Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Pleasurama, Royal Sands, The Maritime Museum, the Cliff, The Great Wall of Ramsgate Art Gallery, a Midweek Ramble, Some Pictures.

One thing about the safety considerations that all of the experts are agreed about is that the cliff wall – the concrete cliff façade – doesn’t hold up the cliff, if anything it is the cliff that holds the cliff wall up.

We do have cliffs in Ramsgate with man made structures that are designed to support the cliff behind them, the red brick arches by the harbour are an example of this, but the wall leaning against the cliff on the Pleasurama site is only there to stop the chalk cliff from weathering away. For those of you with an historical interest this cliff wall was built upside-down, the top bit that supports the cliff railings was built first and later on as the cliff weathered away concerns that eventually the concrete apron would fall off lead to the chalk underneath it being cut away and the cliff wall being built underneath it, to prevent this.

Anyone who happens to read the engineers report http://thanetonline.com/cliff/id2.htm on the cliff façade structure will note that the engineer who prepared it was very concerned that nothing heavy went too near to the edge of this unsupported chalk cliff. In fact I believe if the cliff wall wasn’t there no one would dare to drive a heavy vehicle next to the edge of the cliff.

For some time now – years rather then weeks – I have been trying to get the council to impose a weight limit near to the edge of the cliff, I have also been trying to get them to repair various part of the cliff top surface so as to stop water getting in and damaging the cliff structure. This is particularly important during the winter months as the water tends to freeze in the cracks in the chalk and when it does so it expands and forces the cracks apart.

Anyway it looks as though the council has engaged someone to do some repairs at the top of the cliff, although the don’t seem to have passed on the information to them about this being an unsupported chalk cliff.


This leaves me in a bit of a predicament, as there are safety aspects here that concern me, so I have just sent the following to the council’s engineer.

“*** while it looks as though some work is about to happen on cliff top where the surface is damaged which I think is a very good thing, I am reminding you that this is an unsupported chalk cliff and unless you have discovered anything to the contrary I don’t think the brick balustrade underneath this bit has any foundations.

As the vehicle at the top of the cliff looks fairly heavy, you may wish to take some sort of action.

As you know I have both read the various cliff reports and discussed this issue with ***** ***** the engineer who wrote them, he stressed to me the importance of keeping anything heavy away form the top of the cliff edge.

My normal course of action when I see something like this would be to report it to the HSE, do you consider this an appropriate course of action or will you be taking some sort of action yourself.”


The predicament is that I don’t want to be seen as crying wolf over this issue and of course it is fairly likely that the cliff won’t collapse because a few extra tons of construction vehicle are parked up there near the edge.

In fact I would imagine that various anonymous pundits will be only too glad to point out to me just how wrong I was, that is assuming it doesn’t collapse.

This bit of cliff is part of the cliff structure that was built in the 1860s as part of the railway extension from Herne Bay, several of the structures that formed part of this expansion were condemned at that time and had to be rebuilt.

This particular part of this 1860s structure, the supporting work around the old tunnel entrance and Augusta Steps partially collapsed about fifty years ago, was surveyed, made safe and then collapsed again in the middle of the reconstruction works.

The bit immediately under the construction vehicle didn’t collapse then and wasn’t rebuilt.

Of course if it does collapse it will be a different matter altogether, especially if there is loss of life, I could well wind up being prosecuted for not reporting it. To me it looks like a 150 year old brick structure without foundations sitting on top of a pile of muddy chalk behind which is a 70 foot high unsupported chalk cliff with a surface on top of it that has been damaged for several years and on top of this is sitting several tons of construction vehicle.      


Update I also informed Cardy’s the contractors of the situation and have received this answer:

Dear Michael,
Thank you for passing on the information with regards to the telehandler
that had parked by others on the cliff promenade. Our site team were
indeed already aware of the situation and as a precaution had avoided
access to the area directly below on site.

We have subsequently been informed that the telehandler has now been
removed by its owner.

Regards Michael”
Which is something of a relief to me.  



On to the Maritime Museum, information on this one is a bit sketchy, I think this is another case, like The Royal Sands development, where the delays and differences between what we were lead to expect and what is actually happening really justify some proper and detailed information about what is going on.

My own feelings are that it is the council that have a prime duty to explain their custodianship of publicly owned assets that they are supposed manage on our behalf.

So this is mostly based on rumour and guesswork, please don’t see it as a reason for recriminations, if any of you want to do anything please put your efforts into trying to persuade the council to get their act together.

Last week I went down there at lunchtime and noticed that some of the ground floor windows were broken, my main concern here is for the safety of the museum’s collection, anyway I alerted Simon Moores who is the councillor in charge of asset management and the windows have now been boarded up.

My feelings are that the museum and the collection in it are at considerable risk and that some action needs to be taken now.

This goes back to 2007 when the council decided to pull the funding for our museums, see http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/2007/12/cost-of-everything-and-value-of-nothing.html 


There is a charitable trust ready to take over the running of the museum, the Preston Steam Trust, however they need the council to rent them the building so that they can do this.

In fact The Preston Steam Trust can’t legally receive the collection without security of tenure of the council owned building.   

This is a ramble and I will add to it as the day progresses.



On to the Great Wall of Ramsgate, some new pictures have gone up, see http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/811/id3.htm the big one, picture above, by the graffiti artist Garff is to replace his existing one that is due to be covered with other pictures, mostly submitted by local schools.  


As you can see from the pictures here there are some more new shops open in Ramsgate http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/811/id5.htm

15 comments:

  1. There is a million times more risk with crossing the road than there is of the cliff collaping....

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  2. What about a cliff top road Anon ?

    Hope this is helpful

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  3. Anon 13.27 you can prove anything with stats. In the 90's there were 46,000 pedestrians injured/killed per year in the UK, at odd of a million to 1 that repesents a cliff fall every 22 years! A lot of pedestrian accidents cannot be prevented but an accident through the cliff collapsing is a risk that need not be taken.

    Michael, I see nothing on your blog about your momment of fame on BBC Radio Kent, (unlike other Thanet bloggers that relish self publicity).

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  4. Michael. I don't think you have anything to worry about from the law. It's highly unlikely that anyone could have acted more correctly. Anon needs to remember that there is a history of cliff collapses on both sides of the harbour and that the Eastcliff in particular is potentially unstable due to the gun emplacements, railway tunnels and air raid shelters excavated within. If he wants to see how chalk cliffs behave he just needs to go down to Dover and look at the White Cliffs - there's a rock fall there almost every week. Cardy take the risk seriously - they pulled their men out from underneath - Anon needs a similarly responsible attitude.

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  5. Peter it’s a difficult one, why the council don’t just put up a sign saying it is dangerous to drive anything heavy near the edge I just don’t know.

    13.27 six major cliff collapses in Ramsgate during the last sixty years, but fortunately not a million road accidents every ten years here.

    18.08 to be honest I had forgotten about it, I have just listened to it; Breakfast with John Warnett and Clare McDonnell : 16/08/2011 on bbc iplayer if anyone else wants to.

    Mingles4all I don’t really understand the anonymous comment that seems to be supporting flouting basic safety precautions.

    The problem highlighted here is that when the new development is built 107 apartments and an hotel there will probably about 1,000 people inside it. One wonders what would happen if someone leaves a telehandler parked on the cliff edge all night.

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  6. Having read your posts I am alarmed at how dangerous things have become....fyi my wife has put on quite of lot of weight over the last few years...what with having three children.....she actually weighs approx 18stone....but with carrying her shopping it would obvioulsy be considerably more.....do you think it is safe for her to walk home form the town along the cliff top....perhaps I ought to as a precautionary measure tell her to back double thro camden square to avoid the seafront? comments/advice would be most welcome....

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  7. I don't think anyone is saying that no one should WALK along there. Certainly I walk & cycle near cliff edges, but I wouldn't drive a car there...do you understand now anon?

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  8. Don't bother Peter he's being a plonker

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  9. Mustn't allow your continued concerns over the clifftop obscure the equally important issue of the maritime museum.

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  10. In terms of the Maritime Museum (and being a local council officer - although not TDC thank god) you'll be pleased to know and share the fact that the governments recent white paper - Open Public Services, and the Localism Bill (which will likely come into effect later this year) will mean any community group organisation, or even individual, will be able to challenge the council over asset management and where able, gtake over that asset for the good of the community. Ok, so TDC won't just hand keys out, but they need to have a very good reason not to! I myself cant wait, as I'd love to get the old motor museum into some sort of order and get that part of Ramsgate back on the map (and milking those foreign language schools!) If you have any Q's on the above, then let me know, I'd be happy to discuss further.

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  11. Michael. The last comment deserves a wider audience

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  12. Michael your dates are a little bit out, tdc decided to pull the plug on the maritime museum funding in 2005, there is always a considerable gap between the deciding and the telling. I am sure a certain ex Cllr who used to reside in the arches would be happy to expound and confirm this.

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  13. I should also have said, the government will be seed funding some start up enterprises that are able to justify how and why they can take on council owned assets. I know this wouldn't help the Maritime Museum, as a trust, but would be useful for the 101 other council owned assets and holdings that are just itching to be woken up again...

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