Tuesday, 22 January 2013

More Royal Sands Development on the Pleasurama site in Ramsgate

I have received some more correspondence with Alan Poole over Pleasurama so here it is with my reply.

From: janet woods
Sent: 16 January 2013 18:56
To: cllr-Alan Poole
Subject: Pleasurama

Dear councillor Poole
Your recent reply to my letter in the Gazette spoke of live
planning application and live leases for the site.
Would you be so kind as to explain in lay terms exactly what that
why you are seeking to make it easier for SFP to secure funding.
Please also explain the sentence "any attempt to unilaterally change the
current situation would most likely be unsuccessful and very expensive"
Janet woods

On 21 Jan 2013, at 18:22, "Alan Poole" wrote:

Hi Janet,

Sorry for delay in replying.......I had a bad dose of something last week
and only now getting over it (flu?)....................

SFP currently have a valid Development Agreement (signed 2009) and valid
leases (99 years I believe) for the Royal Sands site...........it is very
unlikely that we would be able to reposes the site even with court action
before 2017 at the earliest..........even then our legal advice is it
be very expensive and by no means a certainty.

We cannot unilaterally change the Development Agreement.............any
changes have to be agreed by both sides. This is why we are currently in
discussions with SFP. They wish to make changes to make it easier for them
to obtain funding from the banks to complete the development. Any changes
need TDC agreement so we need to be very careful as to what we
agree...........we have inserted a number of safeguards.......but nothing
entirely risk-free.

SFP have an extant (valid) Planning Permission for the
development............we cannot make any changes to the Planning
without their agreement..........it is very unlikely that they would want
start from scratch again as they would need to complete a Flood Risk
Assessment and go through the whole Planning Process.................

As this problem has been dragging on for more years than I care to
I believe most Ramsgate residents would now like to see the site developed

If SFP can't raise the funds it simply won't get built.............in the
current financial climate there are not hordes of developers waiting in
wings to take over.............

I hope this explains the current situation.



From: janet woods 
Sent: 21 January 2013 22:13
To: Alan Poole
Subject: Re: Pleasurama

Hi thanks for reply
I know you were not in control in 2009 when the agreement was made but,
I would like some clarification on a few points

Does the validity of the lease have any conditions?
i.e time for completion of building etc.
Have SFP broken any of the conditions?
You say SFP want to make changes to the agreement, would that include
obtaining freehold of site?
What are your safeguards?
How far has TDC got in building a legal case for recovering the lease?
has a realistic assessment been done?
Do you agree that TDC's collusion with avoiding a flood risk assessment is
Yes I agree that all would like to see the site developed, but not with the
wrong development, wouldn't you rather wait until 2017 for the right
development, rather than have the wrong development in 2015 or whenever SFP
can find the finances ?and that might be completion of building ,then more
time for selling and for retail to be in place

Would you concur that...the key to it all seems to be SFP need the freehold
to get the finances in place?
Surely if they can't finance the development 14 years later!! they have
defaulted on the agreement.
I believe that TDC are wrong to consider selling the freehold to SFP, when
SFP have no previous development experience and obvious lack of funds.
What would the consequences be for TDC, should SFP sell the freehold on
without completion of the building on the site?

Janet woods

From: "Alan Poole"
Date: 22 January 2013 13:41:42 GMT
To: "'janet woods'"
Subject: RE: Pleasurama

Hi Janet,

The details of the new proposed Development Agreement are commercially
sensitive and at this stage I am not legally allowed to divulge them.......
once (if) the Development Agreement is signed I will make it public.

All Councillors have received the information on 'pink' .............which
they are not legally allowed to divulge to the public.

As far as I'm aware SFP are not in breach of any conditions.

TDC does not have any grounds for starting a legal case to recover the
leases.........we would be laughed out of court!

TDC are not colluding with SFP to avoid a 'Flood Risk
Assessment'..............the FRA Rules changed AFTER the Planning
Application was approved and cannot be applied retrospectively. Requesting a
FRA would serve no purpose other than to delay the development and add
further to the costs...........

For clarity SFP are not legally obliged to complete a FRA in spite of what
Michael Childs and Ian Driver are claiming.

My understanding of the FRA rules is that they basically do not allow
residential accommodation on the ground floor in a flood risk
zone...............the Royal Sands development does not have residential
accommodation on the ground floor..............

It is proposed to transfer the 'freehold' to SFP ONCE they have proved to
the Council's Section 151 Officer that they have secured sufficient funding
to complete the whole development and they have signed up an operator for
the hotel...........we also have to carry out 'due diligence' procedures.

In the proposed Development Agreement SFP will have to pay upfront for the
'freehold' (to TDC) before the new Development Agreement is signed. In the
current Agreement (2009) they would have gained the 'freehold' on

It is estimated that it will take 18 to 24 months to complete the project
once building has restarted.

If they sell-on the 'freehold' the new buyer will be legally obliged to
complete the development as per the Planning Permission and the Development

I'm happy for you to pass this info to Michael Childs and Ian Driver as they
are both asking the same questions............



Initial thoughts
1. What were the original conditions that Alan states SFP are not in breach of, does anyone have a copy?
2. Presumably it is the officers who have put them on a pink form,  but given there is no other developer in the frame, how can they be commercially sensitive? Politically sensitive seems more likely. Is it worth an FOI?

The effect is we cannot scrutinise the terms of the Development agreement, before it is signed, and that will be too late

Janet et al. The original conditions that Alan is talking about, development agreements and leases can be found here http://michaelsbookshop.com/pda/ series of links to the documents at the top of the page.

I think the key problem with them is that they weren’t well written, particularly in terms of resolving the sort of problem we have now, where the developer doesn’t appear to have funding to proceed.

I think legally the situation is that the developer is obliged to have finished the development by 2017 and the council would need to show that the developer couldn’t do this in order to get the site back without risking litigation, where the developer SFP and the contractor Cardy took legal action to recover the monies they have spent on the development to date.

The financial arrangement for the 2009 variation were roughly that the development would cost £22m paid for by Wetmore the hotel company putting up £5m, Cardy Construction putting up £1.5m, and SFP getting a bank loan for the rest.

I think the developer:

Contributed £600,000 to the new road layout, the layout was apparently insisted on by KCC but obviously doesn’t make sense in several ways, the roundabout at the pavillon end being far too big and now having metered parking all round it. The roundabout and bus stop at the other end, for PSV access via the sloping viaduct that would probably not be able to take the load, for the expected life of the development.

Contributed £100,000 to the main cliff façade coating and repair contract the rest the total was about £1m was paid for by TDC. Part of this repair failed almost immediately and had to be repaired and paid for by TDC. TDC had another survey around the beginning of 2012, this list a number of repairs and work that wasn’t done at the time of the first contract, my guess is they will cost between £100,000 and £300,000 although this would be much more if they underpin the parts that don’t have proper foundations. The ongoing key problem here being that the space, 4metres, between the back of the development and the front of the cliff, would mean any repairs to the cliff, once the development has been built, would have to take place in what is a 22 metre deep canyon 4metres wide; possible, but very expensive.

The other expenses incurred were the surface drain, I think this was subcontracted by Cardy Construction, cost about £800,000 and I don’t know if this cost has been passed on to the developer.

Then there is the work that Cardy Construction did on site, the three men and a digger, this was quite a surprise to me as the MD of Cardy Construction told me that first phase would be a pile boring team and the foundations would only take about six weeks to complete. A key issue here is that the foundations that have been completed are not screwed to the bedrock, but are sitting on the old sand beach, with no EA accredited sea defence holding the land there in place.   

The council say they own the sea defence there, so guess they would be responsible for any maintenance, they say it dates from 1860 and the have no plans, surveys or maintenance records relating to it.

I guess the developer also incurred planning costs, I believe there were about seven sets of plans, mainly because of the height issue, I don’t think the architects ever managed to produce plans that resolved this properly, they are however the only plans on the council’s planning website and therefore must be the only approved plans. I have heard that the developer has now engaged a different architect to produce the detailed construction plans, so I don’t know if the various plans were paid for.

We then come to the flood risk, when the first set of plans were produced they didn’t show any definite height above sea level for the base of the building and appeared to show a pedestrian escape from the development to the cliff top.

As the thing dragged on and attempts to get the top under the cliff top, it became apparent that the bottom would be fairly low with regards to flood risk, particularly in a tidal surge storm that we get in Ramsgate about every 50 years.

I had some correspondence with the EA in order to get them to say what they thought a safe baseline would be, although this was based on a pile driven foundation plan that would be fairly slow to collapse in the event of the 1860 sea defencet failing during a tidal surge storm.

Here is the letter they sent to the developer and the council about it http://michaelsbookshop.com/ea/id2.htm I would say that the situation with this is that building the development without the fra against EA advice, while within the letter of the law, isn’t likely to attract serious funding. I guess it would also make it very difficult for anyone trying to get a mortgage to buy one of the apartments as new builds on high risk flood zones just don’t normally exist.          

I think in the first instance you need to plough through the stuff I have written about Pleasurama over the years, most of it should come up from this link http://thanetonline.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/Pleasurama%20development and then older posts link at the bottom of each page.

Fundamental to all this is that if we move to a situation where the council tries to get out of the agreements, then we come to the mistakes made by both the council and the developer. These are best summarised as both parties considering that they were building a development on an ordinary flat site away from either the cliff or the sea. I think the council wanted to sell the site as this and architect designed a building that would probably have worked well enough for this sort of site.

In a general sense it is very unusual to build residential developments on a narrow band of land, in this case reclaimed beach, between an unsupported chalk cliff and the sea, so there aren’t really comparisons. The buildings further along Marina Esplanade are formed of arches that act as a cliff support structure, it should be understood that the concrete façade behind the Pleasurama site is not designed to be a cliff support structure. 

Regards Michael.


  1. Michael,

    Thank you. Once again you have shed a flood of light on this debacle. That you are spot on target will be demonstrated by the level of disparagement that you receive from the usual anonymice.

    About the sea: the probity of the Estate Agent is surely beyond doubt. Therefore, he can be relied upon to advise a buyer about the lack of an updated FRA and any attendant risks.

    I suspect that the Insurance companies will seek to enhance their premiums in respect of flooding, and that this will have effect of raising the service charge for the block.

  2. Thank you for the introduction John.

    Michael's comments appear well founded, but they fall short in one aspect. As an unqualified individual he may be wrong, and the qualified people involved may be right. If you were seeking legal or engineering advice, who would you go to; the shop keeper or the lawyer/engineer?

    Another fatal flaw in your comment is the mention of probity of an estate agent being beyond doubt!

    1. Are you yourself qualified to judge Michael's qualifications and expertise?

      I have always believed in looking at the totality of the evidence in the round. I conclude that by the test of the balance of probalities Michael's assessment of events is closer to the truth.

      On your second point: I notice that you stumbled into the trap.

    2. Anonymous 11:04,

      You know my name; what's yours?

    3. Couple of thoughts here 11.04.

      One being the flood risk situation, in this case it is the EA’s development control technical specialist and not me saying: “And whilst we accept that this development already has planning permission, we would highly recommend that a full FRA is undertaken which could inform appropriate resilience and resistance measures. The assessment could also inform the production of a suitable flood warning and evacuation plan, for both the residential and commercial parts of the development.”

      The other being the cliff façade, where much of the work and the new inspection regime has come about because I have made a fuss about it.

      In both cases the experts, not me are saying the situation at the moment isn’t acceptable, the EA “we would highly recommend that a full FRA” The council’s engineers, we surveyed the cliff at the beginning of 2012 and a considerable amount of further work has to be done to keep it at a minimal safety standard.

      I guess my main concern here is as a council taxpayer, where the council appears to have signed up to maintaining the cliff and the sea defence, to a standard suitable for a residential development on the site for the life of the development.

      It’s about ten years since the proposal was put forward and I asked the council to check the condition of the cliff, in that time they have spent a million pounds on it and now say they have to do a considerable amount of work on it again.

    4. Without a name you'll hopefully judge the content, not who it's written by. I can always make a name up but it will mean little more than John Holyer does to me.

      If you come down off your high horse you'll notice that I'm not judging Michael's comments other than to say they appear well founded. My point is that the best person to talk about engineering is an engineer. I ask again, if you were looking for legal advice, who would you go to, the lawyer or the shop keeper?

      On your second point, it's not so much stumbling into your trap as testing it. I regularly read your comments and doubt that you are naive enough to consider estate agents as professional people. The problem is many people do, even estate agents!

    5. Well you appear to be judging me and not the content and so you are hoist by your own petard.

      Your final paragraph does not make sense. As far as I can make out it contradicts what you claimed in a previous post.

      I will willingly come off my high horse; though this would fail to bring me down to your level.

    6. Thanks John, you've confirmed my point about anonymity. Your last comment is about defending your name. If you posted anonymously you wouldn't have to do that.

      Were you or are you a politician? You've avoided answering a question and don't appear to be able to see a joke.

    7. John's only relevance seems pride in stating his name. For that we should be grateful, so we can identify his foolish comments more easily. Estate agents are interested in flogging developments but even with Pleasurama there seem few buyers.

  3. In cllr Poole's second response he states "My understanding of the FRA rules is that they basically do not allow residential accommodation on the ground floor in a flood risk zone...............the Royal Sands development does not have residential accommodation on the ground floor..............".
    In which case the developer should have no problem with and will not be scared of a current FRA. It may also help with their sales and with them getting the buildings insured. Unless of course cllr Poole's arguement is flawed and FRA compliance is far from the real situation.

  4. What is becoming clearer the more one hears is how this doomed development ever got the green light in the first place!

    Millions of pounds spent which could have gone into improving the town of Ramsgate instead of a dodgy developers pipe dream.

  5. Disappointing hot air from Alan: there's plenty of reasons and opportunities to cancel Pleasurama now: tax havens, shoddy work, weak finances etc etc.

    Close Pleasurama down and turf the site for Summer 2013.

    Election pledges are required from any Duffers daring to stand again after this shambles.

    A Police investigation would of course reveal what the councillors and civil servants were upto - looks like a big payday for a few people: big piece of land, mystery fires, strange development, unknown directors and offshore funds for bungs etc etc.

    1. As ever, Anon, everybody else is a duffer and the police are the answer to everything. How about some hard facts for a change. At least Michael tries to present the case fairly based on what we know from council records whereas you simply jump to conclusions.

  6. Anonymous 11:38

    And your evidence is......?

  7. The evidence is contained in the changes to the lease - the removal of the overage agreement and the 106 affordable housing. Lets be clear the amount of false claims by the developers and his lackeys read like some mighty tome. Whatever the outcome the tax payer will lose - and has paid for betterment of a development site.

  8. As an Project Manager for a Ground Works Contractor, I concur with Michael, it looks suspiciously like the developer ran out of funding, by undertaking a cheap inadequate foundation he has managed to ensure that planning doesn't timeout.

  9. After reading about the Royal Sands fiasco for far too long would it not be better to scrap the whole idea and start again. Doesn't seem that any of the parties is remotely interested in finding a solution.

  10. Residential Developments on band of land THAT IS?????????????????


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