Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Public Meeting to discuss the Pleasurama site this Wednesday 06/02/2013 at 5:00pm at the Belgian Café in Ramsgate.

This is happening under the auspices of “Friends of Ramsgate Seafront” here is their facebook group http://www.facebook.com/groups/516220578418850/

For those of you who don’t understand this issue, this is about a development called The Royal Sands consisting of over 100 luxury flats a hotel and some commercial units that will probably be bars and restaurants, on the land behind Ramsgate’s main leisure beach.

This land used to be used for Ramsgate’s main amusements and fun fair, the freehold of the land belongs to Thanet District Council and previously they leased it to various amusement companies.

It is a difficult and demanding site to build on back in 2002 when the council got the leasehold back from the amusement operator with some considerable difficulty, they tendered for developers who would come up with plans for a mixed leisure and residential site there that would enhance this the main leisure area of Ramsgate.

There were two main contenders, one that was building Westcliff Park (the development opposite the boating pool) their proposal was based around a swimming pool that was to have been handed over to the council on completion and the other, what appeared to be a Whitbread development financed by a Swiss bank.

The council chose the latter, here is the proposal document from 2002 http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/blogpicts10/id5.htm

It later transpired that the Swiss bank referred to in this document, wasn’t a bank at all and didn’t have a banking licence, it also transpired that Whitbread were not the main movers in this but that they had just expressed an interest and then decided to pull out.

This left us with an offshore developer that appears to have had no experience of developing anything. 

The site was originally a piece of reclaimed land used for a railway station, the land was reclaimed in 1860 by putting the chalk spoil from the railway tunnel on the sand that once formed the beach, and putting a sloping paved area on the front of the pile of chalk to form a sea defence.

So on one side of this band of land you have a 70 foot high chalk cliff and on the other side you have the sea. I guess the main constraint the site has is building a development with a base high enough to be above the highest waves when we have a combination of a storm and high tide and short enough to be below the cliff top so that people on the cliff top can see the view, sun sand and sea.

Then we came to the local elections and while this was going on the developer submitted the plans, my guess is that the councillors eyes were off the ball at this time.

The first I heard about this was when some concerned residents showed me the actual planning drawings, this was all a bit difficult to take in as planning and deign statement http://thanetonline.com/seafront2/ said the new development was set well below the cliff top, but the actual planning sheets were scale drawings showing a development that towered 3 metres above the top of the cliff.

Up until this time I hadn’t had any dealings with Thanet District council and didn’t know anything about them, after a few phone calls I discovered that it was too late to object to the planning application, the fact that the building didn’t fit in the available space made no difference.

It transpired the Labour group had just been voted out and while the council was now under the control of the Conservatives most of the councillors here in Ramsgate were Labour.

At this time the Labour councillors tried to get the plans turned down too, I think their general take was something like we were promised an elephant and a giraffe has turned up.

Around this time I put some of the information and correspondence on my website at http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/seafront/ this is a very old site and not all of the links work properly.

Anyway after this bits of work occurred on the new road layout and I came to realise that where the council is involved simple common sense is not enough.

The concrete cliff façade looked to be in pretty poor condition combined with it having a long history of collapsing and as there was only a 12 foot gap between the cliff and the back of the development, I raised this with the council a few times and in the end they got around to examining it.

The cliff reports are online in a series of linked pages here http://www.thanetonline.com/cliff/ the council have spent about £1m on this cliff so far, the latest survey says there is a lot more work to be done on it. my contention is that the development is too close to the cliff to allow for it to be maintained in a reasonable and economic way.

The height issue has dragged on over the years, with so many potty plans that I don’t really think anyone knows how much of this development would stick over the cliff. The cliff façade work was signed off by the council’s engineers as being good, only to go wrong almost immediately, so I don’t think they will ever come up with a reasonable appraisal of just how much it will cost local taxpayers to maintain it for the life of the development.

The other side of the problem, the buildings protection during a combination of high tide and storm is if anything even worse than the situation with the cliff, in all there were at least seven sets of plans produced to try and get the building under the top of the cliff. The earlier sets were very vague about how high the bottom of the development was above the high tide mark.

Essentially this meant that The Environment Agency took ages to make a pronouncement about the safety of the development, eventually the came up with this letter http://www.thanetonline.com/cliff/

Frankly until the developer does what the EA recommends and gets the safety of the development to withstand a storm assessed I don’t think there is much chance of getting any sensible investor involved.

Over the years the council and or councillors have gone beyond what seems like the reasonable to support the developer and the development. The long leases appear to have been granted without any asset disposal process, the removal of the gull winged roof must have constituted material change from a planning perspective and should have resulted in resubmission of the planning application but didn’t, the Conservative cabinet went against officer advice to pull out of the development agreement in 2009, well you get the idea.

Now the Labour group are in power again, their scepticism about the project when the Conservatives were in power seems to have dissolved, while the Conservative group who pushed the thing through against officer advice, have now become sceptical.

The various agreements and leases are published online at http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/pda/ and some of you may with to skim through them.

Anyway we now come to the current situation which is a mixture of where’s the money and where’s the money I will endeavour to write this up next.    

I guess most people know that the council have agreed to sell the land to the developer. I guess the main carrot from the current Labour group’s point of view would be getting their hands on the £3.6m, something that would go a long way to making the council’s books balance more easily.

I guess it is possible that the developer’s intention all along has been to his hands on this valuable freehold for what seems to be a knock down price.

I guess the sale would have gone through on the quiet if Cllr Driver and a few other people hadn’t made a fuss, but now there is the condition that the developer has to show he has funds to develop the site and a hotel operator to run the hotel in order to get the freehold.

In the past the showing of funds seems to have been a bit on the vague, last time around with the Conservative going against the officers advice to pull out, the underlying finance seems to have been another nonexistent Swiss bank and a hotelier that didn’t actually have any hotels.    

The developer I guess has brought most of the troubles on by failing to communicate anything much to local people, at the moment the developers only website http://www.royalsandsramsgate.co.uk/faq.asp says that the first of the apartments will be ready for occupation by autumn of this year, see this as an example of what I mean by failure to communicate as obviously this would be impossible.   

Obviously now the council has promised to sell the freehold to the developer, if the developer meets the council’s conditions and the councils due diligence process finds that the funding and hotelier are genuine then there is nothing one can do but hope the developer does something with the site.

If the developer fails to come up with the money and hotelier the council say they will look into how they can get the leases back and cancel the development agreement, this may involve expenses.

If this happens the planning consent still stands, which represents another problem because of the cart before the horse situation in terms of not assessing the cliff and flood situation before giving the planning consent. 


  1. I am delighted that the people of Ramsgate are organsising to bring influence to bear on politicians about the teh appalling state of our seafront, espcially the Royals Sands site and the Pavillion. In my opinion its high time that the Council sacked Royal Sands developers SFP Ventures and consulted with local people about the future use of the site.

    Councillor Ian Driver

    1. Well said Ian. How about looking into Lottery funding for something for the whole area not just a few rich DFLs?

    2. Mr Driver and fellow politicians must realise that if you are not seen to be acting on behalf of the people who elected you, you will be judged, and if you fail the test, you will not be re-elected.So far you have not performed too well. The Sands project is turning into a Whitehall farce - get rid of it, it is not wanted and Ramsgate deserves better. Another point you have failed on is the Live Export issue, another blight on Ramsgate. Ramsgate is my home and has been for 40+ years and I am appalled and ashamed that the people who care are being ignored in favour of political flatulence.
      Ramsgate does not need an art gallery to survive no more than the police need a commissioner handing out jobs on "Mates rates" and who supports the Live Exports and seeks to undermine the protesters with financial smearing excersizes at public expense while there is a more than adequate Chief Constable. Thanet Council should employ an old fashioned Purer and sell off the accumalated material to the leather trade. The proceeds, which going by the amount of dog exrement lining the streets of Ramsgate alone would go some way to expanding the local coffers and rovide a few pedestrian crossings. Thank you and good evening.
      A Resident of Wellington Crescent

    3. Exrement as you call it is spelt EXCREMENT

    4. Thank you for correcting me. What induced you to move to Margate from Crouch End. Low cost housing or the rag shops.You can now go and publish your thesis on how you have roughed it in the 21st Century.

  2. I would love to attend this meeting but, in common with many other working people, I will be at work. If the 5pm meeting is successful perhaps the organisers might consider repeating the exercise at a later time. I'm sure that many people who who work during the day, are fed up with being fleeced for Council tax by a Council which has ignored the needs and wishes of the people who pay the bills, and is substantially responsible for the mess which now exists. We should all be demanding an end to the secret meetings and total transparency over the current situation and what has gone before. It is simply not credible to assert that nobody has done anything wrong.

  3. I hope some cllrs turn up (besides Ian of course, who's doing a fine job).

  4. Well done Ian and Michael and well said Anon 7:06. It should be a very short meeting to recommend cancellation of Pleasurama and a Police inquiry into the BVI and TDC costs wasted and misused.

  5. Regretfully I have only just heard of the existence of 'Friends of Ramsgate Seafront' and I wish them and Cllr. Ian Driver well. I personally do not feel that an important key area of the town such as this is an appropriate place to have flats. What is the point of having a Town Council who allow this situation of a 'derelict' site for so long in such an important area. The 'great wall of Ramsgate' is in reality just a hoarding with paintings on it.

  6. The meeting was excellent about 50 people turned up. Everyone was united in their opposition to the development and developers SFP. Amazingly Councillor Allan Poole who is repsonsible for this development said everyone was talking rubbish and that he would like to see the development completed, even though the Environment Agency says its potentially dangerous. Even though the developers are close to insolvency. That's local democracy Thanet style.

  7. Ian, I have been listening to the interviews with yourself and Cllr Poole on Radio Kent this morning. I am perplexed that Cllr Poole(whom I believe represents Ramsgate?) is not outraged that Ramsgate/Thanet residents have been denied financial returns from this prime site for many years. Having secured a high profile position on Thanet Council, he should be using his position to expose what has been going on instead of reinforcing the status quo. He had better stick very close to his labour colleagues then, because he is no friend of ours. If our assets had not been squandered owing at the very least to complacency, I feel sure our council tax bills would be around half what they are now, and have better public services to boot.

  8. I don't trust any of the Councillors. Many of them have been on the council for many years and were involved in agreeing to this development. For the life of me I can't understand why anyone would agree to sell the freehold for less than it's worth and to a company which is registered offshore so you don't know who's behind it.

    1. What is going on here - blah blah blah. GET OF YOUR KEYBOARD - PICK UP A PEN - AND VOTE THEM OUT. They have already lined their pockets for favours to the mighty. NOW GET RID OF THEM

  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  10. I note that the caring David Green is remarkably silent on this one.

  11. Yes but he is one of Hart's Labour cabal.


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