Monday, 17 October 2011

Council owned property in Thanet


After Saturday’s post about the fire in the Pav and the fantastic weekend weather I have just got to the comments some of which are about the Thanet District Council owned properties in Ramsgate.

It is my intention to try and get some sort of update about what is happening with them from the council, but before doing this I want to make certain that my enquiry includes all of the important ones.

Any help with this one from blog readers would be appreciated, obviously I think I know about the Ramsgate ones, but am not really sure if this problem just a Ramsgate one, or if there are major council owned properties in the rest of Thanet, where things are not really going to plan.

So please if anyone knows of any others let me know, either in the comments or by email, link on the sidebar.

Starting with the largest, the Pleasurama site, this still seems to be very much behind schedule and although there is some provision for this in the various agreements with the council, the council don’t seem to have pursued the matter at all.

I am not saying that this development has gone totally wrong, just that the council and via the council us the taxpayers should be aware of the real situation.

The development’s website says that the first apartments should be ready for occupation in about two years see http://www.royalsandsramsgate.co.uk/faq.asp the agreement with the council says the work they are doing at the moment, laying foundations or ground work should have been completed by the end of August 2010 and that the structural frame for section A should have started going up in March 2011 and should be completed by February 2012, with the whole of the development finished by February 2014, see http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/pda/id17.htm

There is within the agreement room for the developer to go back to the council and seek a delay of up to three years, but this doesn’t seem to have happened.

Next on the list is Westcliff Hall, last used as the motor museum, my understanding is that this is in a poor structural condition and that the council made some effort to get rid of it and the associated liability. The latest I have heard it that a voluntary group hopes to take it over.

This is what it says on the council’s website “Ongoing discussions are taking place about granting an option to a local group who are interested in developing the building. It is important that the interested community group should understand the costs of alterations and maintenance of the building.”

And more recently. “WESTCLIFF HALL, RAMSGATE
This is subject to a further Cabinet report at the 22nd September meeting to seek
approval to grant an option to the Local Carbon Community Ramsgate (now Project
MotorHouse Ltd).”

Next Albion House, I think that the town council wanted to take over this one but couldn’t come to an agreement with TDC, at the moment TDC seem to be just letting it fall apart.

Next The Maritime Museum, I think negotiations about this are ongoing with Preston Steam Trust, the charity that want to run it as a museum. I believe that these negotiations have been going on for about five years now, with the council periodically moving the goal posts.

Next the heritage pontoons, with the question why isn’t there a reasonable display of heritage vessels there? Up until recently the council were even deriving income from the display of vessels there.

Next the café on the end of the East Pier.

Next the old tourist information offices.

On to the council owned assets that have tenants.

The harbour slipways, after plans to build a bar complex on most of them were turned down, activity as a working slipways there seems to be gradually diminishing. This raises the questions. Can the harbour be viable without working slipways? Are the slipways in the wrong place? The council condemned the cradle on one of the slipways some time ago, two of the others are used some of the time but very little in terms activity seems to have occurred there in the last few months.

I suspect that much of the problem here relates to the viability of boat repair business and the proximity to European competition.

The Royal Victoria Pavilion, obviously we don’t want the council to become embroiled in some expensive legal action with The Rank Organisation who are the tenants. It’s very easy to criticise with hindsight, but it does seem to be about time that some action is taken over this building. As far as I have been able to discover Saturday’s fire didn’t cause any structural damage. Obviously the building’s security isn’t up to much, which surprises me for a building that housed a casino, I would have expected it to have at least an operational alarm system.   

I suppose the fundamental problem here is that because so many on the main council owned properties in Ramsgate are not being used in a way that makes sense, either in commercial or social terms, people become less inclined to believe that the council is managing them properly.


Added to this are the time scales and the unfortunate ends to other major council owned facilities in the town like the building that housed Neros or the swimming pool and associated buildings.

22 comments:

  1. Perhaps it is worth requesting a list of the properties that the Council own as surely they must keep something like this. It's hard to know who owns what property particularly with the Town Councils potentially owning some. The list could then be used to select properties that are worthy of further enquiries.

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  2. It would be interesting to know what is happening with the vacant land at Eurokent near Jackey Bakers and the business park (not sure if that is the right description) near the roundabout by Stirling Way/ Haine Road, Ramsgate. Looks like some of the site is occupied but how much?

    Also what is the deal with the former M & S site at Margate as it is now back to a shop? Has the grand scheme for the site been shelved. If so, what is the site now worth compared to what was paid?

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  3. Yes, it would be really interesting to know all that,
    21:17, but what exactly would we do with the information once we had it?

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  4. As ever cryptic and to the point, Peter, but I repeat, what would we do with the information once we had it?

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  5. TDC Seems relatively unable to develop a coherent policy on its' asset disposals but I do believe that part of the problem is the wider public who do not fully understand the necessary due processes involved. The man in the street also seems oblivious to the commercial realities of any proposed development. TDC has focussed on Margate with £Millions being spent on the Turner Centre etc. whilst Ramsgate has to make do with private money (pretty scarce at present) and endeavour. Take slipways 2, 3 & 4 at the Harbour. There simply isn't the business there to support them remaining as working slipways. There were, according to some, supposed to be forty boats coming to Ramsgate with a regular need for the slipways. This has not been the case and the situation is unlikely to change. Slipways 2, 3 & 4 took less than £4000 in the last 15 months. The rent and rates are £27,000 per annum alone. Without massive external public funding redevelopment would seem the only sensible option. As for the other sites in Ramsgate, many of them are a millstone rather than an asset. We need imaginative solutions and good, new ideas.

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  6. Well said, Ramsgate Fan, and good to hear a more constructive view than the usual whinge about TDC regardless approach.

    Not totally with you on the Margate millions for the Turner was a very much take it or go without situation. The money was not available for other things.

    Otherwise with you all the way on the need for imagination and new ideas. Sadly most in Thanet seem only able to criticise negatively.

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  7. Will,

    Your 11:50

    Will, while you presumably criticise positively.

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  8. John, not really catching your drift. When did I ever criticise TDC positively or negatively? I only criticise other bloggers and the state of politicians generally.

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  9. What you do with the information would surely depend on what you find out. If everything turns out to be going fine with a site then obviously no further action is needed, but the information needs to be obtained in the first place to determine what is going on. At the least lessons should learnt from past mistakes on less satisfactory sites and increased publicity/profile might put pressure on for some speedier positive progress. Re: Turner comments - wasn't that a KCC project not TDC?

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  10. 19.40 I would expect this process to take at least a month for empty commercial properties and that there would be some difficulty in getting the council to release details of residential and occupied properties.

    This is made more difficult with those properties that although not being used, or only partially being used may not be deemed by the council as empty, or may not be deemed as commercial.

    Would Albion House or the maritime museum be categorised as empty commercial property?

    21.17 Eurokent is a tricky one and I think would have to be approached separately, my understanding is that it is owned by a separate organisation which is partly owned by TDC, partly by KCC and partly by a private landowner.

    There is an added problem that we may lose part of Jackey Bakers sports ground to the proposed development. This land was left to the children of Ramsgate and part of was used in a land swap by the council to enable the building of an access for a project that failed, my understanding is that now they want to develop the swapped land without giving any land back in exchange.

    The M & S site is at least now being used as a shop in the high street, the council’s losses on this project and others are a different matter, best pursued with the auditor, if you want. Not for me though as it is only likely to cost the council more and I see it as spilt milk.

    Ramsgate Fan I have just put up a preview of the new slipway proposals, too soon for me to comment much on these, although I will try to add some thoughts to the post later.

    I am not sure there is such a shortage of boats wishing to use the slipways, I gather the vessel that has been stranded on No 1 waiting for parts has caused a lot of work to be turned away.

    With slipways 2, 3 and 4 only one of them is working at the moment, with a very limited capacity, above what the lifting cradle can manage, so I don’t think the figures you quote are realistic.

    Will, I think the problem here is not what has been spent on the TC but more on a movement of emphasis towards Margate at the expense of the rest of Thanet, it really isn’t just money, for instance the EA flood risk evaluation that is causing the government funded flood defence work in Margate didn’t even cover the EA designated high risk flood zone on Ramsgate seafront where about three men still seem to putting in shallow foundations for the Royal Sands development.

    A £20m development and not even a flood assessment in a high risk flood zone, let alone upgrading the sea defences there.

    I know Margate’s plight is greatest and accept that is where most resources need to focused, but some of the councils decisions about Ramsgate, like say the Historic ship pontoon or the maritime museum seem to be reducing the council’s revenue.

    This issue of what one does with information really comes down to the bottom line which is the council is managing local assets and spending council tax on our behalf so they have an obligation to tell us what they are doing.

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  11. OK, Will at 12:54 - but I have to admit that I find your stance curious.

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  12. Maybe it is cynicism developed over years of expectation from sundry political messiahs who always fail to deliver. From Blair to Obama, great rhetoric but no substance. Fox seemed like a decent little man committed to his portfolio and, hey presto, he is a complete twit.

    I don't have any answers, but the constant sniping at councils on the basis of their political hue winds me up. Can't people take on board that it makes little or no difference who we get under the present system.

    Mind you, I do agree with a comment you made recently about Laura Sandys. At least she seems to know what working for your constituency means.

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  13. I'd be sniping at TDC no matter which party was in charge as long as I think they're incompetent... I certainly couldn't imagine Labour being any better.

    I agree that Laura Sandys is superb (lovely lady too), & so is Roger Gale imo.

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  14. The Council have a thankless task. Bound by procedure that stops them from acting decisively or in a commercially imaginative manner. If they do venture outside the box there are plenty of Thanet Whingers who would jump up and wallpaper them with FOI requests thus costing us even more taxpayer funds and ensuring no one at TDC ever tries something imaginative again...

    Why wait for TDC to do anything for us? I plan, along with a few other like-minded individuals, to take it upon myself to promote what is best about Ramsgate and also put forward some constructive ideas for buildings like Albion House and the Pavilion etc. Not by committee but on cold, hard commercial terms because then, at least, something MIGHT happen.

    If we don't show some community spirit and positive thinking how can we ever hope to get the Council to engage positively on any subject?

    I think we have all had a gut-full of people shouting out AGAINST things and berating the Council etc. Why don't these people come up with suggestions for things they DO WANT to see happening? It would be a better use of their energy! With the move towards community involvement and the 'Big Society' there has never been a better time to at least give it a go!

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  15. Well maybe "Ramsgate Fan" you can use a name (or provide a link) so that other like-minded people can join you?

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  16. You have a point, Ramsgate Fan, for you only have to go to Broadstairs to see what can be achieved by a community. Most of the town's activities, the Visitor Centre and many of the garden areas are run on a self help basis by volunteers.

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  17. Peter, I did say constant sniping because of political hue. I did not mean to exclude justifiably criticism when it is deserved though, even then, one has to condsider what falls within the council's remit. All too frequently one reads criticism directed at the wrong authority, e.g. parish councils don't run the rubbish collections!

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  18. Ramsgate Fan, Will, peter & Co I think it important to remember here that what this post is about is council owned properties, most of which have attained their current state during Labour and Conservative administrations.

    My object here is not to criticise or snipe at the council but to find the status of the main properties that they own where those properties don’t seem to be used in the way one would expect.

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  19. When it comes to criticism or praise in respect of TDC for my part I am apolitical.

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  20. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  21. Michael,

    I know that this post is about Council Owned Properties. But leave us alone, were're having fun.

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