Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Pleasurama Royal Sands Development Ramsgate another update

First my cliff safety concerns

At the moment the contractor is working next to the part of the cliff wall that appears to be the most professionally constructed part, in the technical information about the façade this part is called the arched feature and consists of 12 concrete pillars or buttress going up the front of the cliff, joined by 11 arches, these have a concrete apron above them and above that railings to stop people from falling off the cliff. Between the arches is bricked up with concrete blocks, which has had steel mesh put on the front and has been renderd over with the cement.

This part has the appearance of 11 tunnel entrances from Thomas the Tank Engine, that have been bricked up by the Fat Controller, to imprison naughty engines.

Unlike the rest of the cliff wall this part isn’t sprouting vegetation, all in all it looks like a fairly well built and maintained structure.

 This is a detail from the design drawing, A Adlingnton was Ramsgate’s borough engineer in the 1930s.

The problem with this structure is the nature of its foundations.

This is another detail from the same drawing of one of the pillars or buttress viewed from the side, the bit that looks like a giant boot is supposed to stick out of the front just below ground level.

Just like your foot this is supposed to spread the weight at the bottom of your leg.

In the last few days the contractor has dug away the chalk at the bottom of the cliff wall, something that I think should have exposed a line of giant boots.

This is a picture taken this week of the digging work. 

Now I am going to put my engineering hat on and waffle on for a bit, if you are not that interested in the rest of this, my recommendation is to stay away from this part of the cliff until I have concluded my dialogue with, the council’s engineers, the developer and the health and safety executive.

There is a good chance that there is nothing to worry about here and at the end of this I will look a bit a of a twerp and you will have avoided about 50 metres of cliff top path for a few weeks for no reason.  

OK here goes the further reading, with hard hat on.

On Monday I emailed the developer’s contractor, thus.

Hi xxxxx, I have just received a great mountain of information about the cliff safety issue from the HSE via a FOI request.

It goes up to this February and seems to be pretty inclusive, I will attach the list at the bottom in case there is anything you haven’t got, which I will of course send you.

It does contain clearer design drawings for some bits of the façade including better design drawings of the façade footings. That is what the footings should be like although as far as I can see they just confirm that the footings either don’t exist or are of a different design.

All in all there doesn’t seem to be any confirmation that any of the façade has foundations going down to load spreaders on solid chalk, not further mention of any tests or investigations.

I have also noticed that you have cut back the chalk at the base of the arched part of the façade, see picture attached.

Before I make a lot of fuss about this one could you let me know if you have actually discovered any foundations there or if you are cutting it back to underpin it.

Obviously my main concern is a combination of the cutting back and the absence of any weight restriction on the footpath above.

Best Michael  

Yesterday they replied, thus.

Dear Michael
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Thank you for your email.  The cliff face remains Thanet District Council’s full responsibility and I am therefore unable to comment  further in respect to your correspondence. The column foundations do appear to have been constructed as per the original design but suggest under the circumstances that you make contact with TDC for further clarification. 

Kind Regards,


Now to my mind something isn’t quite right here, the boot shaped footings would have had to have been put in by digging a hole big enough to as it were put the boot in.

Then boot shaped shuttering would have had to have been made, concrete poured in, when the concrete had set the shuttering would have been removed and the hole filled in, if you are not following me this would probably be a good time to give in.

This would mean that the soil round the boot would be all lose and crumbly and would have fallen away when the digging was done in the last few days.

Instead the chalk at the bottom of the cliff wall looks like undisturbed chalk meaning that there isn’t any easy way I can see they could have put the boot in.

There does seem a reasonable chance that the hundreds of tons of cliff wall are sitting on the little chalk shelf you can see in the picture and not on a load spreading foundation as it should be. This combined with there being no weight limit on the footpath above, there was a council vehicle up there collecting rubbish today.

Here are the rest of the pictures from the camera card, sorry there are rather a lot of the bottom of the cliff, I was searching for the boot you see.  


  1. Hi Michael, just would like to thank you for keeping us up to date on the progress of the Royal Sands Development and keeping the council on their toes. Everytime I walk past the site I feel frustrated about the lack of progress, it's almost like the developers are doing the bare minimum in order to keep the council (and Ramsgate residents) off their backs. Compared to other Cardy developments in the area, I've seen glaciers move quicker!

  2. I, on the other hand, think that you should forget this now and just let them get on with it all. You have voiced concerns, just let it be.

  3. Michael, the accepted angle of repose for any natural ground is usually 40 degrees, so for the contractor to dig that deep so close to the clifface, they are either stupid or confident of foundations.

    My guess is they have secretly investigated the foundations and are not letting on because of the gagging order placed on the contract.

  4. Hi, this was one of your questions to the developer...

    Before I make a lot of fuss about this one could you let me know if you have actually discovered any foundations there or if you are cutting it back to underpin it?

    And they didn`t answer it - passed the buck to TDC.

    Ben K

  5. If the contractor has it in writing that they are are not responsible for the façade and the footings are perfectly safe. Excavating close to the façade makes sense. Stress test it before committing too much cash and there is still room to easily move about on the site.

  6. Anon 15.27, I am afraid it does not work like that. If the contractor excavates too close to a cliff without taking adequate precautions, the contractor would be liable because of negligence.

    This is what leads me to the conclusion that they know the foundations DO exist, but cannot tell anyone because of the contract gag

  7. First a general apology, I am afraid I just didn’t get time to finish the post or publish the new documents I have obtained, I will do something more comprehensive when I get time, I have forwarded them to Readit and will do so to anyone else who emails me requesting them before I get around to publishing them.

    I think the key problems here are that both the council and the developer have completely ignored the specialist safety advice from the environment agency, the only part of the façade where the contractor has investigated the foundations and produced a report was the most south westerly pillar at the other end of the site, this they found didn’t have foundations, but was sitting on a thin bit of concrete that I take to be the old arcade floor.

    21.39 they are certainly over a year behind the schedule agreed with the council, using shallow foundations instead of the piled ones that they have said they would, both to the council and the HSE, all very strange.

    21.48 I think the short answer here is that if the development was following the agreed plan, the issues raised by the EA had been resolved and the council had supplied some sort of cliff wall condition report in response to HSE then I would have dropped it.

    Readit I suppose the questions here is how far would you go based on your assumption? Would you walk along the cliff footpath above this? Would you drive your car up there next to the edge? Would you drive a 22 ton refuse vehicle up there?

    And what is your opinion based on your expert training and experience? I guess you have had a look at this so do you think this is made ground, or undisturbed chalk? If it is made ground why hasn’t it fallen away? If it isn’t made ground how did they get the load spreading footings in?

    14.12 you do have to appreciate here that they are not obliged to reply to me at all and any response I get from them is a courtesy form them, so I can’t push them, with the council although they are obliged to respond, the time factors are long.

    15.27 I am not sure that they would be allowed to test the council owned façade, I think there is a sense in which they would have to take the council’s word for the condition of the façade and I think perhaps the council may be relying exclusively on the 80 year old design drawings they have on file, rather than poking a stick into the chalk to see if there is any concrete behind it.

    Readit I think if anyone had actually tested the foundations then that information would have been supplied to the HSE and if it was subject to a gag it would have been listed in the list of documents that the HSE refused to supply me.

    I think the bottom line here is that some sort of comprehensive report stating the condition of the foundations would end this speculation that must be inconvenient both for the developer and the council, so why don’t they just get on and produce one?

  8. Why would there be a gagging order on the contract?

  9. Andrew, In the land transfer and development document between TDC and the contractor/developer/architect, clause 20 states that no statement can be made about the works without prior approval of TDC.

    You can fill in the gaps as to how that would work in practice.


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