Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Kent International Airport at Manston, Night Flights Consultation Ends This Week.


I still haven’t responded to this consultation, mainly because I am a bit uncertain about what it is that the airport are asking for, so this morning I had a long chat with Charles Buchanan who runs the airport.

I put a series of questions to him, which I will run through first and then try to give a general picture of what he had to say. I will do my best not to misquote him and try and convey a general and concise picture of what he had to say. 

1 Would you consider accepting a similar ratio of night flights today time flights as that enjoyed by Heathrow and Gatwick? Answer, no.

2 Would you consider running a test week where you have the maximum number of night flights you are asking for, so we can tell what we would actually get in terms of sleep disruption? Answer, not practical.

3 There has been some suggestion that the 106 agreement may not actually be a legal document and that some locals may be going to challenge its validity in the courts, do you have any views on this? Answer, I view it as a valid and legal agreement with the council.

4 Presumably if the 106 proved to be invalid then the previous section 52 would come into effect, any idea what the terms of this are? If you have a copy perhaps you could send it to me. Answer not applicable as I view the 106 as valid. 

5 My guess is that the only medium term viable expansion of the airport would be as a mixture of a historic aircraft centre and small regional airport, in other words if you continue to subsidise it at a six figure level you might just as well do something popular as unpopular, any thoughts on this? Answer, although the existing historic aircraft attractions at Manston are something the airport is happy to support I don’t consider this area could be significant in generating a profitable and viable airport.

6 I can only find the Manson monthly operational reports up to September on the Infratil website, are they being withheld for any reason? If not could you send me copies? Answer, These are provided as shareholder information by the investment company, which isn’t my remit, that said I will find out and supply them if possible.

7 Is it your intention to move to operating a freight only airport, or an airport based around freight? Answer, no the intention is to create a balanced passenger and freight airport, although I would expect there to be times during the expansion period when on or another aspect will expand faster. 

8 It says on your website that responses to the consultation may be sent to TDC, does this mean that the consultation on your website is different to the council’s? Answer. No this is the same consultation.

9 What proportion of responses are you sending to the council? Answer. All of the responses will be sent on to the council.

10 Are you only sending responses that are for night flights? Answer, no

Could you give a layman’s explanation of the maximum amount of night time flying you are asking for in terms of types and amounts of planes? I. E. how many 747s and when. Answer. It is important to understand that this is a quota system, where more nosier planes count the same as less quieter planes, so it isn’t possible to give a precise answer.

Could you give a layman’s explanation of what you would expect to be a noisy week based on what you would actually expect to be flying assuming the airport was running profitably? Answer (I think I have got this right but my notes are not as good as I hoped here) about two movements a night.

I have heard now from three different sources that you are engaged in trying to sell the airport to a Middle Eastern operator, is this true? Answer No

Are Infratil trying to sell the airport? Answer, this is not my remit but that of the investment company Infratil.

I have also heard that Flybee pulled out, not because they were unhappy with
Manson, but because Infratil wouldn’t make the investment in facilities there that they wanted, is there any truth in this? Answer No

That is the bones of the thing and in my defence if I have muddled the thing up I did send the questions to Charles by email and it was his idea to have a chat about them rather than just answer them by email.

I will now try to put across what we discussed as I get time so I hope to get all of this post finished by early evening.




In a general sense I would
say that Charles sees the airport as being beneficial to Thanet and being a
main driving force in getting visitors here and boosting the local tourist
economy. 
His big hope is to get
an airline to operate in a serious way from Manston.
You also have to appreciate
that I am not anti airport, in a general sense when I hear a plane come over,
my reaction is to grab my camera not complain about the noise, so this wasn’t a
hostile discussion.
With the night flights
issue, my problem is that we just don’t know what night flights would be like
in terms of sleep disruption, because we haven’t ever experienced them.
In a more general sense we have never experienced
having a busy operational airport here, but the consultation is about night
flights, so I will try to stick to the thread.  

I would say that his
main take on the night flights situation is that at the moment there is no real
regulation and that if night flights are not part of a regular time table, then
they are pretty much unregulated.

What he says he wants
in terms of night flights is a consistent allowance that would allow him to operate
a viable business in a predictable way.

I would view this as a
budget regulating how much inconvenience he is allowed to give local people and
in return for this the airport offers the possibility of some economic benefits.



Something I did find interesting was that Charles seemed surprised that people had moved here unaware that there was an airport operating close by. I have lived here on and off since about 1967 and I don’t recall aircraft operations being a major factor in local life apart from the recent training flights.


I guess since Air Ferry, the first airline to operate from Manston, failed in 1967, use of the airport has been sporadic and locals haven’t ever considered it that seriously.   


Some of this is about perception I may have got this wrong, but I but I got the impression that Charles had the impression that local people were in some way used to having a busy airport here and therefore knew what to expect.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Councillors Ian Driver and Mike Harrison an internet war, humour political correctness splitting the Red Party ranks?

 I have to admit to not really understanding Facebook, I do have a Facebook website and I have it set up so that it automatically puts up the blog posts that I put up here.

I do get various notification asking me to be friends with people, often people who I don’t know, unless the person asking is obviously up to something dodgy or trying to sell something, then I usually ok these requests.

I guess eventually I will do what one does with ITC and that is to fight with Facebook until I understand it.

Anyway last night I had one of these Facebook requests that I don’t really understand and it said:

Ian Driver suggested you like Thanet Says Stand Down Harrison...  I think the link will open this facebook campaign page even if you don’t have a Facebook account http://www.facebook.com/pages/Thanet-Says-Stand-Down-Harrison/391888930837259

So here we have one local councillor mounting a campaign to remove another, which would change the political balance at Thanet District Council from Labour Leadership to Conservative.

This appears to be because one councillor used the phrase “frustrated, dried up bint” on his blog see http://newingtonblogspot.blogspot.com/2012/01/leeches.html

 Anyway what councillor Mike Harrison said that caused this was: “I see that some frustrated, dried up bint has complained about bus drivers, taxi drivers and tradesmen calling her ‘love’. Is that any worse than those people calling me ‘mate’ I ask. Well no its not.”

I suppose the calling of people you don’t know, love, mate, darlin, brov, and so on, is part of the way people communicate, the general, “I am alive and so are you” type of comment usually associated with humanity. In a way it’s very like Facebook and people who you don’t asking “be friends with me”

I was born in 1953 and when I was a teenager the word bint as a description of a female of the species was still in use, although I think getting a little dated. I think it had made its way into some British films, Carry On, Confessions Of and so on, it had mostly the same sort of meaning as, “bit of crumpet” I don’t recall it being particularly derogatory at the time.

I guess the thing about common parlance is that no one much really thinks to object to it at the time it is common parlance.

What does interest me in what Ian Driver’s motives are in attempting to get the Conservative group back into the position where they control the council. There is also the business of Mike Harrison taking a strong stance against what he takes as homophobic comments, see http://newingtonblogspot.blogspot.com/2012/01/normal-0-false-false-false.html while making what some perceive as outrageous comments about women.
 Would it, for instance be ok for another woman to refer to a dried up old bint, or a homosexual to refer limp queer, but not ok for a heterosexual man to do this?

Well apparently not as Ian was also offended by being called a tosser, see http://www.thisiskent.co.uk/Councillor-quit-Labour-group-row/story-13298085-detail/story.html I guess it wasn’t Pancake Day.

When it comes to local councillors, just about the only way I have of finding out about them is via the internet, my impressions of them are formed there, particularly by what they write there themselves. Frankly councillors without an online presence I find suspicious, anyone who claims to represent local people and has no website, never emits a tweet, is either an techno illiterate, or being secretive and wouldn’t get my vote if I could avoid it. This would be the same for a councillor who didn’t have a telephone, never appeared in the local papers, or was conventionally illiterate.



I will ramble on here, the subject is a bit like a bit of food stuck in a hole in a tooth. 

Monday, 27 February 2012

Monday ramble a few pictures, you know type of thing.


I really ought to respond to the comment on the previous post, but don’t seem to be in the mood.

I did a bit of painting and drawing over the weekend and decided I wasn’t happy about the various tubes of green watercolour I had, I guess with spring coming on I ought to sort this one out. The trouble with paint is you can’t just go and try a bit before you buy a bit, with the cheapest being about £5 for a 5ml tube, it can be expensive. I usually mix my greens from blue and yellow, but yesterday I bought a tube of Hookers Green, which I have been playing with.   

The picture above has a pale green sky and a pale blue sea, to me on my computer screen the sea looks a sort of purpley blue and the sky a sort of grey green. Perhaps one needs to use special paints if one is going to take photographs of the pictures.

A few pictures on the camera card mostly from Saturday, see http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/212/id5.htm


Anyone got any idea what OZE means? In Ramsgate we have has a Mr Beano Café in the High Street and now one of the cafés in King Street has metamorphosised into an OZE Beano Café, any one know what this means? Is there a difference is it a chain , is this a sub chain, has it anything to do with Bash Street? 



I will ramble on about them as I get time


Excuse this just playing with my greens 

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Kent International Airport Manston Night Flights Consultation


The anti night flights lobby has taken to the road in a classic bus, when I went out for my lunchtime walk today it was parked up at Ramsgate Harbour and there were lots of local people discussing night flights, aircraft noise and writing responses to the open consultation being carried out by Thanet District Council.

Regardless of your feelings about night flights I would recommend having your say on this issue, when it comes local consultation this is an important one and like it or not local government is moving slowly towards using local consultations to make decisions.

The internet really does theoretically make it possible to do without politicians and ask everyone who wants to, to make the decisions instead.

If you want to take part in this consultation you have until Friday to do this online click on the link http://www.thanet.gov.uk/council__democracy/consultation/night-time_flying_policy.aspx for the council’s webpages about the consultation.

The council haven’t made this an easy one, you can’t just enter your name and postcode and tick, yes I want night flights of no I don’t want night flights. What you have to do is send them an email or write to them.

Responses must contain your full name and address (WITH YOUR POSTCODE) either email your response to consultation@thanet.gov.uk or post it to:

Thanet District Council,
PO Box 9,
Margate,
CT9 1XZ

The airport’s main argument for night flights is that they will help with the economic regeneration of Thanet, their latest documentation is here http://www.manstonairport.com/userfiles/files/Night-flight-policy/Plane-Speaking-newsletter-after-event-LR.pdf

They also seem to running their own night flights consultation and you can of course email your responses to consultation@manstonairport.com

According to their latest document you can: “take a moment to let us and Thanet District Council know your thoughts on our proposed night-time flying
policy and the future of Manston Airport.”

Then it says: “Your comments may also be forwarded to Thanet District Council.”

I have to admit that my taking an even handed approach to this issue is wearing a bit thin, I had assumed that the airport was taking this issue seriously and maintaining a professional approach to the issue, but this sort of nonsense is not helpful. 

I have heard now from three independent sources that the airport operators are in the process of trying to sell the airport to a Middle Eastern operator. I have also heard that Flybee pulled out of the airport because the operator wasn’t to prepared to invest in their facilities there.

I am of course treating this as rumour at the moment, but I think this is a different consultation viewed with a background of an operator minimising investment and trying to sell the airport, than it would be with an operator with a long term commitment to the airport.

I have given this consultation a considerable amount of thought and concluded that I can’t make an informed response without some experience of the disruption that the night flights the want would make.

Frankly with out a period of actual night flights being made over Ramsgate by the loudest planes they are asking for flying the maximum number of flights at the most disruptive of hours, I just don’t know if I would get enough sleep to function properly.



I have suggested before that one way out to this problem, that would actually link the level of disruption to the actual economic benefits, would be to allow the airport the same proportion of night flights to day flights as that enjoyed by Heathrow and Gatwick airports.


Something that concerns me is that there is always money to be made out of the increasingly strict environmental controls being imposed across the world and that any commercial operation that has lesser environmental controls than its competition is able to exploit this situation at a profit, to the detriment of the area the operate in.    

I will continue with this as I get time.     

Friday, 24 February 2012

Day off in Deal Kent a few pictures and some thoughts on painting.


My day off yesterday, which was mostly spent buying books to top up areas in my bookshop, as I was lumbered down with bags of books most of the time the photos are a bit mixed quality wise, here is the link to what was on the camera card http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop212/id8.htm

We had lunch at The Coffee Shop, 1 High Street, very good value and worth knowing about if you are doing Deal on a limited budget.

My wife’s beef baguette and hot chocolate, my pasta, can’t remember what it is called out of the two pasta options they have it’s the one with meat in and my pot of tea, came to about a tenner all in.

The painting, watercolor in public is coming on a bit, as I have said before this is as much matter of nerve than ability and as the various people I know who paint and draw have discussed this one with me, I am going to ramble on about it with some pictures from my sketchbook and pictures of equipment.

I guess some people wonder why when there is so much amateur art about, paintings for sale almost everywhere you go now and normally mostly of the place you go to, you don’t actually see anyone actually paint them.

For me this is linked to the question, why not just take a photo and not bother with the painting, drawing, sketching business? As far as I can work out the majority of modern pictures of places that you see around have been painted by copying from photographs.


Take the photo above of the Deal Fishmonger, it should get larger if you click on it, I would think anyone could turn it into a painting of some sort, you could trace it and colour it in.
You could make a lose sketch of it like this, this one is India ink so I won’t smudge if you paint on it. I just moved it up under the photo, makes it easier to compare. 


Right at the other end of the scale is what happens if you paint straight with a brush sitting in the street.
The chaps with the motorbike had to move it out of the way so the red car could get out and then the dark coloured car parked there all in the 10 mins the picture took while drinking a cup of tea. 


Of course it isn’t a good picture, it was just intended to be a notation of aspects of the scene, in the same way the photo isn’t a good photo, I didn’t get time to do a pencil sketch which would have combined with the watercolour sketch into something I just may have produced a better watercolour with. 


I had in the back of my mind the way I think Turner composed his watercolour of Ramsgate harbour, see http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/2012/02/ramsgate-joseph-mallord-william-turner.html


 Well I splashed a bit of colour in the sketch, which may be an improvement.


I can’t emphasise the benefits of the Winsor and Newton field box that holds the paint and water enough, although I should also say that it is very important to remove any of the colours you don’t use and replace them with the ones you do. You also need to put strips of thin card beside the half pans (little plastic containers that hold the paint) to stop them rattling about.   


You really can wipe it over with the tiny sponge that comes with it, pour the water back into the container, put it back in your pocket without so much as a damp patch.

I will ramble on here and add some pictures if I get time.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Midweek ramble and a few pictures

We are a bit busy this week with a large collection of fiction, theology and history books, secondhand book wise the bible is still one of, if not the best-selling book. Some bibles even come with opening instructions, possibly aimed at those looking for the key.
 There was a large amount of Sherlock Holmes in this collection, always as well to remember that most of the Sherlock Holmes stories were not written by Conan Doyle, but by authors who followed on and wanted to have a go at writing with the characters. 

Looking around my bookshop for examples of this, here is one by Spike Milligan, this copy is more fun than the average as Spike signed it. 

As you see there are modern authorized stories still coming out.

I did get out at lunch time and take a few pictures, I obviously need to clean the camera out as it has developed bits, sorry about this, anyway a few thoughts on the pictures, here they are http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/212/id4.htm

The road surface and pavements of King Street are getting in bit of a state and on Monday there were some ward councilors, county councilor and cabinet members doing a walk around of Ramsgate town center.

As the whole business of the state of our town centers seems to hang between the various local councils I asked them if they could have look at the pavement and road layout so that when the money is spent fixing the problem, we could at least get the worst of the problems facing pedestrians sorted out.

The layout of King Street dates from when it was a busy two way traffic rout through the town, now it is a one way road that only leads to a car park there is potential for widening pavements where it is difficult for people in wheelchairs and people with pushchairs, they seem agreeable to looking at the issue.

Strange to see the tower block with a ground floor window boarded up, I wonder what caused this.

The new house on Plains of Waterloo has wound up with a street lamp in front of the front door.

It does seem that work has stopped on building The Royal Sands at the Pleasurama site, my guess is that they are waiting on the results of next month’s council cabinet meeting, although I suppose it could be because I forwarded on the information the council sent me about the sea defense to the contractor.

The Pavilion is looking sad and deserted; I hope the council will try to do something about it soon.
The scaffolding is coming of Pier Castle, Peters Fish Factory, Belgian Café, or whatever you call it. It seems to be looking OK which is a relief as it is one of the oldest Ramsgate buildings not to have listed status.

The scaffolding seems to be coming of The Alexandra although the work on the building doesn’t seem to be finished which is a bit strange.

A low flying cargo plane came over, which reminds me I need to address the night flying consultation, I guess thinking about this one I don’t really know properly what the airport are asking for. By this I mean, I know they are asking for night flights for planes below a certain noise level, but I don’t really know how loud the planes they want to fly over the town at night are.   

Friday, 17 February 2012

Royal Sands Development on the old Pleasurama site in Ramsgate comes back before the council cabinet, an update.

When I did my last two Pleasurama updates which involved asking Thanet District Council and Cardy Construction the contractor building the development questions about the development, the answers I got led me to ask more questions and make some assumptions.

This combined with some historical research and another foi request to the council has produced enough information for another post updating the situation.

First the legal position with the leases and the development agreement.

Here are the documents for anyone interested http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/pda/

Back in October of last year I got the following answers from the council:

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.

You can read the post about this at http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/2011/10/royal-sands-development-on-pleasurama.html if you want more information.

What I took this to mean is that the council haven’t agreed to the changes that the developer has to make to continue in the way they say they are going to on their website http://www.royalsandsramsgate.co.uk/

By this I mean building the hotel last, in fact starting from the other end of the site to the one agreed in the development agreement. My understanding is that these changes will have to go back to the council for agreement and that the council will have to amend the agreement again.

I would guess until this happens the development is pretty much stuck, I also assumed that the council would have to check on the status of financial guarantees and progress so far and that the option to determine the development agreement would come before cabinet once again.

Second progress on the site.

I think the most worrying thing here is the contractor’s assurances, combined with their heath and safety documentation has suggested for over a year now that there would imminently be about 200 workers on the site rapidly building the development.

In practice what has happened for the last year is that there have been between two and four workers on the site, using very inexpensive materials to produce unexpectedly shallow foundations.

Throughout the last year the speculation has been, is this really the start of construction, or is it a delaying tactic to keep the option open to develop the site?

To expand on this, the developer seems to have done the absolute minimum in terms of expenditure and resources, that would comply with the delays allowed in the development, agreement assuming the council was notified of those delays. As they haven’t notified the council it looks like we have come to crunch time on this aspect too.

What the council have published about this is a bit vague, see http://tdc-mg-dmz.thanet.gov.uk/mgIssueHistoryHome.aspx?IId=14755

Third the flood and storm risk


One of the main problems with this site is it sits on land reclaimed by the sea and is in a high risk flood zone, the environment agency have already recommended that there is a proper flood risk assessment see http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/ea/

Having read this document I thought the greatest danger in a big storm with a high tide was overtopping by the sea, now I have more serious concerns. 

This story goes back to about the time of Christ when the first harbour was made at Ramsgate, at this time the cliffs would have gone straight down to the sea as far as about the low tide level, where the solid chalk bedrock that forms the seabed here would have been.

The harbour was started by extending out north-eastern side of the natural inlet and forming groins to hold the sand in place to protect it in easterly storms.

This map published in 1736 shows the situation then, as you can see part of the Pleasurama site has already been reclaimed by the build-up of sand. 

By the 1790s the harbour had been completed and this further extension of the East Pier produced the shelter that allowed more sand to build up. 
This map was produced in 1849 click on the link for the whole map, greatly enlarged http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/map1849/ as you can see by then pretty much all of the site has been reclaimed.



As far as I can tell the natural shape of the reclaimed area produced by the harbour wall is that shown in the map.


The next major step forward with this site was turning it into a railway station in 1860. what they did was to build up the level on top of the sand with chalk dug from the railway tunnel and face the seaward inclined front of this pile of chalk with small slabs cemented onto it.

This 1872 map shows the situation then, click on this link for an enlargement of the whole map http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/map1872/ these map enlargements are best viewed in internet explorer.

The groins to collect sand in the hope of protecting the structure are clearly visable.


The railway company that built this railway extension from Herne Bay were in a hurry, they cut quite a few corners and the opening of the line was delayed for two years because some of the bridges they had built were condemned.

After the railway had opened there were various structural failures of bits of the associated civil engineering the most dramatic of which was the north Thanet sea defence between Reculver and Birchington.

This failed in a storm and in one night about ten square miles of land and about four miles of the railway were washed out by the sea.
Here is a photo of them filling the area back in after building a proper concrete sea defence.     


My various enquires have reached a stage where the council have agreed that the sea defence, in front of the Pleasurama site, is so old that they don’t have any plans relating to it.

They have sent me plans of the recent concrete promenade, but they reveal that this is just sitting on the old sand beach and the pile of chalk.

OK time for a diagram, the grey bit is the solid chalk cliff and seabed, the yellow bit the sand the sea has deposited, the red bit the sea wall between the Pleasurama site and the beach, and the green bit the chalk infill.



The original idea mentioned in the documents produced by the council’s engineers, see the pages at http://thanetonline.com/cliff was to screw the development to the solid chalk seabed.


What has happened instead is that the developer has opted for shallow load spreading concrete foundations resting on the sand that was deposited by the sea.

As what the sea leaves behind it can also take away again, this makes sea wall important.

Most of the sea walls in Thanet were designed by and are maintained by The environment Agency, this is very evident in Margate at the moment where major works are being undertaken on the sea walls there, to prevent damage during a big storm.

As far as I have been able to find out the only bit of sea wall in Ramsgate that isn’t a modern well maintained structure, is the bit in front of the Pleasurama site, this is owned and maintained by the council.   
 We have a bit of history locally of council maintained structures failing.
The nearest is the harbour wall shown in these pictures.



I do have a lot of correspondence about this issue, which I will publish eventually, but at the moment I am trying to keep a complicated issue as simple as possible.


The problem here is not so much whether the sea defence is up to the task of protecting the sand that the building stands on in the event of a serious storm, but really at the much earlier stage of no one having evaluated the sea defence.



Fourth Cliff Safety Issues

The council’s cliff façade inspection was delayed and they have promised to send me the report when the work is complete.  



Fifth Summery of the Situation

Once again this development is coming before the council, this time: “To make changes to the development agreement in relation to the provisions for third party funders, the timing of parts of the development, the guarantees supporting the agreement and the agreed project milestones.”

I take this to mean further delays, the financial aspects are not my province so I won't even try to guess at what third party funders and guarantees supporting the agreement implies.

My take has always been that a proper flood risk assessment and a cliff condition assessment independent of those involved in the cliff repair contract both need to happen before anything else is done on site.

Essentially to address the basic safety issues, especially those highlighted by The Environment Agency, for a development of over 100 residential units, hotel, road, shops and restaurants for a structure that is likely to have about 1,000 people in it.



Back in 2009 this issue came before cabinet, at that time the development had been delayed so much that it had breached the terms of the previous development agreement. 


What the developer put to the cabinet then was that they would finish the ground works by August 2010, the wording in the cabinet document is completion of Groundworks, Piling and Services.

There certainly hasn’t been any sign of piling, the laying of sewers water mains, gas mains or anything apart from the unexpectedly shallow foundations.

Back in 2009 the council officers recommended that the cabinet ended the development agreement, so I am assuming that there is a possibility of the agreement and therefore the development coming to an end when it comes befor cabinet next month.   

Whichever way it goes this decision is a very major one for the future of Ramsgate, the building is much larger than The Turner Contemporary, the asset is the most prominent and largest council owned empty site in the town.

All through the decade of this saga the amount of public information, consultation has been just about zero, the damage done to the economy of the town in having the main leisure site an unsightly mess has been incalculable.  



Finally there is my personal view of the development.

I have always considered this to be one of the most demanding sites anyone could build a residential development on and from the outset I looked for anyone involved that had any experience of the main problems associated with this site, that wouldn’t exist on an ordinary building site. One being building very close to an unsupported chalk cliff and the other being building right behind the beach on the foreshore.

My understanding is that there is a millionaire behind the development who I don’t think has any experience with the problems associated with this site.

Various contractors have come and gone and various things have been done and presumably some of them have made quite a bit of money, some aspects of the work so far are just beyond belief.

One example here is the large roundabout at the pavilion end of the site, first what could a roundabout of this size there possibly be for? Next why lay it all at great expense and then dig it up again to put the surface drain in?

Another is the two way road between the development and the cliff, anyone can see how narrow parts of this are, the implications of a lorry catching either a building support or the cliff façade seem pretty obvious. 


On several occasions over the past about eight years I have discussed this development with senior council officers and councillors see http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/seafront/index.htm and http://www.thanetonline.com/Pleasurama and http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/tdc/ followed by multiple blog postings http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/search/label/Pleasurama%20development over that time various goal posts have moved, some of the issues I have raised have been addressed and some just haven’t.  

Sometime early in this dialogue my concerns about the site switched from those about the look of the thing, which frankly is pretty awful, partly because of the chopping of the gull winged roof to get most of the building below the cliff and partly because the architect has never addressed the problem that the roof of the building will be viewed form the adjacent cliff top path, to those about the safety of the building.

I think they originally intended to go ahead with the development without doing anything to the cliff at all, I think it fair to say that it was this intention to build so close to a cliff façade with a serious structural defect, that first put me on my guard about the safety issues. 



Now I have a new safety problem and to understand, you have to appreciate I already have a situation where the environment agency have said in writing that the development should have a flood risk assessment.


I now have written confirmation from the council that they have no plans for the sea defence in front of the development. This means that have nothing whatsoever on which to base any understanding of its ability to withstand a severe storm.



I would guess position with the sea defence is in rather the same category as the cliff where the developer’s contractor examined part of it, found it to be defective, the developer seems to have used this information as a delaying tactic, when it was convenient, but is now ignoring the defects and carrying on regardless.


There is a difference between providing a reasonably safe development and shifting all of the responsibility to the council. There is also a limit to the amount that can be spent by the council in making this development safe for the duration of its life.

With the cliff façade we have got as far as determining that part of the structure is reasonably safe and well constructed, the arched part, the developer’s contractor even went as far as checking the foundations of one of the pillars and found it to be sound.

Unfortunately we have also got as far as determining that part of the structure has problems, doesn’t appear to be reasonably well constructed, the developers contractor even went as far as checking the foundations of one of the pillars and found that instead of a concrete foundation there was just a pile of muddy chalk, see http://thanetonline.com/cliff/ 

If the council goes down the road with the sea defence that they went down with the cliff, they will commission several reports on it, spend a six figure sum on repairs and we will all be looking at another three or four years of delay.

The underlying problem is that both the cliff wall and the sea wall weren’t designed to protect a residential development, the standard of both these structures is appropriate to a fun fair and amusement arcade.     


Over the last year or so, I have asked the council about the ongoing liability of the development, as things stand it would seem that the council have to pay to maintain the cliff and the sea defence, to a sufficient standard to protect residential dwellings.

With a lot of the cliffs in Thanet the normal standard is you can walk under them but there is I sign warning you not to sit under them and with the other council maintained sea defence in Ramsgate, the harbour’s east pier, there is sign telling you not to go on it in stormy weather, I guess the pictures above are an indicator of why doing so could be unwise.

With the cliff façade the council have already said they will have to spend money on the part at the Broadstairs end and they have already spent money on the portal part at the lift end since the £1m repair contract.

It is important to appreciate that cliffs and sea defences have an element of risk attached to them which increases as the man made structures associated with them ages.

The officers I have asked about this have chosen to interpret these enquiries only in terms of worst case scenarios, saying that the council have insurance cover for when these structures fail, however I think the main cost is in preventing them from failing.



Politics and Responsibilities

I hadn’t really expected much in the way of comments on this post until I had finished it, but there is already some comment suggesting that this is a political issue, or at least there needs to be someone to blame, probably a politician or a group of politicians.

I think in terms of politics that actual planning application slipped under the political net. Around ten years ago under the old Labour council administration there were plans for a smaller development, one well below the cliff, which was backed by Whitbread the brewers.

With these big applications there is usually a great heap of architectural drawings and a document called the planning and design statement, with mock up pictures and an explanation of what is going to be built.

I am not saying here that the Whitbread proposal was a good one that would have got through planning, it never reached that stage. However from the planning and design statement it looked OK and as far as I understand both the Labour Group and the Conservative group were behind it.

During the time when we changed from a Labour to a Conservative administration, which is when the local politician have their eyes off the ball, Whitbread pulled out and their partner SFP that I think were supposed to be the investors not the developers took over the project. At some point in all of this the planning drawings changed although the planning and design statement remained pretty much the same.

By the time anyone realised the building had changed it was to late to object to the planning application and of course the local politicians had backed the thing.

We then entered the bizarre situation where plans had been approved for a building that was too tall to fit in the space between the high tide mark and the top of the cliff.



When it comes to the blame game, there are a few things that don’t add up, decisions that looked weighed unreasonably in favour of the developer and against any local consultation.


One of these was when the gull winged roof was removed, which I think should have been viewed as material change and ought to have resulted in a new planning consent.

This would have meant a mandatory flood risk assessment and local people having a chance to object to the development.

There was the cabinet meeting of 19th June 2009 when the development agreement came before cabinet with officer recommendations to terminate the agreement, mostly in financial grounds.

I have asked why the Conservative group went against offices advice on this one, even asked Simon Moores on several occasions where he has commented in blog threads, but have had no meaningful response.

My guess is that it may be to do with spiting Ramsgate where the there is a Labour majority or it may be to do with some special relationship with the developer. Councillors don’t often go against the advice of senior officers, so they may have had a genuine and legitimate reason to do so.

There was the granting of the leases without going through the asset disposal process, which once again would have involved public consultation. 

How we got to a situation where all of the expensive liability wound up with the council is unclear, I can understand the sea defence which has always been the councils problem, but I believe with the previous lease the cliff façade was the responsibility of the amusement company.

There is also the developer’s responsibility, not pursuing the contractors investigation of the cliff, but I think worst of all ignoring the Environment agency’s strong recommendations for a flood risk assessment and safe emergency escapes from the development.



Another issue here relates to building control, over the past few years I discussed the issue with the head of building control and the officer in charge of major projects, both of these officers have left the council now and as always I don’t put officers names on the blog.


However they both told me that my concerns about the safety of the buildings design, particularly in terms of ability to withstand a tidal surge storm would be handled by the council at the building control stage.

They said that at this point the council would receive detailed planning drawings and that the council’s building control department would ensure that the designs contained features to withstand the special problems related to the site.

To me the construction looks about a light as it could be for a structure of this height on an ordinary site away from an unsupported cliff and high risk tidal flood zone.

I now gather that the information that the council officers gave me was wrong and the developer is able to use a private outside firm for building control, which is what the developer has done.

I have contacted this firm and had assurances that the person dealing with the building control would discuss some of the issues, but the have never returned my communications.   



I think that is about it, sorry it was such a long post, I am still waiting for some of the documentation, but as I said I will publish the supporting documents. 

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Turner Contemporary Margate and how do you take a picture of something that isn’t there, a day off ramble about this and that.


With The Turner Contemporary there was one work of art that was there when the gallery first opened, see http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/2011/04/pictures-of-inside-turner-contemporary.html this means that to those of us who know the gallery from the beginning have come to accept this as part of the building.

Frankly when the gallery’s first exhibition which this work of art was part of closed and all the other artworks were removed leaving this one behind looked like a case of aesthetic cold feet on the part of the management.

What I am talking about here is “Borrowing and Multiplying the Landscape” by Daniel Buren, well I wrote abut this exhibit ages ago, see http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/2011/04/turner-contemporary-revisited-some-more.html

Well now it’s gone and about time I think, there is a blank canvas to photograph people and “The Kiss” against.


The Turner Contemporary fascinates me, it was very busy today and obviously busy with visitors with money to spend, although for the most part Margate has lost places to spend it.

There was a queue of parents and children waiting to spend £2 on painting with the elements, I rather like the idea letting children paint with fire.

Something that occurred to me looking at the Turner paintings today is that Turner didn’t sign any of them. So I guess having a signed Turner would be a bit suspicious, some on ones tried to sell me I signed first edition of “Under Milk Wood, Dylan Thomas died the year before it was published.



The protestors were still there, chatting to the gallery visitors and taking advantage of the milder weather to thaw out a bit.
Another new neighbour for the gallery is The Ramsgate Tunnels exhibition in the Droit House. 


Coming back to photographs in the gallery I have to say I miss the opportunity to take photographs in the upstairs gallery, although I understand why it has to be forbidden, I do wonder how in an age when everyone’s mobile phone contains a camera how long this sort of photography ban will remain workable.

Anyway I did take some pictures today here is what was on the camera card http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/laptop212/id7.htm 


I see the shadow cabinet details are still missing from the council’s website, something that is beginning to look like more than a TDCIT glitch, perhaps they really are having a reshuffle.



Like the significance of the absence of “Borrowing and Multiplying the Landscape” by Daniel Buren, the significance of something missing reminds me of the poem.

Indeed the very existence of this artwork meant that a large proportion of what’s in the picture above wasn't there.

Yesterday upon the stair
I met a man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
Oh, how I wish he’d go away
When I came home last night at three
The man was waiting there for me
But when I looked around the hall
I couldn’t see him there at all!
Go away, go away, don’t you come back any more!
Go away, go away, and please don’t slam the door
Last night I saw upon the stair
A little man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
Oh, how I wish he’d go away

Do I miss the missing infinity? I don’t really know yet, perhaps I will know better when I get used to them taking away what mostly wasn’t there. 

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Thanet District Council Shadow Cabinet Reshuffle?

I have just noticed that all of the Conservative shadow cabinet members details have gone from the council’s website http://tdc-mg-dmz.thanet.gov.uk/mgCommitteeDetails.aspx?ID=335 the Labour cabinet details are still there, so this does beg the question are they going to have a reshuffle in the hope of ingratiating the independents and making a leadership bid, or is it just another TDCIT glitch?  

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Thanet District Council’s leisure websites complaint update.


Of the things that I periodically raise with the council I think the issue of how the council promotes local leisure on the internet is becoming increasingly more important.

When the council failed to promote the royal visit of the Queen to Margate, see http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/2011/11/council-website-misplaces-royal-visit.html I decided that enough was enough and I was going to take the problem of the council’s three dysfunctional tourism websites all the way through the complaints system until I got some sort of improvement.

The current complaint is one of several I have made about this subject, this link takes you to my pervious post about it
http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/2012/01/what-do-you-do-when-thanet-district.html the correspondence there takes you up to a couple of weeks ago when I asked them to send it for further review.

Below in red their response received today.

Dear Mr Child

Customer Feedback Reference:33343/1962152

Thank you for your recent communication which was received on 11/01/2012, where you raised a number of concerns about the way we promote events on our websites.

As you complaint refers to events, I must begin our response by noting that it is not part of the Council’s remit to promote events.  Whilst, we accept that events are good for the area, it is not our goal to promote every event, which is a key part of the event organiser’s role.  Some organiser’s will ask for the Council’s support (which we primarily offer through our Tourism website), some ask the Press but, equally, some do not promote their events at all.

With regard to the points made in your complaint, I would like to offer the following response:

Warming Words is a Thanet District Council organised programme and we apologise that events for that programme were not promoted as effectively as they could have been.

Content on the community portal is user driven – it is a facility that we provide to community groups so that they can promote their own activities. We keep the control of this fairly simple: correcting grammar, typos, and moderating only to prevent offensive or illegal content being published. Wherever we can, we have encouraged local voluntary and community groups to make use of this free facility throughout the year.

We were not informed of the New Years Eve fireworks in Ramsgate so were not able to promote that event on any of our websites.

We are happy to review the publication of our events, ensuring that our efforts focus on what is important within the resources which we have to hand.  As promoting other’s events is not within our remit a review may lead us to simplify our provision rather than enhance the service as you appear to imply.

However the feedback, that you have provided, has stimulated internal discussion about these issues and we will progress these. Thank you.

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 ****** ****** - Customer Feedback Co-ordinator, Business Services.

Yours sincerely

***** *****
Business Services Manager

On the whole I take this response to be positive, at least they seem to have finally acknowledged that there is a problem.

Busy day and I will add a bit to this when I get time.