old pipes in the harbour parade area and there seems to be some uncertainty as to what leads where.

There is a certain amount of doubt that this system will be able to cope with the demands of the new development, particularly as it seems to be unable to cope with the existing demands.

I suppose it is fair to say that this problem is just part of Ramsgate’s crumbling infrastructure, something that wasn’t addressed during the period of prosperity before the economic downturn and now leaves us looking a bit of a poor relation.

Few towns can boast a royal residence that is in such a bad state that it has to have netting on it to prevent bits of it from falling on passers by.

The Pleasurama problems really extend back to the plans that were passed by the council for the building that was too high, there were many aspects of these plans that didn’t make sense to me.

As an example they showed 1 metre wide 250 metre long corridors running the length of the building, this sort of design problem that makes it much easier for criminals and encourages other social problems.

What stands out about the plans for this development is that no one seemed to take any account of the special problems associated with the site, the cliff is a good example of what I mean.

I think it is fair to say that no one would consider building 4 metres away from an unsupported chalk cliff, that had been wakened by tunnelling, poor surface maintenance above and wartime activities.

I think perhaps everyone involved assumed that the concrete façade supported the cliff and made it safer than a bare chalk cliff would be, with the benefit of hindsight we now know that this is not the case.

If anything the concrete façade makes cliff falls bigger and more dangerous when they happen, both because a larger amount of material builds up and concrete does more damage than chalk when it falls.

The problem we now face and it is our problem as until some sort of resolution is found the site continues to blight the town. I can only think of two solutions one being a large development integrated with the cliff and designed to support the cliff, the other being a much smaller development, far enough from the cliff not to be effected by any cliff collapse.

Let us suppose that I am wrong and the council is right and the repairs to the cliff façade have been totally successful, let us also suppose that there is no problem with the foundations. This still leaves us with an unsupported chalk cliff with a history of collapses.

Very much a case of not being able to see the problem and therefore assuming it isn’t there.

This of course raises the problem of would the million pounds spent by the council on the cliff rears still have been largely wasted even if the repairs had gone to plan?

The latest set of Pleasurama plans have tried to address some of the problems that relate to the site but this has led to different problems. You will appreciate here that the architect has his hands tied by what the council planning department perceive as material change. If he makes sweeping changes then it will invalidate the planning permission and new planning permission will have to be sought. Because times have changed the restrictions on a new planning permission there would be much tighter. The Environment Agency has now designated the area as being a high risk flood area, meaning that a flood risk assessment would be mandatory. New heritage regulations would put much tighter restraints on what could be built adjacent to a conservation area.

One aspect of what I mean about the new plans is that they have addressed the problem of the bottom of the cliff façade not going down as far as the proposed car park, by changing the ground level between the cliff and the back of the building from car park to road and raising its level above that of the bottom of the cliff façade.

A major problem here is that as this raising means that the road is too high to allow lorries to pass under the building, so you have a two way road being used by lorries that is 4 metres wide between the pillars supporting the cliff façade and the pillars supporting the building.

When two lorries meet on this road one will have to back up in this confined space, obviously sooner or later a lorry is likely to catch one of the pillars with undesirable consequences.

I now come to the photographing of Westwood Cross, something that has caused considerable interest, it certainly wasn’t a publicity coup for the management team there.

This is something that makes me wonder if they properly understand how news spreads in Thanet, by this I mean that if you look at the recent posts on this blog, several of them have been the first appearance of something that has made its way into next weeks local papers.

It isn’t that I have gone out of my way to make this blog newsworthy or to try and beat others to stories, quite a lot of the stories that come my way I just put on and they get picked up by other local bloggers.

The truth is that I just don’t get time to put everything up, of course a lot of the posts that appear on the other Thanet blogs are news to me, I certainly don’t claim to have a finger in every pie.

All that said the Euroferries losing Bonanza Express and the cliff façade post both appeared here first and were in last weeks papers.

Something I do really try to do is to get my facts right before I publish anything and if I do get something wrong to say so straight away, so over a period of time people have come to believe what I say is true, frankly it wouldn’t give me any pleasure at all to make it up.

With Westwood Cross if a local journalist had gone there and asked to take pictures, I believe the management team there would have welcomed them with open arms so I suspect their refusal to let me photograph there was based on not understanding that the Thanet blogs are an important source of publicity.

My main concern over the issue is not that I was not allowed to take the photographs but that we have a shopping centre set up in the middle of Thanet where the management has decided that the normal way we are governd an policed in this county is not most conducive to a vibrant retail centre.

To rectify this situation they have made their own laws with there own police to enforce them whereas here in Ramsgate we are not allowed to do the same in order to compete with the shopping centre there.

By this I mean we can’t decide to have an effective private police force to make for a safe and comfortable shopping environment, we cannot implement planning laws to prevent people putting residential and office space on the ground floors of our prime locations (The Customs House is an example of what I mean here) we can’t decide how our town centre parking should best be managed to encourage shoppers (as an example of this I at WWX they do not allow shop staff to park in the shopping spaces, but have a separate car park for them next to a rival retailer)

Perhaps it is the councils managing the towns that should be implementing the solutions at WWX, perhaps the council should be making WWX put more into the local community.

We went for a short walk this afternoon the high point being a visit to the Pinball Parlour sad to say that this is another little Ramsgate gem that will be a victim of the massive grant funding to Margate.

The owner tells me that when Dreamland becomes a grant funded fair museum he will probably move there.

Here are the pictures

Oh yes sorry about the minor errors and the length of the post the touch typing is coming on a pace so that what I write is getting closer to what I am thinking, you get more words less punctuation and more errors, you could say I am using you for practice learning to ride this particular bicycle, I hope you don’t all mind that much.


  1. Gosh that is a bit of a ramble - just your first point, where do you suppose those foot passengers are going to come from to fill up Ramsgate ?

    As for Euroferries breaking any laws, I understand it needs someone to complain .... probably not long coming.

  2. Michael, I think you're worrying a bit too much about the "Private Police" at WWX. They have no more powers than you or me, regardless of their uniforms and what they may tell you. Most law enforcement powers are granted to "Police Officers" who are "In Police Uniform". As an example, no Police Constable in civilian clothing can stop a motor vehicle, to do this he or she must be in Police Uniform. Security officers have the same powers as you and me, they can observe and report, and only have the power to make a citizen’s arrest if they witness a person commit an arrestable offence. The difference with a Police officer is that he can arrest someone who he has reason to suspect has committed and arrestable offence.

    As for taking photos, regardless of who owns it WWX is a public place and therefore I can see no reason why photos cannot be taken. I’m not sure that putting a sign up will be enough to prohibit photos; what offence would they charge you with?

  3. 22.10 With 1 Euro running around 90p prices in UK shops are very attractive at the moment, I am getting a fair amount of European customers at the moment, mostly getting here via Dover and the channel tunnel.

    So I think people would come here for the day as foot passengers if it was relatively inexpensive and easy.

    As far as Euroferries goes, there coming here could only benefit Thanet and frankly there hasn’t been anything convincing yet that they have acted improperly.

    22.18 I really am not sure how the law works on this one, I really don’t have the time or the inclination to engage in civil disobedience and see where it goes.

    I am not sure what would have happened next if I had just ignored them and carried on taking photographs and I am not sure the security guards would have known what to do either.

    Living and working in an ordinary town centre, something I have done for a very long time, I am certainly aware that social order is not what it was, a bit of a mixture of the way town centres are policed and the general level of self discipline in society.

    This problem certainly isn’t exclusive to the Thanet towns, I know quite a few people who work in shops in other towns, mostly Canterbury where the slow breakdown of social order is effecting their quality of life.

    I suppose the truth of the matter is that private security firms are becoming increasingly necessary and yet us, Joe Public, don’t really know where we stand with them.

  4. I see that the BBC are interviewing many people regarding Euroferries. Jane Wenham Jones being the latest.

    They, EFL, really need to get a positive point of view across and an honest statement would be the best way, especially regarding 'partners' that have proven to be misleading.


  6. Euroferries need to use every chance they can to get some good PR going, and a positive appearance on BBC would be a start as well as communicating more with the local press rather than just through scarce press releases.

    If it wants to suceed then EF needs to know how to play the game and how to get people back on there side.

    I blogged today about how some companies good to with better PR.

  7. and better spelling/typos from me...


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