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:
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.
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.
More pictures here http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/811/id4.htmAs you can see from the pictures here there are some more new shops open in Ramsgate http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/811/id5.htm