I have been reliably informed that work on the site will start next month, the first stage will be to set up all the Portakabins site security and so on. This will be followed by the ground works, pile boring pipe laying and so on. Steel frame construction should start by 1st March 2011.
There seems to be some different opinions about what work is going to be done to the cliff façade, the nearest I can get at the moment is that the council will probably replace at least one more block panel and they may well weed it again.
There seems to be no doubt that the development will still be very close to the cliff, something that I am not at all happy about. There also doesn’t seem to have been a proper site-specific flood risk assessment.
Over the past six years during which I have had an interest in this development there have been several announcements that work on it was either going to start, or even in one case that it had already started, frankly on those occasions I was unconvinced.
This time the information has come from two sources, one from within the council and another from the contractor that actually intends to carry out the building work.
I can only say that I am fairly convinced that work is actually going to start this time.
At the moment what I shall be pressing for is some sort of drop in session, at some prominent and accessible venue in Ramsgate, so that local people get some chance to get some idea of what is going to be built, what building materials are going to be used and so on.
One very important factor that seems never to have been properly addressed is what it is going to look like from above and how the view from the bandstand area of the cliff is going to be effected.
The two main concerns with this development are the development’s safety and appearance and I think it would be fair to say that were the plans, that I understand are going to be built to, presented today, they would be rejected on both counts.
My main safety concern relates to the stability of the chalk cliff and the condition of the concrete cliff façade, however I don’t think this would count for much even were the plans to be presented today.
I won’t go into this in detail again here, pretty much everyone in Ramsgate must know the council have spent around a million pounds on having the cliff façade repaired and painted. Anyone who wants to can look at the condition of it now and make up their own mind as to whether or not they think the work is satisfactory.
The safety consideration that would have had to be addressed were the plans to be presented today is the flood risk, the environment agency have designated this as a flood risk area.
The following is what they have to say about it:
“The land is in an area that has a significant chance of flooding which means that the chance of flooding each year is greater than 1.3 percent (1 in 75). This takes into account the effect of any flood defences that may be in this area.”
Anyone who missed their assessment of the site can read it at http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/ea/
The bottom line here is that if the planning application was made today a professional assessment of the flood risk would have to be carried out and its recommendations adhered to.
The council tell me that they have ticked all the right boxes that were required when the planning application was first made and there is nothing they can do to force a flood risk assessment to be carried out before the work starts.
Of course while the situation is as it is now, the development will to a lesser or greater extent be blighted as it is being built without following strong recommendations from the environment agency.
I find it particularly concerning that the developer appears to intend to proceed in this manner, after all a flood risk assessment could show there was no problem or could require relatively minor modifications to the design.
To go ahead with a twenty million project without first having this assessment done seems like driving a Ferrari around without insurance, in fact it just doesn’t make sense.
Since the plans were first submitted there have also been additional restrictions to what can be built adjacent to a conservation area and I don’t think that the plans would comply with these either.
Oddly enough when the opportunity to pull out of this development came up last year, because the developer had failed to comply with aspects of the development agreement. The decision was put to the council cabinet with a recommendation from the council’s director of finance to pull out.
Well I suppose we all know what happened and I would say that the decision to continue with the development rests firmly with our elected representatives.
It’s my day off today and I will add to this post as and when I get time.