Sunday, 28 August 2011

Tissot’s Blue Plaque Unveiling in Ramsgate

 This is a case of right place, wrong building as the Royal Albion Hotel where Tissot painted his pictures was demolished in the late 1800s to make way for Madeira Walk.

The pictures of the unveiling are here http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop811/id13.htm


Saturday, 27 August 2011

Thanet District Council’s Website Blinks


One of the most confusing aspects of the council’s website homepage is the section called “Events” the main aspect of this is that it virtually never shows any major events. This combined with the council’s homepage being tagged with “Whats On” is I think the single most damaging thing on the internet to Thanet tourism.

Obviously a proportion of the people who look on the internet to find out what’s on in Thanet arrive at the council’s website homepage, look at the list of events, see that there isn’t much on and go somewhere else.

Because of all this I was quite surprised to see the Blink event appear in this list yesterday, as you see from the picture TDC were even feeding this, although who apart from them would use their events feed is a bit a of mystery.

The events list on the council’s homepage and the feed it relies on has an interesting fault that only the council could achieve and maintain at our expense and that is events listed there vanish at the beginning of the day the event is actually on.    

Friday, 26 August 2011

Ramsgate Art cheating a bit of a ramble about local art.

What with Ramsgate’s Summer Squall arts festival being on this weekend, Tissot’s blue plaque being unveiled on Pizza Express and the Turner Contemporary shortening its hours – I believe they are soon to ban photography too – although this may be temporary and to do Rodin’s or Emin’s rude bits, I though I should do some sort of art post.

As some of you may remember I did a certain amount of research about where Tissot did his Ramsgate paintings, mainly to make sure the blue plaque went in the right place, see http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/search/label/James%20Tissot

What with it being unveiled on Sunday and all of the art experts being about for the art festival I thought I ought to go over my work and check it for errors, bunging Tissot and Ramsgate into Google and clicking on the image tab the picture above came up, if you click on it and enlarge it you will see that looking out of the window the lighthouse is on the wrong pier.



This is a mirror image of the print

Looking at the other pictures, that Tissot did of Ramsgate this raises some interesting questions, the source of the top image is The British Museum and I am wondering if the print they bought, they say about 100 years ago is a fake.

It isn’t unusual for prints to come out as mirror images as essentially what the artist is doing is scratching a sketch onto the printing plate, however a lot of artists overcome this mirror image problem drawing the picture on paper first and then transferring the image, with soap or something onto the plate before scratching it on. This means that the eventual printed image is the right way out.

 As you can see from this print and painting, this is how it was normally done.

The British Museum bought this print in 1923 and it is supposed to be a drypoint engraved by Tissot however it doesn’t look quite right to me. But I keep coming back to the picture being back to front. Presumably a lot of people who knew Ramsgate would have bought the print and noticed it was a mirror image, Tissot was very professional all rather strange.   


I will ramble on about this if I get a chance.  

Bank Holiday Arts Weekend in Ramsgate and Blink in Margate.


The program of events for The Summer Squall festival can be downloaded from this link http://ramsgatearts.org/squall-programme.pdf

The Margate Blink Event website is http://www.blinkmargate.org/

Oddly enough Thanet District Council don’t seem to have anything about either event on their website, which is currently feeding the press release “Don’t lose your vote in 2012” – perhaps they know something we don’t – their top leisure event, promoted on the council’s homepage is, St. Laurence Churchyard Tour on September 3rd

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

RAMSGATE SATURDAY 24th AUGUST. 1940 A DAY TO REMEMBER

It is the anniversary of Ramsgate’s worst bombing during WW2 here is the link to the book I produce about it http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/catalogue/id130.htm and some sample pages http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/1940/





Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Thanet Fire Station Closure


My understanding is that from next week, the 3rd September the crews from the main Thanet Fire Station at Westwood Cross will move to Ramsgate and Margate Fire Stations and that the Westwood Cross Fire Station will no longer have ordinary fire engines or respond to callouts.

I think the idea is eventually to build a new main Thanet fire station somewhere in Ramsgate, and I had assumed that the existing Thanet Fire Station would remain as the main fire station until the replacement fire station had been built.

I contacted Kent Fire and Rescue’s headquarters at Maidstone and this is what they have to say.

Dear Michael

“The first phase of Kent Fire and Rescue Service’s project for the Isle of Thanet takes place on 3 September, when the crews from Thanet Fire Station will join stations at Margate and Ramsgate.

The move ensures a better availability of fire and rescue services across the area, increasing the number of appliances around the clock from three to four (two appliances at Margate and two at Ramsgate).

Thanet Fire Station will still house an aerial appliance while work continues to find a site for a new station at Ramsgate. It is planned that this will then accommodate all the specialist vehicles* and the crews from Ramsgate Fire Station which is over 100-years-old.

* Westwood Cross won’t be closing just yet as it is needed for the other special vehicles that are kept there: one that has equipment for ship fires; an hydraulic platform ladder and one that goes to big chemical incidents.

East Division Group Manager Russ Jordan said: “The safety of the people in Thanet has been at the heart of this process and the community will not notice any difference – we will still be there when they need us.

“We would like to thank staff for their help and support. We do appreciate that change is never easy and we are all looking forward to the next phase which will mean a new fit for purpose fire station for the area. We believe that these proposals will enable us to be in the best position for current and future risks in the region.”

Discussions are underway with local councils and landowners regarding potential new sites, we hope to give more information on this soon.

The decision to move from Thanet Fire Station was made in February after extensive public consultation and discussions with staff and unions, based on detailed data which shows that the resources at Thanet (Westwood Cross) station were not used in a way that best serves those that live in the area.

In the past five years (January 2005 to December 2009), their designated response area - or station ground - has seen 72 per cent fewer incidents than those of comparable stations elsewhere in the county. Much of the time, the fire engine at Thanet (Westwood Cross) is used to respond to emergencies within the designated area of Margate and Ramsgate fire stations.

Detailed analysis shows that appliances mobilised to incidents from Ramsgate and Margate can reach all of Thanet’s (Westwood Cross) fire ground, plus the overwhelming majority of each others areas, within KMFRA’s agreed attendance time standard of 10 minutes.”

Best regards

**** ****| Head of Policy & Performance | Kent Fire & Rescue Service.

There have been several press items about this over the past year, like http://www.kentonline.co.uk/kentonline/news/2010/december/11/plan_to_cut_fire_service.aspx


The picture is of Margate Fire Station and firemen my guess is that it was taken around the time of WW1.

It does occur to me that there is no history of the Thanet Fire Station at Westwood Cross, I don’t even know when it was built or why it was thought necessary at the time. I will endeavour to get some pictures of it for historical record and would appreciate any information about it.   

I will ramble on about this as I get time.   

Monday, 22 August 2011

David Cameron Tracey Emin, More Passion

David Cameron Tracey Emin, More Passion 

Sometimes with local news stories words fail me, click on the picture to enlarge.

http://www.kentonline.co.uk/kentonline/news/2011-1/august/22/david_cameron_gets_emin_art.aspx 

Sunday, 21 August 2011

A few pictures of the garden at Quex Park Birchington today

Click on the link for the pictures http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop811/id12.htm sorry if any of them are no good I haven’t seen them yet as they are uploading to the internet from the camera card as I write.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Wish You Were Here Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Blue Plaque in Ramsgate.

 I would imagine most of you have heard of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and that the author Samuel Taylor Coleridge has connections with Ramsgate, or as he referred to it in Dog Latin Porta Arietiná.

At various times Coleridge lived at numbers 3, 7, 28 and 29 Wellington Crescent and various other houses Ramsgate, I suppose you could say he is what Turner is to Margate or Dickens is to Broadstairs. Ramsgate has connections with quite a few famous people, so you could say this for a lot of them starting with King George IV, excuse the Cruikshank cartoon, click on it to enlarge, the joke has probably worn off by now.


Somewhere in my confused memory I have the idea that last Wednesday a blue plaque, nothing to do with dentistry, was to be unveiled on Number 7 Wellington Crescent, I didn’t really make much of a note of this as I assumed that this event would be subject to some sort of publicity. 

There is a very good book about Coleridge’s association with Ramsgate you can buy it on Ebay for a price see http://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/i.html?_kw=Coleridge%27s&_kw=Holidays&_kw=Ramsgate I thought this was quite amusing as I have it on the shelf in my bookshop for £15 and have just put a copy on Amazon for £20.

With seller fees and whatnot you will have to email me if you want a copy for £15 plus postage at cost.   

In the words of the bard:   

‘O I wish, you were here, and that we could all Ramsgatize till the midst of December!’.

Here is his account of bathing at Ramsgate:

I was myself very unwell on Monday & Yesterday – but this morning, I have cleared up again, and had such a Trio of Plunges into the very heart, Liver, and Lights of three towering Billows this morning, the last of which fairly hurried me back, I might almost say, into the Machine – but actually, to the top-most step of the Ladder – so that I narrowly escaped a bruise – The wave set the Carpet afloat, and had I not instantly called out to Philpott, that his Pot was over-full, I should have had my outsides, alias, extra-cuticulars, alias, Cloathes, seized by the grim old Surge-on without any to redress me… It was glorious! I watched each time from the top-step for a high Wave coming, and then with my utmost power of projection shot myself off into it, for all the world like a Congreve Rocket into a Whale 

And this of a steamboat:

I never saw a Steam-boat look beautiful—tho’ always interesting—till yester evening ¼ past 4, when it pencilled it’s way toward the Pier and then described a horseshoe wake of grey lustre within the Harbour as it curved round in the largest possible Circuit to the old Station at the Landing-steps, all in a glory of the richest golden Light reflected from it’s sides and Uprights, & transmuting it’s long pennant of Smoke into a huge Cylinder or what shall I call it? Of Topaz.  

Friday, 19 August 2011

Thanet District Council and the late news.


Why would the council not want people to read their press releases? This is an update to yesterday’s post, which I concede was a bit confusing.

As some of you will remember back in June the council decided to stop sending press releases out to media sources that they considered unaccredited.

I have been making a fuss about this on and off since they did so and the main responses I have got about this issue from the council are at http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/2011/07/thanet-district-councils-response-to.html

The council’s take on this one is that they have replaced sending out press release emails with a news feed, the problem here though is that the council news feed doesn’t work properly.

The idea of this news feed is that every time the council put a press release on their website it sends out a signal, so that all of the people who would have received the press release before now get the notification.

If this worked properly the press release would appear with the other local news on the sidebar of this and other blogs.

So yesterday at about 11 am the press release about their being more boats in Ramsgate harbour would have popped to the top of my sidebar. Then at lunchtime the one about the new enterprise zone would have appeared. Later at about tea time the one about refusing the new development at Ramsgate’s Granville marina should have appeared.

What actually happened was nothing until the middle of last night when the council’s website suddenly started churning out signals saying that there were new press releases, this is some of it:

2:28 AM (7 hours ago)
Marina berth numbers
2:28 AM (7 hours ago)
Enterprise zone announcement
1:29 AM (8 hours ago)
Arches plans refused
12:33 AM (9 hours ago)
Marina berth numbers
12:33 AM (9 hours ago)
Arches plans refused
12:33 AM (9 hours ago)
Enterprise zone announcement

For me the really irritating thing is that we are all paying for this and yes I accept that the council are doing what they said they would do in feeding their press releases, the problem is feeding them all in the middle of the night when hardly anyone is likely to read them.

Certainly this repeated sending of the same press release feeds at different time confuses feed reading programs that are inclined to treat them as spam. The latest posts thing on my sidebar seems to have taken the first time the last thing fed first appeared as the time stamp so the councils last press release is time stamped as yesterday i.e. well down the sidebar out of site and below all today’s other news.

What is questionable is whether this has happened by accident or design, by this I mean is the intention to conceal news about the council, obviously this is what they have achieved.   

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Plans for the Development at Granville Marina Arches turned down and a battle with TDCIT and the ongoing saga of the council censoring the news sent to local blogs.


This is the latest news story on the council’s website, you wouldn’t necessarily know this as the local blogs that have the council’s latest TDC news feed displayed are showing “Toilet vandalism Minnis Bay”

As far as I know this is only my blog and councillor Simon Moors’s blog, Thanet Life, either the others chose not to display this or lack the technical ability.

This is the thing that was supposed to replace the council sending us their press releases and frankly it doesn’t work properly.

The last time I took this up with the council was 9th August, this is what I sent them.

Hi there once again the council’s news feed seems to be malfunctioning in some way so that the live animal news item doesn’t appear to have been received although the outgoing feed appears present on the council’s website.

Please take this as being further to my complaint that the council have stopped sending press releases to nonaccredited news sources.

i.e if the replacement for press releases doesn’t work properly then the sending of those press releases to me and other news sources should be reinstated.

Screenshot of cllr Simon Moores weblog attached showing the absence of the press release.

Please assign this complaint a reference as I am taking this issue up with the district auditor and the references will be useful. 

Best regards Michael.

Today I have received the following answer:

Dear Mr Child

Customer Feedback Reference:30035

Your ref: 3A

Thank you for your recent communication which was received on 12/08/2011 and for
bringing this matter to my attention.

I have investigated the Council's news but have been unable to find any problems
with the feed. I have checked the feed on our website and on other sites which
pick up and display the feed and they are all showing the most recent release.

I appreciate that you have noticed an anomaly with the feed as shown in the
image you supplied of Cllr Moore's blog, and so we will continue to monitor the
outgoing feed.

We hope that this resolves the matter to your satisfaction.

If you are not happy with our response, you may write to us with your reasons
within the next ten working days, requesting a further review. 

In order for us to respond as efficiently as possible, please ensure that you
quote the above reference number and address your communication to Amanda
Buckingham - Customer Feedback Co-ordinator, Business Services.

Yours sincerely

******* *****
Corporate Information & Communications Manager

Obviously the feed isn’t working properly at the moment though what one says to the council I really no longer know.

Frankly trying to use the council’s internet facilities just to check this minor issue out is just ludicrous. The council’s press release doesn’t give the planning reference and the previous lot of plans were filed under the address Granville Marina, however this lot are filed under Marina Esplanade on the council’s website.



Anyway I have replied to the council, thus:

Hi ****, in the first instance I should make it clear that my feelings are that while the council’s feeds don’t work reliably the council should return to sending me the press releases, as this doesn’t cost the council anything it seems a reasonable course of action.

For my part I promise to reinstate the Thanet press release blog and this will mean that the press releases are fed properly.

Perhaps it is time to accept that the council are not quite as adept at managing feeds as google are.

   

I have just checked this 19.05 Thursday the information reading on my blog is showing 


Thanet District Council News Feed
Toilet vandalism Minnis Bay - Public toilets in Minnis Bay have quickly been brought back into use, following two spates of vandalism in two days.
1 day ago

on Simon Moors’s blog 

·            
IsleOne
Pole dancing in Broadstairs - Is Thanet about to see its first pole-dancing establishment? You couldn't make it up. And we haven't.
1 day ago
·            
Thanet District Council news feed
Toilet vandalism Minnis Bay -Public toilets in Minnis Bay have quickly been brought back into use, following two spates of vandalism in two days.
1 day ago
·            Bazthesnap
Still Alive - Just a quick blog to say i am still alive despite the 


The problem being that although everyone else’s feeds are arriving propery the council’s are not.

The council’s website is showing 


Latest Press Releases

Ramsgate seafront plans refused
Enterprise zone news welcomed
Success for Ramsgate Royal Harbour Marina
Calll for maximum journey time for live animal exports rejected
Vandals hit toilets in Minnis Bay
Cubit cleans up again in Thanet


The feeds the council are showing at http://www.thanet.gov.uk/feeds/tdcnews.aspx

are 

http://www.thanet.gov.uk/news/latest_press_releases.aspx Press Releases & Focus on Thanet Articles en-gb @copyright Thanet District Councilhttp://www.thanet.gov.uk/advice__benefits/help_using_this_website/RSS_Feeds.aspx 15  http://www.thanet.gov.uk/images/TDC_logo_2009.pnghttp://www.thanet.gov.uk/images/TDC_logo_2009.png New figures show that Ramsgate’s Royal Harbour Marina is seeing record numbers of boat owners.http://www.thanet.gov.uk/news/latest%20press%20releases/marina%20berth%20numbers.aspxhttp://www.thanet.gov.uk/news/latest%20press%20releases/marina%20berth%20numbers.aspx Thu, 18 Aug 2011 09:51:36 GMT Plans for a five-storey building along Ramsgate seafront have been refused by Thanet District Council’s Planning Committee.http://www.thanet.gov.uk/news/latest%20press%20releases/arches%20plans%20refused.aspxhttp://www.thanet.gov.uk/news/latest%20press%20releases/arches%20plans%20refused.aspxThu, 18 Aug 2011 15:22:22 GMT Thanet District Council has welcomed the news that the former Pfizer site is to be an Enterprise Zone.

The feeds I am detecting with Internet Explorer 9’s reeds tab are RSS

Thanet District Council News Feed
You are viewing a feed that contains frequently updated content. When you subscribe to a feed, it is added to the Common Feed List. Updated information from the feed is automatically downloaded to your computer and can be viewed in Internet Explorer and other programs. Learn more about feeds.
 Subscribe to this feed
Arches plans refused
‎18 ‎August ‎2011, ‏‎16:22:22 
Plans for a five-storey building along Ramsgate seafront have been refused by Thanet District Council’s Planning Committee.
Enterprise zone announcement
‎18 ‎August ‎2011, ‏‎12:47:28 
Thanet District Council has welcomed the news that the former Pfizer site is to be an Enterprise Zone.
Marina berth numbers
‎18 ‎August ‎2011, ‏‎10:51:36 
New figures show that Ramsgate’s Royal Harbour Marina is seeing record numbers of boat owners.
Toilet vandalism Minnis Bay
17 ‎August ‎2011, ‏‎18:40:28 
Public toilets in Minnis Bay have quickly been brought back into use, following two spates of vandalism in two days.

Best regards Michael

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

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Sailing Dinghies in Broadstairs pictures


I went for a walk this morning and took some pictures mostly of the sailing dinghies being launched in Broadstairs, here they are for anyone interested


and


I am afraid I didn’t manage to get to the airshow at Manston, so no pictures of that. 

Friday, 12 August 2011

Manston Airshow This Sunday 11am to 5pm


There have been various airshows at Manston over the years, this link takes you a series of linked pages of pictures of the last one I went to http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/manston/index.htm


Aerial Display Event 2011 at RAF Spitfire & Hurricane Memorial Trust
On Manston Airfield “Event 2011” (Weather Permitting)

Aerial displays; Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, Boeing Stearman, Messerschmitt 108, The Spirit of Kent Spitfire, Authentic air raid sound effects! Essex Police Helicopter, Kent Air Ambulance

Static Displays; MoD Fire Appliances, Kent Fire & Rescue Service, Fire Museum Appliances, Afghan Heroes Charity Motorcycle Riders, A variety of stalls and stands, Air Cadet Band, TS Jamaica Cadets, Kent Fleet Air Arm Association, Royal British Legion Riders, RAF Careers, Bomb Disposal and Armourers, Kent Special Constabulary, Kent Air Ambulance Stand, SECAM Ambulance Service, St John Ambulance, RNLI, Kent Fire Service Safety Stand, Licensed Bars, Refreshment stands, Children’s Rides, Children’s Toys, Ceramics, Face Painting, Temporary Tattoos, Toilets, Bouncy Castle, Children’s Clothes, and much, much more - fun for all the family.

Arrangements may be subject to change without warning!

Parking: Cars £5, Coaches (by arrangement only) £40
Booking: 01843 821940 Monday to Friday between 9.30 & 1.30.

By kind permission of Kent International Airport, Manston

Monday, 8 August 2011

The Royal Sands Development on the Pleasurama site in Ramsgate a reappraisal.

 For those of you unfamiliar with this ongoing building site in Ramsgate I will do my best to fill you in to start with.

If you want a lot of detail, click on this link http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/search/label/Pleasurama%20development?updated-max=2011-02-25T16%3A45%3A00Z&max-results=20 and every time you get to the bottom of a page of posts click on the “Older Posts” link. If you want to go back even further, I was writing about this development before I started this blog and this link takes you to that http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/tdc/

For those who want a quick résumé of the last ten years of building site, here it is.

The site belongs to Thanet District Council and for most of the past 100 years formed Ramsgate’s main leisure site, in a similar way to the way Dreamland in Margate was the main leisure site there.

Anyway about ten years ago the council decided to join with Whitbread and SFP Venture Partners to build a hotel, residential and retail development there.

Work was to start on thing in 2002 and be completed in 2003, unfortunately Whitbread pulled out of the project.

Anyway the council decided to go forward with the project just with SFP, at the time SFP was a purely offshore company and even to this time I have never been able to find any evidence that they have ever produced a development of any sort.

I think that the problems have really stemmed from this decision, over the years SFP have engaged various contractors to do both design work and construction work, but the problem that there is no experienced developer behind the project comes back to haunt us.

The site, situated between a tall cliff with a history of problems effecting its stability and the sea with a history of storms engulfing the site, is a very demanding site to build on.

Neither the problems relating to the cliff that the council have already spent £1m on, or the problems relating to storm flooding, which the Environment Agency have made safety recommendations about, have been satisfactorily resolved.

Various contractors have done work on aspects of the development and then pulled out before completing the contract.

Eventually so many deadlines schedules and financial obligations had failed to be met that the council officers put the issue to the council cabinet on the 16th June 2009. The officers put two courses of action to the cabinet one of which was to pull out of the agreement with SFP for failure to comply, this was the option that the officers recommended. The other was to go ahead with reduced financial guarantees and a new schedule for the building work.
 The cabinet decided to continue with the developer and reduced financial guarantees and a deed of variation to the development agreement was agreed setting out a new timetable. Click on the link to read this document http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/pda/id17.htm

Once again the work on the site isn’t following the timescale agreed with the council, added to this instead of pile boring foundations down into the solid chalk as was originally expected the developer has laid shallow foundations down onto the old sand beach.

I wondered what the council’s building control department, that had recently insisted that the adjacent development was “piled bored” well and truly screwed down to the chalk bedrock below. Apparently the council are not in charge of building control for the Royal Sands Development, although they do have a new search facility on their website where you can find out who is at http://www.thanet.gov.uk/environment__planning/building_control_case_search/case_search_facility.aspx this reveals:
Case Number IN/83246/10
Case Status Decided
Decision Pass plans unconditionally all types
Decision Date 15/09/2010
Case Details 
Case Description New Development Comprising 107 Apartments 82 Bedroom Hotel 4 Retail Units And Health/Fitness Centre
Applicant Name Sfp Ventures (Uk) Ltd
Agent Name Harwood Building Control Approve Inspectors Ltd 
Case Officer Paul Morgan

Harwood Building Control are a local firm however there is no reference to the development on their website http://www.harwood.uk.com

We also have a new architect, mentioned on the signage at the site, John Sime & Associates/ Alan Butcher are quoted as the designers, although no new plans have been submitted to the council.

In the past when I have voiced concerns about the buildings design, particularly those aspects related to flood risk and cliff stability many of the reassurances that I have had related to the council acting as building control.

The overall understanding being that this was to be a pile bored development with a steel cage, seems to have changed to a building constructed using shallow foundation pads resting on the old sand beach, with the very small part of the cage that has appeared so far being constructed of ferro concrete.

Anyway at the moment we have a development agreement amended to say that the pile boring should be completed by the later date of 31st august 2010 and that at the moment there should be a considerable amount of the structural framework completed, obviously this hasn’t happened.

I have had an ongoing dialogue with the council over this development going back over about nine years, during which time officers dealing with the issue have come and gone.

Anyway back in February I escalated this to a foi request.
 THE CORRESPONDENCE

Emails from me in blue, from the council in red and the contractor in green. 

www.thanet.gov.uk
email customer.services@thanet.gov.uk


>>> 23/02/11 16:22 >>>
Please treat this as an  official customer feedback request.
This is essentially a general enquiry about  the Royal Sands Development on the old Pleasurama site in Ramsgate.  

1 Please send me any addition  information about this development that I haven’t requested below, because I am  unaware of its existence. 

It would appear that some work  has occurred on the site during the last month, but obviously this work doesn’t  relate to the development agreement schedules and conditions of the various  leases contained in it.

2 Does this mean that the leases are now invalid and the development agreement is to be determined?

3 Or does it mean that there has been an updated agreement with new schedules? 

If the development is going ahead, either to a new schedule or is being allowed under some other flexible arrangement: 

4 Can you please supply me with a revised building schedule?

5 Can you please tell me which of the approved plans the development is to be built to and if these plans are published on the council’s planning website?

6 Can you please send me details of the public information sessions that were promised once work started on the site?

7 Can you please send me any updated information on the cliff safety issue? Details and dates of the promised cliff top weight limit, correspondence between the council, the HSE, the developer, cliff survey and maintenance schedule, any cliff survey reports, any agreements for cliff maintenance between the council and the developer.

8 Can you please send me details of any flood, storm or emergency escapes incorporated in the development as a result of the EA recommendations 8th Feb 2008.

9 If the artists impressions, details of roof material and other building materials for the building to be built, are different to  those described on the councils planning website, due to the various different  plans and in consequence plans being used that no longer relate to the ancillary details, can you please send me the details of these changes?
10 If the plans that are to be used no longer relate to all of the planning and design statement, can you please send me revisions to the planning and design statement?
Please confirm your receipt of this request?
Best regards  Michael

Subject: Thanet District Council - Your Information Request Response
Date: 08/03/2011 13:14:29 GMT Daylight Time
From: ****
Reply To: 
To: MichaelChild@aol.com


Ref No: 26393 / 1650743

Dear Mr Child

Thank you for your communication received on 24/02/2011 09:00:09 where you requested information about the Pleasurama or Royal Sands deevelopment.

In response to your questions I can comment as follows:

1 There has been some early slippage in terms of works undertaken to comply with the terms of the development agreement. The construction works are however now starting to claw back time lost earlier in the construction programme and progress is now being made on site. There is no amended agreement with the developers and no action is presently anticipated in relation to determine the development agreement, neither has there been a request for a revised build schedule.

1a I will request a revised programme from the developer who has indicated that he will be aiming to adhere to the programme.

1b I will also request that the developer establishes a public information programme.

2 No recent amendments have been proposed to the design of the building and no alterations have been made in response to the Environment Agencies correspondence with the developer in 2008. Any amendments would need to be considered through the planning process.

In 2008 and 2009 we received plans to comply with conditions of the planning permission that were approved in January 2009. These proposals did not result in material alterations to the approved building and I recall providing you with those drawings following receipt. I can confirm that no subsequent amendments have been proposed to the building since that time. In terms of the planning and design statement I consider the scheme still complies with the principles of the original submission.

3 I can confirm that the HSE have considered the cliff survey. In an email to the Council they have confirmed they do not intend to pursue this matter. They have requested that the Council draws up a programme and regime for the future maintenance of the cliff face. This matter is in hand.

Yours sincerely,
******
Major Developments Manager


Subject: Ref 26393 / 1650743
Date: 25/05/2011
From: 
Reply To: 
To: customer.services@thanet.gov.uk

Hi there I refer to my previous feedback request (below) Ref No: 26393 / 1650743 and the promises made in the response.

Work on the site has been progressing very slowly, looking more like a delaying tactic to keep the developers option open and now appears to have stopped altogether.

I have numbered ***’s responses for clarity and am now asking for an update on this issue.

Firstly a general what is going on update.  

1 As there is obviously no intention now of complying with the development agreement schedule, no obvious claw back is occurring progress seems to be sporadic with very few workers on site and no sign of much investment, when does the council intend some action to determine the development agreement?

1a Have you received a revised programme from the developer? If you have please supply me with a copy.

1b Can you provide me with a copy of the a public information programme

2 I understand that considerable have been made to the building design since the latest plans on the council’s planning website, can you please confirm this?  

3 have the Council drawn up a programme and regime for the future maintenance of the cliff? face

Dear Mr Child

Thank you for your further communications which have been received following your initial information request of 24/02/2011 regarding the Royal Sands Development.

I would apologise for the delay in sending this response but as I am sure that you will appreciate, without detailed knowledge of the Development Agreement there was a need for considerable research into the agreement and related correspondence before I was able to reply. With regard to your request for details of officer responsibility for this development I would advise that as acting Estates Manager I will be the most appropriate point of contact until a permanent appointment is made.

The specific information you requested is as follows and is numbered in accordance with your request..

1.    No records are held of changes to the development agreement on this issue.

1a.    No records of a revised programme are held .

1b.    No records of a public information programme are held.

2.    No material alterations to the approved scheme have been proposed or         approved.

3.    Following the refurbishment work undertaken in 2008 and 2009 a programme     of inspections will commence in October this year. The future programme will     be developed following these inspections and until these are carried out the     information that you have requested is not held.

Yours sincerely,

*****
Building Control Manager 
 I also asked the contractor what was going on.

Hi *****

I am just about to do a blog post reviewing the progress of the Pleasurama development, and as you probably remember there was going to be some sort of public information program once the development started.

I will be posting about the perceived ongoing delay, compared with the development agreement and the differences in construction method, compared to the pile boring we were expecting, but mostly about the lack of public information about the project.

Essentially a what’s going on with Pleasurama post, working under the assumption that as very little is happening, both in terms of investment and progress, suggesting that what is really going on is a delaying tactic to keep the option of commencing development proper open. I will also be saying that the lack of public information is because there is probably no positive information for the public and that we are likely to be reaching the grinding that we have had with previous contractors.

This is really just a courtesy email in case you had some sort of different view on the matter or some sort of positive news on the matter, that would change the flavour of the post.

Best regards Michael

Websites
Dear Michael

Thank you for your email.

I am pleased to confirm that the Development is currently on target to be completed ahead of the dates detailed within the development agreement.

There has indeed been very positive interest in the scheme and a large proportion of the residential units have  already been sold off plan with many more under offer.

The Hotel site is also under offer to a very well known Hotel group which is all very good news for the local economy.

From a contractors point of view we are very happy with the timescales that have been set and certainly this project will provide much needed work within the industry for many local tradesmen over the next 18 months or so.

Kind Regards

*****

The heath and safety notification pinned up by the site entrance describes the development as starting on 1st May 2010 and lasting for 104 weeks with 200 people working on the site.

So far we are about 60 weeks into this period with an average of about 3 or 4 people working on the site, so it seems fairly obvious that things are not going to plan.

Reading the correspondence so far, it seems in need of some sort of interpretation, perhaps if it would have taken 200 people 2 years to build it, it will take four people 100 years.  



It is possible that the contractor genuinely thinks that the development is on target, this is a very worrying thought.


Of course the land is still owned by the council and reading their last response I would guess that they will have to take some sort of action, this is a large publicly owned site and they have already invested £1m in cliff repair work there, so there must come a point where the council are obliged to generate some sort of return for this site. 

In all of this I think the developers most serious error though has been the absence of the public information program that was promised, there seems to be no sense whatever of trying to take local people along with this major development on publicly owned land.

It would now seem unlikely that there will ever be a program of public information, as the promises relating to this seem to have been made and verbal agreements with council officers who have now left the council.


Is suppose the real problem now, is where do we go from here?

Ten years is a very long time for a developer to be engaged with a council owned site without producing a viable development.

Obviously many people in Ramsgate are not happy about this development, partly due to concerns over the height of the building and the effect on the view from the cliff top, partly because this has traditionally been Ramsgate’s key leisure site.

My own concerns have concentrated on the developments safety as it falls between a cliff with a history of stability problems and the sea with a history of tidal surge storms and wave overtopping.

Neither the council nor the developer ever seem to have properly addressed the environment agency’s concerns relating to storm protection and pedestrian escapes. On a more practical level anyone who saw the repairs to the cliff shortly after the council had spent £1m on repairing it and had pronounced it safe, will be aware the cliff façade condition is unpredictable and needs more than the 5 metre gap between the cliff and the building to repair.

So far since the £1m contract to repair the cliff, cliff maintenance work there has had to be carried out on two occasions because I have pointed out dangerous looking parts of the cliff wall.      

My own feelings are that both the developer and the council should have noticed cracks in the cliff wall and lose bits of masonry before I did and that in an ongoing sense, with people working and living so close to such a high cliff, much more interest should be taken in the cliff condition.

The weight limit for vehicles using the top of the cliff, that the council promised to instigate several years ago, still hasn’t been imposed, something I also find cause for considerable concern.

The flood and storm protection is a difficult one, neither the council nor the developer appears to have had the flood risk assessment strongly recommended by the environment agency, carried out.

The flood risk assessment for the adjacent build (Granville Marina Restaurant) resulted in a pile bored development with a base line about 1 metre higher. Historically the site is known to have been subject to wave overtopping and damage, the sea defence in front of the site seems to have been made up in bits and pieces since the 1860s when this part of the beach was raised with the chalk spoil from the tunnel excavation to provide a site for the station.