Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The Riddle of the Sands, some thoughts on Pleasurama, the Labour administration and Ramsgate.


I would say that there is little doubt that Labours tenuous grip on power at TDC has a great deal to do with a lot of people in Ramsgate voting for them and I guess the Conservative group must realise that unless they can win some of Ramsgate back, then they will have difficulty regaining power.

In Ramsgate the general view of TDC is that it is focused on other parts of Thanet, particularly The Turner Contemporary.

Anyway tomorrow there will be a council cabinet meeting and one of the big issues for people living in Ramsgate, The Royal Sands development on the Pleasurama site, is coming before the Labour cabinet.

I think the idea here is that the cabinet will try to express the wishes of the people of Ramsgate who voted for them and try to come up with a good decision on this one.

Opinion in the town seems to divided into various lumps, there is the for gods sake get on with the thing group, there is the pull out of the thing and give us a swimming pool, skating rink group, the don’t have a clue about it group and so on.

My own feelings about the development is that it isn’t properly tailored for the site, doesn’t fit the available space physically, isn’t architecturally sympathetic with the town, has poorly planned parking and access. While I understand that the residential aspect of the this sort of development is essential to pay for any leisure component, I am not sure that such an intense concentration of dwellings will do any more that overstrain the existing infrastructure, parking access drains and so on.

Having said all of that I realise that something needs to be done urgently with the site urgently.

Taking the pragmatic view, I decided a long time ago that if the council and the developer were determined to attempt to go ahead with a development that I consider to both ill thought out and unsuitable for the site, I would do my best to ensure it was as successful as possible.

I guess the problem main factor at the moment that is beyond dispute is that the site has been designated high flood risk by The Environment Agency and that no flood risk assessment has been carried out.

There are other factors like the state of part of the cliff façade, but this is open to dispute and difficult to pursue.

Historically the site has had flood and storm problems, so we aren’t conjecturing about possible sea level rises, there are various recorded incidents recorded, an example being the 1953 storm when a ten ton crane that had been working on the beach was thrown over the sea defences and into the middle of where the development will be built, this is documented in the local papers and isn’t open to dispute.

So what I had hoped to do was to get the council officers, or get the councillors to get the officers to use the bargaining power created by selling the developer the freehold, to insist on a flood risk assessment.

I am particularly concerned about this one because of the condition of the sea defence, in front of the development, shown in the picture.    

This brings me to the rather strange riddle, who benefits from building the development without a flood risk assessment?

This is a difficult one that I can’t see any obvious answer to, so I will start by considering what the results of a flood risk assessment could be.

One result could be that it showed there was no problem, this would obviously be beneficial all round, it would make it much easier for the developer to borrow the money, to build the development and it would make it much easier for people buying apartments to get a mortgage. 



Another and I think more likely result would show that the sea defence in front of the building, like the sea defence behind Margate beach was inadequate and needed replacing or repairing.


With the development’s foundations built on sand and the only thing between it and the sea being the unmaintained 1860 defence, more sand and the promenade also built on sand, I guess I don’t really need to draw a diagram.  

The question who pays for any work a flood risk assessment shows needs doing to the sea defence? Could be where the answer to the riddle of the sand is. But as far as I can see any cost would come out of the national sea defence budget and wouldn’t be met by either the council or the developer.   



Of course I am hoping that the new Labour cabinet have persuaded the officers to persuade the developer to get a flood risk assessment done. All of the documents relating to tomorrows decision are secret, the meeting itself will be held in secret, the press and public will be excluded.


This rather does beg the question is that what the people of Ramsgate hoped for when they voted Labour, the secrecy I mean? 

In Ramsgate we are all aware that the ongoing saga of The Royal Sands and its crippling effect on our tourist economy is difficult to keep secret. We can see into the deserted building site from the cliff top, we can see the hanging garden or weeds growing from the expensively repointed and repainted cliff façade. 


The development started as a bright idea under the previous Labour administration, went from failure to failure under the last eight years of Conservative administration, so I guess we are all now wondering if the new Labour administration can come up with any solution or any novel approach.  

The Pleasurama site is in my council ward, the Eastcliff ward, two of my ward councillors are also cabinet members, so they will be aware of the problem the development is.  



James Maskell has done a post about tomorrows cabinet meeting, see http://villeviews.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/standards-and-cabinet.html his conclusion is that most of the issues to be discussed have forgone conclusions and will go through on the nod.


James has a much better understanding of local politics than I do, so I guess he is likely to be right on this. 

I am becoming concerned that our local politics has become a bit of a game and wonder if the logical and sensible decision making process has gone out of the window for the sake of this game.  


Perhaps the council are reluctant to have a flood risk assessment here because of the condition of Ramsgate Harbour wall.


 As you see from the picture workers are busy at the moment replacing the cracked tarmac on to of what looks very like a cracked structure, I guess close examination of this could be expensive for the council.


I will continue with this one, but have gone off to think about the question. 



Update, here is the council cabinet’s decision.

Last date for call in: 3 Aug 2012
Relevant Portfolio:
Date of Decision: 26 July 2012
Subject: Royal Sands - Development Agreement
Key Decision No In Forward Plan No
Brief summary of matter:
To agree the principle of a new development agreement for the Royal Sands site.
Decision made:
That the revised development agreement summarised in Annex 1 to the report is
agreed, with delegated authority granted to the Corporate and Regulatory Services
Manager to sign the final agreement, once all advance conditions are met, in
consultation with the Cabinet Member for Commercial Services.
Reasons for decision:
To replace the current development agreement with a revised agreement that allows the
developer to achieve the remaining funding for his proposals whilst ensuring that the
original outcome requirements for the Council are retained.
Alternatives considered and why rejected:
Consideration was given to whether entering into a new agreement should be declined
and action be taken with regards to any defaults on the existing agreement. However,
this was fraught with considerable legal risks and was not the preferred approach.
In addition, the Council could have sought a completely different basis for a new
agreement in relation to the funding, but, again, this has significant legal risks.
Both these issues raised serious concerns about the site remaining undeveloped for
years to the detriment of regeneration in Ramsgate.

Details of any conflict of interest declared by any executive Member who has been
consulted and of any dispensation granted by the Standards Committee:
None
Author and date of Officer report:
Mark Seed, Director of Operations
Background papers
Royal Sands - Development Agreement - Report to Cabinet, 26 July 12
Annex 1 - Summary of main points of draft development agreement
Statement if decision is an urgent one and therefore not subject to call-in:
N/A
Last date for call in: 3 Aug 2012

20 comments:

  1. Thanks for the mention Michael. Im going to trust to your analysis on Royal Sands because sadly, my knowledge of Ramsgate is limited.

    Most of the agenda has one real option, though its the Cabinet comments that will matter, particularly on the Corporate Plan and Budget Outturn, though it cant be said either good or bad that they found a 1.2m underspend because we cant see beneath the numbers.

    Pierremont Park could be fun. Ill be taking lots of notes, so hopefully the microphone system holds up...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Maybe Pleasurama is one for the new TDC corporate resources and transformation director a Mr Philip Hamberger.
    Starting on 30/7 and with an impressive career history, at least thats what the TDC press handout says.
    However a google search for him which I assume the appointments committee would have done is not so convincing and reveals some funny business concerning a £6 millions assets disposal at East Herts council.

    And he wants to meet officers to get up to speed. Maybe you should drop hime a line Michael.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Pleasurama is a disaster and needs cancelling and start again. The whole destroyed seafront needs to be looked at not just piecemeal bung-architecture.

    Almost 15 years wasted so there's no need for a rushed or secret decision.

    The apartments/shop/hotel etc - as when they were built above the cliff - simply do not fit into the space. The promenade is already narrowed.

    Secret tax haven companies, changing blueprints and council meetings in secret is a disgrace.

    Our councillors and civil servants have failed us again.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I see a Panorama programme here.

    ReplyDelete
  5. The Royal Sands acheme can end up doing for Ramsgate what Sandybanks did in Dorset. Lots of high profile residents,it is going to be fantastic for the Town.

    Michael keeps plugging away the same old rhetoric but the reality is that every statutory body in the land has approved the scheme.

    Its a fine set of buildings and I for one will look forward to frequenting the restaurants and cafe bars. I hear that a high profile celebrity chef could also be coming to Town. If we get anything like the Rocksalt Seafood restaurant that recently opened in Folkestone then HAPPY DAYS

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ramsgate could end up like Poole in Dorset? Somebody is on the juice. Any thoughts about the prospects for all Ramsgate's other cafes, restaurants and bars when all these new ones open? Still, why argue, because it is not going to happen in the foreseeable future anymore than is the period theme park over Margate way. Both sites are simply habitat for assorted flora and the less cuddly fauna like rats whilst providing grand schemes for discussion by less than adequate posers.

      Delete
    2. 10.58 as I said above, “I would do my best to ensure it was as successful as possible.”

      This leads me to wonder what your objective could be. I take it you agree that the site was EA designated high flood risk after the plans for the development were approved. I take it you agree that the foundations are resting on sand and weren’t pile bored as was previously intended. I take it you agree that the sea defence dates from 1860 and has no recorded maintenance or inspection since.

      Are you saying that you don’t think there should be a flood risk assessment before any further development?

      You do appreciate that the Rocksalt Seafood restaurant that recently opened in Folkestone is built behind a newly constructed EA standard sea defence that conforms to modern a very high standards of costal defence.

      Tom I think Ramsgate does have considerable potential, particularly because of the train journey time to London, which is now less than Whitstable. I guess a lot of the problems revolve around the various high profile council owned sites that have fallen into dereliction. Whichever way Ramsgate goes, I guess the business of getting the Pleasurama site right is very important, I am not so certain that people understand just how exposed this site can be in the winter though.

      Delete
  6. I used to live in Poole and Sandbanks has done absolutely nothing for the town. It's an enclave where the wealthy sit and enjoy their money. Little of that money finds its way into the town. I'm afraid you will have to do a lot better than to presume that an influx of wealthy people will in some way benefit Ramsgate, in general. You will have to explain which establishments will benefit from the wealthy punters and how much extra they will pay in local taxes. (As far as I'm aware, business rates aren't dependent on turnover). Put some figures on it and show us how this will improve our lives.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Now that fool Hart is sucking up to Infratil over the radar - two years after the windfarms were built and Manston up for sale with missing monitors and fines.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Perhaps it is down to the fact TDC is strapped for cash and needs the £3 million to pay for the money wasted in property speculation with KCC, isn't there a company that is part owned by tdc called EKO or something liked that with debts of a couple of million.
    I see we are on the director merry go round again with yet a new director appointed on a mere £90k. How does a good labour leader justify that when is it 2 or 3 directors were given redundancy last year. TDC directors seem akin to the leaders in animal farm.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Surely a good Labour leader is a conflict of terminology?

      Delete
    2. Yes: EKO, East Kent Opportunities. Several millions - hidden so details unknown. And various admin/legal charges with KCC and TDC. Supposedly it was developing Manston and roads - again the documents hidden so details unknown.

      The Thanet ChinaGate with Ken Wills was sort of part of that with Mansotn warehouses - but again approved without any details.

      We elect councillors to be secretive with public funds and projects it seems.

      Same with Pleasurama contracts, and 0% payrises.

      Delete
    3. But hasn't the Chief Executive been on the board of EKO for the last 5 or 6 years, surely details have to be in the annual accounts, and signed off by the chief accountant ?

      Delete
    4. Yes 12:39 presumably it was Richard Samuel previously and now Sue McGonigal. Again, presumably she's the Finance head at both times.

      Unusual to have the same person as CEO and FD but there we are. Given the 0% pay rises, mystery building plans etc par for the course for TDC.

      Payoffs, pension increases, secrecy and silence seems acceptable.

      Where are the EKO and Pleasurama contracts, invoices, payslips for the auditor to sign off?

      At the very least the civil servants and councillors could be doing nothing for their salaries or on the bung.

      Delete
  9. Went to Roksalt today...fine food and fine location...very exposed location...considerably more vunerable than Ramsgate......when I was down there today....there was a maintenace chap changing a light bulb on one of the external lights..a very polite chap...spent 5 mins with him...and it turns out that he works for Cardy.....same builders as for Royal Sands....it subsequently turns out they built Roksalt too.....small world.....good quality project....bodes well for Ramsgate.....If the Dehann family selected Cardy for such a prestigous project like the Roksalt then we should not have any worries regarding quality.....just checked out their website and it is very impressive

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Is Roksalt on the same scale as the Royal Sands, I must admit i do feel a bit sorry for the guys who purchased off plan for the Royal sands at the launch 6 or 7 years ago.

      Delete
    2. Agreed 12:43 Cardy build lots of things. Presumably they work from approved public plans and flood defences. Unlike Pleasurama, which I doubt that's on their website.

      A Caribbean tax haven company is fishy too.

      Delete
    3. Caribbean Queen.....wasnt that a boat.....lets hope it doesnt get wash up and landed on the beach at the 100 year storm aniticipated later this century......

      Having read Michael C's previous posts....does he consider that the Pavilion building (Peggy Sues and Tiberious) should never ever be occupied and used....as a result of the flood risk

      Delete
    4. You're saying the Caribbean tax haven is the Caribbean Queen? And a boat? That's as random as the song title below.

      You should be a councillor if you can only ignore the Pleasurama tax haven company or 0% salary shambles and make foolish comments.

      I doubt many of the exisitng lot will be re-elected without questions being asked of what they knew and did in the last few years with EKO, Dreamland, Manston, ChinaGate and Westwood and payoffs, arrests and resignations so there could be room for you.

      Delete
  10. Rolling rolling rolling keep those wagons rolling rawhide......hit up rollem in knock em down raw hide........doooby doo raw hide......

    ReplyDelete

Please note comments that may be libellous, comments that may be construed as offensive, anonymous derogatory comments about real people, comments baiting internet trolls, comments saying that an anonymous comment was made by a named real person, boring comments and spam comments, comments in CAPs will be deleted. Playground stuff like calling real people by their time stamp or surname alone, referring to groups as gangs, old duffers and so on will result in deletion. Comment that may be construed as offensive to minority groups is not allowed here either, so think before you write it, remember that the internet is a public place, that it is very difficult to be truly anonymous and that everyone who uses it leaves a trail of some sort. Also note the facility to leave anonymous comment will be turned of during periods when I am unable to monitor comment, this will not affect people commenting who are signed on to their blogger accounts. When things are particularly difficult on the commercial spam front I may turn comment moderation on for periods.

If you feel that someone has left a comment that is offensive and directed at you personally please email me (link on the sidebar) asking to have it removed, you will need to tell which post and the date and timestamp of the offending comment. Please do not reply to the offending comment as I will assume you continuing the dialogue as meaning that you want the comments left there.