Sunday, 7 November 2010

Sunday ramble

I suppose the thing of most interest this week has been the night flights consultation, like so many of the bizarre things done by local government it is very hard for a member of the public to tell just what is happening.

The airport produced a report see and the council published it.

Aspects of the report didn’t make sense.

With the noise aspect it looks to me as a non expert as though the airport operators have effectively shot themselves in the foot by failing to measure the noise properly in the past.

With my engineering hat on, I would say this about calibration and here I will use an aviation instrument as an example of what I mean, this is a very simplistic view but should suffice.
There are various ways of making an instrument to measure air pressure and essentially the instrument in question, the barometer was a pre calibrated instrument based on the height of mercury hanging in a sealed glass tube.
For many years air pressure was expressed in inches i.e. how far the mercury reached up the tube, about 30 inches, by pre calibrated here I mean that a person could just make this sort of barometer anywhere without reference to another barometer and read off the height of the mercury in inches and the measurement would be accurate.

Then people started using barometers for a different purpose which is to measure height, this was based on the scientific principle, as you go up the air pressure goes down. So they wrote another scale on the barometer, usually in feet, this of course wasn’t in feet of mercury up the tube, which would have been preposterous, but showed how many feet of altitude an inch represented.

This then required calibration, by this I mean you need to know how far up you are to calibrate the instrument before you start using it and this calibration would only remain accurate while the air pressure remained roughly the same.

Noise is a bit like height in this respect, the same aircraft flying over a forest will sound different flying over the sea, or it sounds different if you kick a football to if you kick a tin can.

Now the intrepid aviator that forgot to calibrate his altimeter before taking off soon flies into a hill and gives no more trouble.

The trouble with the intrepid aviators at Manston is that since they haven’t measured the noise over Ramsgate, they just haven’t got the loudness levels to calibrate their noise projections with.

The council, oh yes back to them, have spent some of our money getting an expert firm, Bureau Veritas, to prepare a report that I expect says something like this, but of course because the council don’t just publish this sort of information on the internet as a matter of course you can’t tell.

Presumably it is because of this report that the council have delayed the consultation, often with this sort of thing is difficult to tell with the council and information has to extracted from them under freedom of information act.

The point the council have missed here is that if they took people with them on these things then public perception of them would be so much better, this is called trust.

If on their website it said we have had this preliminary report, then published a link to where they had published the report and said something like you have read the report and can see why we have delayed the consultation, then local people would feel part of the process and the council would save all the money they spend responding to foi requests.

This time last year I made an foi request, see that I hoped would provide me with information about the Pleasurama cliff façade, I didn’t get much of a response to this one. I have got better at this sort of thing now and made another more specific request the other day asking for reports on the condition of the cliff façade, I have published the documents that the council sent me on a series of linked pages at

Most important to me is that I have confirmation that there is something wrong with the foundations to the cliff wall, this is very important as the developer intends to build a residential development in front of this cliff wall, so people will be living below it and if the wall collapses it will probably kill them.

Another word for the foundations is footings and another word for the cliff wall is façade.

Back in January 2008 the council engaged firm repairing the façade put up scaffolding in front of it and when they levelled the ground to do this they exposed part of the bottom of the façade where the foundations should be.

I noticed that the foundations were missing and alerted the council and their supervising engineer, it is easier to do this by quoting from emails between me and the engineer, names removed.

“From: [] Sent: 28 January 2008 14:59To: ***************
Subject: A sound foundation

****** I have been taking an interest in the work to repair the cliff façade and am not happy about the footings, I am afraid that I need some reassurance that what is happening is safe.

As far as I can see the site level at the moment is about 6m ODN and the cliff façade was designed for the ground level of the old amusement arcade just over 7m ODN I can see exposed the bottom of the façade on the concrete foundations that in tern are sitting on about 0.5m of topsoil.

I went and made a thorough examination after speaking to ***** (site engineer) on site, I was amazed that the didn’t seem to know the level of the car park below the cliff, this will be 6.05m ODN and required an FOI request to find out.

The architect has removed part of the back of the building to allow a 4m gap between the building and the cliff for maintenance, how this figure was arrived at no one seems to know, however looking at the scaffolding I think it will be inadequate.

However at the moment there would seem to be inadequate support for the façade and yet work has started on the top of the cliff, ***** (site engineer) said something about a raised flowerbed next to the cliff I assume he was joking, do you intend to underpin the façade, and why not do it first?

On a happier note I have just published another batch of old Ramsgate pictures at many showing the site from various angles let me know if you want any in high definition.

Best regards Michael”

Here is his reply;

“Subject: RE: A sound foundation Date: 29/01/2008 14:05:23 GMT Standard Time From ****************** Reply To: To: CC: BCC: Sent on:

Sent from the Internet (Details) Hello Michael The foundations of the facade is on a mass concrete base some 2 metres thick and founded on what would appear to be good sound chalk. I shall be very surprised if there is any cause for concern. ***** (site engineer) would not be party to the development works as his brief is to act as the Resident Engineer on behalf of Thanet District Council for the facade improvement works only, however he is employed by ******. There is no need to underpin the facade, as the original site inspection showed that there is no evidence of subsidence. I will be on site on thursday to carry out an overview of the works. I would imagine that any future maintenance would be via a mobile access platform and 4 metres would be sufficiently wide for such a vehicle. ***** (site engineer) apparently was expressing a speculative opinion on how the area could be landscaped between the access road and the facade and has no details on what is proposed, for that matter nor do I. The picture showing Wellington Crescent would be useful and would welcome a high definition picture. Regards *****

At this point I went down there with my camera and tried to do something difficult i.e. take pictures of something that wasn’t there, the foundations. I sent the pictures to the council’s consulting engineer. Here is the reply I got;

“Subject: RE: A sound foundation Date: 01/02/2008 14:03:03 GMT Standard Time From: ****************** Reply To: To: CC: BCC: Sent on:

Sent from the Internet (Details) Hello Michael Thank you for the photographs, I had a look yesterday at your area of concern, and you are correct in what you are seeing is a shallow foundation of concrete which has chalk below. This is only for the blockwork feature and is only exposed for a length of 5 metres approx. The critical element is the concrete portals, the base of which are deeper. I have asked **** to place some anti weathering concrete against the exposed chalk to ensure no further weathering occurs. Regards **********”

Now after all this time I have had confirmation that the at least one of the bases of the concrete portals is sitting on topsoil.
The week here in King Street didn’t start optimistically, I am now surrounded by what is called social housing, this sounds nice but experience has shown that this isn’t necessarily so.
Monday morning started with the police battering in the front door of a social house, what this was about didn’t become clear although the police put up a sort reassurance station afterwards. This would have been more reassuring if it wasn’t for the fact that their reassuring signs kept blowing on people.
I went Smyths toyshop at Westwood today as there is a £5 voucher in this weeks Isle of Thanet Gazette, I should point out that there is no trick here, you take your voucher to the shop and indeed you get a £5 toy for nothing.

What I did reflect on though was the massive commercialisation of toys, the majority of which are plastic moulded abroad, this led some speculation about how good this is for the environment, this country’s economy or for that matter the children who often have great expectations related to advertising, of what often is a rather frail bit of plastic.

My children had a sort of inoculation against aspects of this when the last offer was on, and had their aspirations set on liquid filled balls that change colour when moved and are indeed very durable.
Interesting reflection on crying wolf this week, the Costcutter shop next door to the bookshop and hence next-door to where I live sell cigarettes and alcohol and is much frequented by the residents of the social housing in the area.

Cooking pork tonight I was pleased to find when looking for a marinade that 8 cans of strong cider cost only £7, this is something that isn’t always quite so beneficial in this part of Ramsgate.

Anyway they have a loud and piercing alarm and recently a shop fitting that falls over at night causing the alarm to go off and wake us up, this is not so bad as you would at first think as with the takeaways being open to 4am, 24 hour licensing meaning that some of the pubs in the town centre staying open into the small hours and some of the residents of the social housing keeping somewhat eccentric hours due to not having to get up to work, you could call it a minor factor in a general problem that appears to be insolvable. Just all part of the general awfulness of modern Britain I suppose best sums it up.

However when the thing went of at 4am on Saturday morning accompanied by hammering sounds, I assumed the hammering sounds were someone boarding up their shop window, after someone else who had perhaps done something like drinking 8 cans of strong lager, had decided to break it and that the alarm was caused by the shop fitting falling over.
As it was I discovered that they had actually had a break-in and several thousand pounds worth of cigarettes and tobacco had been stolen.
Because of the way the week worked out I had occasion to talk to various council officers this week, partly about the Pleasurama cliff façade, where it seems that while thy don’t accept that its condition is stopping the development from going ahead.

They do seem to be coming around to the idea that parts of it need repairing.

What I was pushing for is an independent survey of the thing i.e. not one done by their advising engineers feared in emails above, I don’t think I got very far with this one.
I also had a chat with one of the officers working on the local plan, my concerns being this part of Ramsgate, the Eastcliff area and it does seem as though the area may be designated as having special needs, I forget the exact phrase he used, so special need will have to do.
The problems here stretch from the end of the east pier with the empty café, extend through the closed maritime museum, slipways, pavilion, Pleasurama site all council owned, then go on to encompass the various bits of dereliction at Granville Marina, finally through the Victorian council owned theatre that has been turned into a car park and on to the swimming pool also now a car park. Stretching through the town behind it and including features such as Albion House, the tower blocks, King Street shopping area now mostly social housing and the council flats behind, presumably social housing, nothing privately owned would have corridor and staircase lights on all the time, only public funding can afford life with out swimple economy features like a light switch.
Anyway what I was proposing was using the money that is going to be used anyway in a slightly more imaginative way, like us the council officers seem to be only too aware that most money is going into Margate at the moment and that any Ramsgate money will be for things already budgeted or things that are just essential, here are some examples of this, feel free to add your own.

Spending the money on the swimming pool putting it on the seafront where the old one was so it would double as a tourist attraction.
When the King Street pavements and road surface is replaced, it can’t be long now as they are in a right state, re design the road layout so the residential bit looked more residential and the town bit reflected the changes that have occurred since predestination, groups of people smoking outside the pubs since the no smoking ban and so on.
I will ramble on as the day progresses





  4. no this type of venue should be next to the running track at the marlow making one of the best multi sports
    sites in the south east

  5. How many dB was the shout for a "Good idea swimming pool" ?

    At least ECR provided a feeding ground for the trolls.

  6. Enjoyed reading

    the report - most informative thanks

  7. Michael,

    You have gone unusually quiet. I hope all is well with you.

    Regards, John


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