Saturday, 2 October 2010

Royal Sands Development Ramsgate, Pleasurama Cliff, is it Safe?

Once again this development has problems, a minor symptom here is that small bits of the cliff façade have been falling onto the site from above for some time.

You can see the problem in the picture above, click on it to enlarge and then click on it to enlarge some more.

This is a close up of the problem, this is not such a worrying problem – the bits falling off that is – as you may think, cliff safety to an extent is governed by the laws of chance, there really isn’t another economic way of dealing with the problem.

We overcome this problem by having signs saying don’t sit under the cliff. Lets say for example we have a bit cliff where bits fall off about four times a year, there are 525600 minutes in a year, let us also say that the danger posed from a fall lasts for 15 seconds so that in the course of a year there is a minute where you could get hurt being under this bit of cliff.

You can see that the danger of getting hurt is relative to the time you spend under the bit of cliff, walk under it occasionally and the chances of being hurt are thousands to one. Sit under the cliff every day during the summer and you start to get to something like a 1 in 4 chance of being hit by a bit of falling cliff.

Build your house under the cliff, or start on a 4 year contract to work under the cliff and you can see that a serious problem emerges.

With the Pleasurama site we have a situation where parts of the cliff wall have visible problems and parts periodically drop off, in fact a classic do not sit under the cliff situation.

The bit in the pictures above with the masonry falling off is part of the old railway tunnel entrance, bridge and steps, built in the 1840s.

The picture above shows the fire brigade digging through the rubble looking people buried when part of this 1840s structure collapsed in 1967.

There are several factors that cause large collapses, one being building cliff walls as they hold back smaller falls until there is sufficient weight of chalk to cause the wall to fail.

Another factor is surfacing the top of the cliff, as when the surface cracks the rainwater is concentrated in one place, the crack, causing localised damage to the chalk below.
The main cause of cliff falls though is poor drainage of the surface above the cliff.

You can just see the edge of the cast iron drain grill in the bottom right hand corner of the picture above, the drain in question is completely full of earth and I had to push some of the weeds growing in it, out of the way to expose the grill for the photograph.

This is the same drain viewed from further away, unfortunately it is at the edge of the top of the cliff above the 1840s part of the cliff wall, in the photographs above.

The other bit of the cliff wall, that has problems that are visible, is at the other end of the Pleasurama site

You can see from the picture above that the bit of the cliff wall in the middle at least looks like a reasonable piece of civil engineering, it is a series of arches with an infill. It all slopes towards the cliff by the same amount, hasn’t got many cracks in it or weed growing out of it.

You can also see from the picture above that the other bit of the cliff wall, the bit I am concerned about that runs between the middle of the site and the lift is a bit of a mess.

It doesn’t have the look of being designed and is all different angles and shapes, jerry built is the term that comes to mind.

The picture above was taken this time last year and was one of a series that I sent the council then and that I believe was instrumental in getting the repairs to the repairs done.

The right hand of the two block panels in the picture above is the one that the council had replaced after they had sent about £1m on having most of the cliff wall repaired. This picture was taken before the repair to the repair and you can clearly see the vertical crack that was filled, painted and then opened up again.

The picture above shows the council’s contractor replacing the panel. The other thing that the council had done at this time was to remove the weeds. This is important as their roots damage the cliff wall even more.

The picture above shows the same two panels now, as you can see the weed growth on the left hand panel is appreciably worse, considering that all of the weeds were removed at the end of last year, around the time the panel on the right was replaced and I would say that the condition of this part of the cliff needs assessing.

The right hand panel is the new one and serves as a control in this instance.
Now we have a situation where work has started on the site and people are regularly working beneath the cliff wall.

I was, as some of you will know an engineer before I became a shop assistant and over the years I worked in engineering it was constantly drummed into me that safety was paramount.

I was also told that safety was everyone’s responsibility and so I felt obliged to report the situation on this site to the Health and Safety Executive.

On Monday I telephoned the HSE and asked them to go and have a look at the situation there as I thought aspects of it were potentially dangerous.

On Wednesday they phoned me up and told me that they had telephoned the council and Cardy Construction whose workers are on site and had been assured by both of them that the cliff was safe.

I am afraid at this point I became rather annoyed and I discussed the matter further with them.

I am also afraid that they assume that I am some sort of nutcase, who knows they may be right.

My point here though is that if someone reports something they consider may be dangerous to the HSE and asks them to go and investigate it, then instead telephoning the organisations reported as having something potentially dangerous and asking them if they thought it was dangerous, they perhaps ought to have considered some sort of alternative action.

There is always the possibility that possibility that the person phoning them wasn’t a nutcase.

Anyway after further discussion the HSE told me that Cardy Construction had also voiced concerns about the stability of the cliff with the council and that the council had assured them that there was nothing wrong with the cliff or the cliff wall.

Now either there is nothing wrong with the cliff wall or there isn’t, if there is there is a good chance that part of it will collapse once again, if there isn’t then it won’t.
There is a problem here though and that is the council’s consulting engineers, that is the engineers who do their cliff inspections, are the same engineers who supervised the £1m cliff wall repair, that is the repair that has already been repaired.
Over the years I have produced many blog posts and internet pages about the Pleasurama site and clicking on the links below should get you to them, for those of you in a hurry, but wanting to know more about what happened last year when I had a close look at the site and found the problems with the cliff wall, here is the link to that post


  1. Strange the HSE didnt go out when I was working and a member of the public reported my scaffold they were there inside two hours.

  2. Keep at it Michael.

    Cardys have sought assurance from TDC.

    You may recall my dealings with HSE. Guys backup genny failed and cut power to life support and a child in post op ICU died.

    HSE endorsed Guys internal report to the Southwark Inquest. Their chief investigator South East became involved, by Jonathan Aitken MP insisting HSE enter the technical argument against me.

    Initially HSE wrote "It is clear that he is reliant on anecdote that when checked proves wrong".

    Aitken wanted them to engage on the detail and cut out the ad hominem bollix.

    Result ? HSE lost the technical argument. I exposed that their head of health interest investigator only had an A level in physics and no engineering qualies. He had thought (along with Coroner and Met Police) that "MVA" was the name of the genny manufacturer !! This was the imbecilic basis on which Petbow/Cummins escaped inquiry.

    I had to write to the Southwark Coroner to explain that MVA is the power rating in mega volt amps (not the name of a manufacturer)

    At that point Senior Investigators of HSE quit the field declaring that failures of hospital backup gennies are not designated as "Reportable incidents" under HSAW Act and hence, even though their inquiry was inept and misled an inquest, it was never actually their duty to investigate and report.

    They cannot cop out on a place of work and hazards to the workforce.

    Oddly enough it appears that if the failure of the Petbow at Guys had led to a member of staff dying then it would be HSE duty to investigate. But when it was a child patient who died it is not anyone's statutory to independently investigate.

    So my experience is that not only can HSE be beaten but they can be exposed as lacking expertise and forced into a humiliating retreat from the field.

    Public sector parasites.

  3. Oh and BSI Quality Control accreditation of Cummins product ?

    They declared that their BSI accreditation does not extend to the factory supply chain.

    That included the non ISO accredited factory who did the electronics control assembly and test for Cummins and in turn the Thanet black economy homeworkers to whom that factory subbed electronic assembly work. Static protected assembly ? Joke.

    BSI and HSE ... Joke.

    Police ? Joke.

    Coroners ? Joke.

  4. I wonder what the terms of reference were for the consulting civil / structural engineers were on the safety of the cliff face. Were they asked to take into account the proposed development?

    If anyone is interested a recent article in the IET magazine on challenging the establishment

    and slightly off theme in the Ingenia editorial on the learning curve.

    Not shown on the IET link, but defined in hard copy version was the definition of the safest engineers in the world.
    IT Engineers – remarkably few IT professionals are killed in high-speed processing accidents.
    Financial Engineers – their work is entirely risk-free, except for everyone else.
    Customer Relationship Engineers – have little exposure to anything so dangerous as actual engineering.

  5. I would like to exchange links with your site
    Is this possible?

  6. Perhaps this could also explain the lack of response to crime which people complain about.A quick phonecall to the offending parties and another to their mums! "Both sources have assured us they would do nothing of the kind so there's no need to send anyone"

  7. So when does building work start? I thought they told us that they'd postponed it until after the Summer. I'd say Summer is well and truly over. So, when does the building work start?

  8. Don I presume you weren’t working for part of the government then.

    Rick I would appreciate it if you could keep you references to organisations on your own blog, the problem being one of who they take action legal against if they consider they are being slandered.

    There is a link on my sidebar and anything you post will come right to the top.

    22.06 if it is local content and not a great stream of advertising my email address is on the sidebar.
    17.21 it’s all in the development agreement at this says that the groundwork’s, piling and so on should be finished by now and that they should be building the steel frame at the moment.


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