Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Royal Sands Development on the Pleasurama Site Cabinet Decision Tomorrow

 I think in terms of Thanet the mixture of prominent position and size means this is probably the most important mostly residential development in Thanet within living memory.
 An aspect of the very prominent seafront buildings is that on the whole whether they are good bad appropriate or inappropriate they mostly seem to stay put for over 100 years.
 The economic and visual impact of large developments on the seafronts of our main towns is considerable and goes a very long way towards making our towns what they are.
 Whether you agree with this approach or not the meeting to decide the future of this development is to be held in secret and all of the associated documentation is secret too, see
 All we have in the public domain, is the general subject of the meeting, “The Royal Sands Development Agreement.”

Oddly enough the actual development agreement is in the public domain, see this is a long and complicated document that sets out what the developer should build and when, it also sets out how the council owned land becomes owned by the developer and the council gets paid for the land. 
 I think it reasonable to assume that the object of the meeting is for the council cabinet to decide either on changes to the development agreement (either writing a new one or another variation), or on terminating the agreement altogether.

I am pretty foggy about the legal and procedural ins and outs, but am pretty sure that with the council, it is the cabinet or the full council only, that has the power to change development agreements relating to council owned land.

My guess is that what happens in practice is that the developer approaches the council officers asking for changes and those officers work out a series of options that protect the council’s interests and then put those options before cabinet for decision.   
 Obviously the development isn’t going to plan, as the schedule in the development agreement says that that most of the structural frame of the building should be built by now.

Obviously the hopes and expectations in terms of employment, which were along the lines of about 200 people working on the site during the last year didn’t happen.

Looking at the site at the moment, there isn’t a sense of one stage finished and another about to commence, but much more one of a work in progress abandoned unexpectedly. Holes dug but not filled with concrete, incomplete pillars with leaning and rusting reinforcing rods.
 My guess here is that the situation at the moment relates to finding the money, to continue the building work, of course it could be because they have now reached the area where the developers contractor surveyed the cliff façade and highlighted problems, see or their may be some other explanation. The secrecy makes it difficult to know for sure.

Personally from the council’s engineers response I received via Allan Poole I doubt that it relates to the issues I highlighted, to do with assessing the flood risk, sea defence and cliff stability.

Anyone who missed this the two blog posts, the first one my open letter to cabinet members and two of their responses, here and a further post containing the email from Allan and my reply, here
 So having considered all of this I intend explore the financial implications, first I am assuming that my concerns as a local resident won’t have that much in the way of implications here, particularly as most of my concerns were raised first so long ago, way before construction work started on the site about a year ago. I would guess that at that time they had a financial plan, as in the first place they wouldn’t have started the work and in the second place the previous cabinet would have stopped the development from proceeding three years ago, when they had the opportunity, if they thought it couldn’t be financed.

When the site was first put out for tender by the council, one of the most important aspects was that it should have a major leisure aspect as well as a residential aspect to finance this. 
 As an example of what I mean here, another firm that tendered for this site offered to include a swimming pool that they were going to gift to the town on completion of the development. This was Westcliff Park Estates at that time they were building the development opposite the boating pool on the Westcliff in Ramsgate.

The council rejected them on the grounds that they lacked the financial credentials and selected SFP who at that time were purely a Virgin Island company, so the council wouldn’t have had any way of discovering their financial status.
 So I come to what may have caused the developer financial problems, I think idea was that once the first apartments had been sold the money raised was to have been used to finance building more departments.

One problem here is that I think – reading the development agreement - the council were concerned that once the apartments were built the main leisure aspect the hotel wouldn’t be built. This is of particular concern as the hotel is in front of the part of the cliff that the developers contractor has examined and found has problems.
 So at the moment there is a development agreement saying that the hotel has to be built first, that is before the money from selling the apartments starts coming in.
 Another problem here is to do with the flood risk, this isn’t the same as the safety issues that I have been highlighting for years, but relates to borrowing money. During the period between when the plans were first approved and now the site has been designated by the Environment Agency as high risk, in terms of flooding, but because the developer hasn’t been legally obliged to he hasn’t had a flood risk assessment made of the site.
 This would cause a problem for anyone trying to obtain a mortgage for a new build situated in a high risk flood zone, that may make it difficult for the people who want to buy the apartments to get the money to do so. I am not really certain if this would also be a problem for the developer if he needed to find finance, say for example to build the hotel. I do think that it may be a consideration if we ever get to the stage where an apartment reaches a stage where someone can actually buy it.
 In terms of other sources of finance, there is of course the value of the freehold of the site and there may be some way that financing the development could be financed using the land as security for a development loan.
 I may add to this if any further thoughts occur to me and as much of this post relates to the legal and financial aspects of councils and property development development, something that hasn’t figured much in my experience as an engineer, anglican religious and shop assistant, it is highly likely that there is much I have either missed out or misunderstood.     
  The pictures of this part of Ramsgate, click on them to enlarge, are a small proportion of the ones that I used to work out the history of the sea defences in this part of the town.
Having looked at the documentation again, see,%2005th-Apr-2012%2019.00,%20Cabinet.pdf?T=10 “Heads of Terms Agreement” it looks as though there is the possibility of a new development agreement involved.


  1. You don't need a crystal ball to predict the 'cabinet decision'.
    It will be, as usual, to defer it or pass it on to someone else until it goes away.
    Then it [the cabinet] can say 'not our fault mate' when they expect us to vote them back into power. What a shower!
    You'd get more positive outcomes from an Ikea flat-pack cabinet!
    Doubtless the local newspaper will misrepresent the results with their usual disregard for accuracy and facts?

    1. I think part of the problem here is that with some work already done on the site and the ongoing damage to the town’s economy working out what the best way forward is at this time isn’t simple.

      With the results of a flood risk assessment it would be much easier to decide the best way to proceed, there are two extremes here, one being that the there are no problems and the only problem is the building’s delay, the other being that the foundation design is unsuitable for the site. In reality I suspect the truth is somewhere in between and that some extra works will have to be done to parts of the sea wall, this then comes down to cost.

      With the cliff, most of the residential part is in front of the arched part of the façade, this is the part that hasn’t cracked and grown weeds since the main contract and has a high probability of lasting for a reasonable amount of time relative to the life of the development.

      Another factor here is the options that officers have prepared, which may be very limited, i.e. either stop the development or go ahead as we have been. On the other hand there may be options where the developers requests give the opportunity to bargain and at least insist on a flood risk assessment.

      There is also the factor that the previous cabinet had a similar situation three years ago when the last variation to the development agreement came before them and they were far less receptive and responsive than this new one.

      I would say that Allan Poole has behaved properly and responsibly in putting my points to the council’s engineer and forwarding his responses to me.

      I think my point here is that to make a good decision they have to have been presented with reasonable choices.

  2. Now here's an idea to get things clarified.
    Let's invite Sky or BBC or ITV to do a documentary on Royal Sands.
    They could start with the initial consent,history,chart the costs, name names.
    If the company/firm/cowboy outfit behind the scheme don't like it they will say so.
    Then we'll all know who they are.
    There may still be a few News of the World investigative journalists looking for gainful employment.
    That way, at least someone will benefit from this long running situation comedy.

    1. Col the last time I mentioned this to the national media was when the lump of masonry fell off the cliff wall and landed half in the site and half outside, as it didn’t fall on anyone and kill them the media didn’t seem that interested.

    2. Col,

      I agree. There is something seriously wrong with this development, apart from engineering discrepancies. The blame and solution lie with TDC of whatever colour. The explanation is that TDC Councillors and their Officials are incompetent. It is a shame that Thanet does not have and independent, brave and impartial local newspaper.

      And before anonymous and their ilk ask me what I know about these things suffice to say that I was part of the client team responsible for two successful and highly praised 22 million pound projects to a Grade 1 Listed Government building in Whitehall. From my experience I can smell a rat.

    3. Perhaps a shower is overdue, John.

  3. Yawn, what are you going to write about when Royal Sands is finished?..I know, how about deplaidated shop fronts in Ramsgate starting with a certain bookshop! I wonder if it complies with the current DDA regulations??? I`m sure there must be a council department with time on thier hands that would look into it for me!

    The development will be completed despite your never ending unfounded interventions!

    1. Yawn, I think the point here is will anyone be able to get a mortgage to buy an apartment in this new development on a site that has been designated as a high risk flood zone since the plans for it were approved.

      As far as good reasons to close independent bookshops go, they will have join the queue, that would be behind the Kindle reader I think, obviously I am aware that the light at the end of the tunnel for retail bookshops is a train coming the other way

    2. anonymous, you claim that this development will be completed. This is reassuring. I agree that it is time someone interjected a positive note into this discussion. Would it were TDC. But I take comfort from what you say. Can you please tell me what has caused this delay; when will the development be completed; and how much will it cost?

    3. I can answer that for you John. Lack of money, when it gets more money and even more money

  4. It was sent back to cabinet for decision at this evenings meeting, I will endeavour to elaborate on this as soon as I can.

    1. I've blogged about it on

    2. I am a member of the National Press. If I was going to write an article about this project I would headline "SMALL MINDED CHILD ISH BLOGGER TRIES TO STIFLE PROGRESS FOR THE TOWN"

    3. Anonymous,

      You are Ramsgate Person and you are Broadstairs Person but a member of the national press? No that you are not.

  5. Broadstairs PersonApril 07, 2012 12:57 pm

    John, deeply offended for I posted as Broadstairs Person but Ramsgate Person I most definitely ain't. I might have gone to school in the place, but live there or label myself as such, no way. Mind you, you do have form for attacking those who choose to blog other than through named google accounts. Whatever turns you on for little else does in the twilight years - sad!

    1. Broadstairs PersonApril 07, 2012 1:25 pm

      John, did I imply an insult at you or do I write in an illiterate style? Yet you seem surprised I had an education. Well, for the record I did, Old Ruymian and proud of it. How about you? Which was your academy of learning, St. Lawrence perhaps?

  6. Broadstairs Person,

    You may have convinced yourself that you did not imply an insult. But I inferred that you did intend insult.

  7. Broadstairs Person (or BP to my friends)April 07, 2012 5:03 pm

    Inderstood, John, for you are dealing in the modern world where offence is given if the person it is directed at takes it as offensive. Would have thought that, like me, you are a bit too old for all that PC nonsense, but if I did offend I apologise. Mind you, it was you that called me Ramsgate Person first and how more insulting to someone from Broadstairs can you be.

  8. Broadstairs Person,

    I am not and was not insulted. It's water off a duck's back. And now I'm off to do something interesting.


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