Monday, 4 March 2013

The Pleasurama Cliff Wall behind the Royal Sands Development Site in Ramsgate Again.

This picture is of firemen digging through the rubble looking for anyone buried in it last time this structure collapsed.

I went down there the other day to photograph the Great Wall vandalism and noticed something amiss with the bottom of the remaining part of the 1860 cliff structure (the bit that didn’t collapse, picture above) that concerned me, so I took the photo (below) of it and sent it off to the council’s engineer with a covering email below.

Hi Mike you may remember about a year ago we discussed the brick balustrade between the two brick pillars at the Augusta Stairs end of the Pleasurama site. This was part of the 1860 structure the rest of which collapsed in the 1960s.

I mentioned to you that the foundations had been exposed by Cardys about two years ago and were sitting on made ground and at that time Cardys had just replaced the soil they had removed covering up this defect.

You assured me that Cardys had agreed to underpin this structure with concrete and I said that I hadn’t seen any evidence of this but couldn’t check as the foundations were now covered up again.

During the last year of site abandonment the infill has settled revealing that no underpinning occurred.

I should remind you that it was this structure that I reported to you and the HSE because part of the rendering was delaminating and within a week of you assurances that the structure was sound about a hundredweight of cement fell into the site and onto the public highway from a height of about forty feet.

As far as I can tell the rendering above the exposed part goes straight over the original drainage holes in the brickwork blocking them causing water from behind the balustrade to be draining via the made ground, this combined the damage to the drain and surface topside looks potentially dangerous to me.

You will also remember several years ago assuring me that something would be done by the council to instigate the weight limit topside required by Jacobs and that something would be done to prevent vehicles from going next to the top cliff edge altogether.

Can you please let me know if any progress has been made on this front?    

Picture attached.

Please take this one as official customer feedback, requiring some sort of response within ten working days. 

Best regards Michael.

I have just had his reply, here it is:

Dear Mr Child

Customer Feedback Reference:48399/2311693

Thank you for your recent communication which was received on 19th February 2013.

You may remember the letter sent by Brian White on 15th April 2011 which confirms the existence of foundations as indicated on the original design drawings, this letter refers to the concrete façade structure adjacent to the Victorian brick abutments.  I am not aware of any issues raised by you concerning the foundations of the rendered brickwork area.  Furthermore I have visited the site since receiving your communication and cannot find evidence of settlement as you have claimed in your email.

I agree that the rendered face of the brickwork (which is quite unrelated to the foundations) does require attention although this is not classified as urgent work and is not connected with the structural performance of the wall.  Funding is being sought for the rendering work but in the meantime the fencing beneath the railing panel will remain in place as a precaution.

As you have highlighted the precautionary work to exclude vehicles from the upper promenade has not yet been undertaken.  This work will be implemented but has not yet commenced due to other priority projects.  I agree some signage at least would be beneficial and I will make sure this is progressed before the summer season.

I hope that this resolves the matter to your satisfaction.

If you are not happy with my response, you may write with your reasons within the next ten working days, requesting a further review. 

In order for the Council to respond as efficiently as possible, please ensure that you quote the above reference number and address your communication to Jean Reynolds - Customer Feedback Co-ordinator, Operational Services.

Yours sincerely

Mike ******
Engineering and Technical Services Manager

I have to admit to being a bit at a loss for words over this one.

Here is a picture of the councils Technical Services team not sorting out this part of the cliff wall after I complained about it last time. 

 over the years of the Pleasuama debacle I have done several blog posts about the cliff wall, this link will take you to a sample of them if I get time I will write a more detailed explanation and add some more pictures. 

Anyway now for some sort of explanation here, back in 2005 the council had this unsupported chalk cliff surveyed and one aspect of this survey was a warning not to put anything heavy on the cliff top near the edge.

Since that time I have been asking the council’s engineer to get warning signs put up and since that time council vehicles, people holding events up there, even a 20 ton fire engine parked near the edge giving out Fireman Sam hats to children, you probably don’t need a diagram.     

The council are a bit sensitive about this one and back in 2009 the council’s chief executive wrote to the council’s external consulting geotechnical engineer and told him not to discuss the cliff safety issues with me.

The engineer wrote to me and said that I would need to get permission from the council before he would answer any more questions about the cliff structure.

I then wrote to the council’s chief executive asking him to write to their engineer and give him permission to continue discussing the cliff condition with me.

All of this was fairly difficult for the engineer as I had provided him with historical pictures of the cliff façade for his reports.

Here is the email sequence;

>>> <>  09/12/2009 17:12 >>>
Hi Richard I think; "We  will provide  your  comments directly  to  our 
clients for their  
consideration.  If  they ask us to  discuss your concerns  with you, we
will be happy 
to do so.     Until then, we  cannot  respond in substance to the issues
have   raised." is pretty clear.

Look I know no one likes this much, as it has  obviously gone badly wrong,  
but this looks like Jacobs error and not  TDCs, frankly TDC have been stung 
for  £1m and I am only trying to  sort it out for you.

With respect I am good at this sort of thing, for  instance every employee  
of Walkers received an email from me about  it, TDC officers hands  are 
to tied to deal effectively with  this sort of thing, even if they  had the 
ability which I have my  doubts about.  

You  know I will do it anyway with or  without your cooperation, but it 
would be  helpful for the Jacobs  engineers to continue to talk to me as 
have for  several  years.

Also if I am forced to do it the hard way it will be so much  more  
unpleasant for everyone concerned, at the moment Jacobs senior  engineer 
with me that the cliff is dangerous and that for a  heavy fire appliance to 
up  there near the edge as there was the  other day is crazy. 

What you will all do if it collapses and  kills people beggars belief, what

would you say at the inquest? 

Best regards   Michael

In a message dated 09/12/2009 17:20:32 GMT Standard Time, writes:

This  matter is under investigation as you say and the Council will act on 
any  recommendations we receive. I do not intend to conduct a dialogue with 
you on  it nor do I intend to try and second guess professional engineers 
opinions so  I suggest we leave it to people who know what they are talking 
about. The  Council is well aware of its responsibilities and will fulfill  

Richard Samuel
Chief Executive
Thanet District  Council
Council Offices
Telephone: 01843  577002
Fax: 01843 298874

Sent: 09/12/2009 17:30:29
Subject: Re: Ramsgate cliff safety

Are you genuinely saying that you wish me to publicise that the councils  
chief executive has refused me permission to discuss a public safety issue 
with  the senior engineer consulted by the council about the issue?

Presumably you saw the photographs I took of the appalling mess down  there 
where the foundations are supposed to be.

Best regards  Michael

Subject: Re: Ramsgate cliff safety 
Date: 09/12/2009 18:19:00 GMT Standard Time
Reply To: 

You can speak to the council about these issues but not our contractors or advisers. That is in essence what you have been told by Jacobs. Your contact is Mike Humber or Geoff Musk.

I made quite a lot of fuss about the façade structure over the years since the repair and the repair to the repair. In the end the council agreed to institute a maintenance and inspection regime, here is a link to the first inspection report  


  1. It is a little too technical for me to grasp the detail. But I do understand the thrust of your argument, which is convincing. It would be wise of TDC to get their story straight - papers in order - as a ready defence against a manslaughter charge should the cliff collapse.

    1. John I don’t think the council’s previous chief executive understood this either and I think he had a nasty feeling that the council’s external engineer did so he sent me an email telling me not to speak to him.

      In view of the recent information that the council was under the leadership of a crook at the time, I have relaxed my moratorium on publishing some of the email exchanges from this period and added this one to the post for your edification.

    2. The man was found guilty of misconduct in a public office over the purchase of a property. It does not automatically follow that throughout his leadership everything was suspect nor would it effect the performance of officers who could be answerable, even in court, in event of an accident.

      Let us assume, however, that everything was flawed during that time, how do you account for the fact that a different political administration entered into an agreement with the off shore developer in the first place and another Labour administration, under yet another leader, is seemingly going on with it today.

      I hardly think you can blame Mr. Ezekiel for the reply you have got from the Egineering Manager in the last month. He was otherwise engaged then.

    3. It would seem that Thanet Labour are too involved with campaiging against Bedroom Tax to be much interested in what goes on in Ramsgate.

    4. But it does affect Thanet rather a lot with many on housing benefit and TDC wll be left to pick up the pieces when their tenants sink deeper into debt.

    5. Tom I don’t hold Sandy responsible for the report I got recently nor today’s response from the council’s engineer.

      Going back to 2009 however, I did find it somewhat unusual that the council’s chief executive wrote to the council’s civil engineering consultants and asked them to prevent their senior engineer from communicating with me.

      Now with this cliff repairs issue we have a situation where we once had a funfair in front of the cliff and the funfair leaseholder had the liability to repair the cliff.

      We then had the consulting engineer saying that the cliff façade structure had a short serviceable life. In engineer speak this means it needs rebuilding and we are talking tens of millions here.

      Then the council issue leases to a developer who’s representative is friends with Sandy.

      Then the council issues leases to the developer but strangely all the liability for the cliff façade has transferred from the lessee to the council.

    6. That is as maybe, but Pleasurama has been a problem for much longer and is a blight on the general economic well being of the area.

    7. Back to 2009, Michael, but you still did not answer my question about why a Labour administration entered into the contract in the first place or why another one is seemingly going on with it today.

    8. Sorry Tom you have fallen into your own trap by assuming I am a Labour supporter, I will direct you to my pancake day ramble you can watch Cllr Poole engaging in his Orwellian defence of The Royal Sands. My guess is that it trumps anything the Conservative group could have achieved in terms of a party political broadcast for the conservative in Ramsgate, just a pity they didn’t send a representative.

      I think to be fair though they entered into the contract because they thought the developer was Whitbread and SFP were a bank, seems they didn't know the diference between the french for stockbroker and the french for bank, do you?

    9. Michael, far from falling into any trap I would be the first to admit that I used to think you were at pro-Labour, but, after your recent robust support for all things Driver, I had you down as at least SWP if not the Leninist Patriotic Front of Ramsgate (Northwood Division).

      All I did was repeat a question you had failed to answer and now you are telling me that no one in the then Labour administration had even basic 'O' level French or the sense to hire an interpreter. Why am I not surprised.

    10. Tom I think you will find the remaining Thanet businessmen running independent shops myself included, as you have pretty much guessed, have formed Marxist Leninist cells, or are in cells, seriously though with the county elections looming I did consider running as the raving loony candidate, however all of the people I have mentioned this to said they would vote for me if I did, so I have decided not to because of the very real danger of getting elected.

      I believe most of our Thanet Labour group were grammar school educated, which I guess is why most of them would like to close our grammar schools, but you didn’t answer my question, would you have known the difference? I have to concede I didn’t.

    11. I get the picture now, Michael, a sort of Bolshevik Businessman's Brigade, but do not get too involved otherwise, in the present political climate, you will get elected and then not have time for your businesses.

      Your statement that many of the Ramsgate Labour councillors are products of the grammar school system surprised me and I wracked my brains to think of which ones might be. Nonetheless, I do agree with you that it is those that had grammar school education, like Ladyman for example, and full grants for university studies that seem most determined to ensure future generations do not get the same privileges.

      Also being serious for a moment, I think the problem is that our two mayor political parties have lost the plot. The Conservatives, whose very name implies retaining all that works and should not believe in too much state, are not about any ideology, though modern career politicians like Cameron think they should have one. Hence he falls into the Labour trap of seeking to right that which is not bust and creates new legislation in order to be seen to be doing something without checking whether existing law is being properly enforced.

      Labour, on the other hand, were formed on an ideology of bringing about change in the established order and improving the lot of the working classes. Now they cannot see that the aim has been largely achieved by natural progression and still think they need to meddle. Again they engage in creating legislation for legislation's sake and have become the champions of the non working classes, a party also led by out of touch career politicians.

      Eastleigh demonstrated that the electorate are now desperate, neither major party could take any comfort from the result and even the winners, the Lib Dems, saw their vote fall dramatically. It was an election of staying away or casting a protest vote for fringe parties that could not form a government. All very worrying and the need for leaders, in both major parties, has never been more desperate.

    12. Tom,

      Your observation that Labour has become the champions of the non working classes is apt.

      I would give up on the Conservatives in this area if were not for Laura Sandys. She is an excellent constituency MP.

      I have long wished that Frank Field would cross the floor. He will get nowhere with Labour but he might, just might, get a productive hearing with the Conservative back bench.

    13. John, Laura Sandys has many good qualities, she has worked hard for the patch, has time for people and is approachable. Unfortunately she has swallowed the Cameron doctrine hook, line and sinker, unlike her North Thanet colleague, who is more inclined to see it how it is, and this may cost her dear with large sections of the party's traditional supporters disillusioned. I hope I am wrong, but it will be a lot harder to win in South Thanet next time than it was in 2010.

    14. Tom,

      I take your point. However, I've met Laura several times. She is a thoroughly decent and likable person. I have not discussed it with her, but I am willing to accept that she supported gay marriage simply because she tries to be true to her own principles of fairness.

      I do not share her views on gay marriage.

      Roger Gale is also a superb constituency MP.

      [Annonymice need not bother to reply. The views of those with a Blogger ID are always welcome]

    15. John Tom. I guess it will be interesting to see how the two constituency MPs deal with the TDC issue, my guess is that they will want to take some action, it can hardly be a conservative vote winner.

      So far Laura seems to have avoided anything much to with TDC and of course the devastation caused to Ramsgate by what has happened to the major TDC owned properties, Pleasurama, pavilion etc.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if they try to force the situation into a unitary authority, I guess this would be beneficial from a Conservative point of view as Labour would hardly get a look-in and could improve things locally. I guess the problem here is the way KCC have operated over the years and getting something like a mini KCC in the area could lose parliamentary seat or seats.

    16. Michael, in a nutshell the Conservatives need to remember that they are supposed to be a right of centre party, upholding traditional values and minimising government at all levels. Localism is a stab at this but one cannot help but feel it is more of a gesture than an effective policy.

      All the time the Conservatives try to be radical and indulge themselves in minority issues at the expense of their grass roots supporters they are effectively doing Labour's job for them. Typically, as with Laura Sandys, in what has the potential to become a marginal seat again, she has risked losing a chunk of the church going community in return for the possibilty of a handful of LGBT votes, although most of those will still stick with Labour being more capable of seeing through Cameron than Laura herself is.

    17. So we condemn Laura to oblivion because a handful of God-botherers don't like her stand on LGBT matters, preferring those of the serial divorcee Gale. Odd sort of church-goers in my eyes, and an odd way to treat an enthusiastic and hard-working MP who is making a major contribution on a number of fronts.

      Let's just have a bit of a think

      1. We don't want a Labour government in 2015. I guess that's a yes from you Tom.
      2. We don't like Cameron. Again, a yes?
      3. We certainly don't like the LibDems. No doubts here.
      4. We're tempted by UKIP.
      5. In our darker moments we know that UKIP splits the right-of-centre vote. Look at Eastleigh, or even Westgate. I suspect it will also happen in Cliftonville East.There is no other right-of-centre party outside the extremists.
      6. We're aware of the expression regarding cutting off one's nose to spite one's face.

      So which of the six points above are we struggling with?

      Have you actually talked to Laura about her LGBT stance (as I have) or are you doing what you accuse others of doing - basing claims on your own ignorance?

    18. Tim, not only spoke with her, but wrote to her at length and not just on the Equal marriage issue. Several other pre 2010 campaign objectives have been abandoned and not as part of any coalition agreement.

      I am appalled at the prospect of a Labour government in 2010 and it makes me seriously angry to see a Conservative led government throwing that election away. Take defence, I recall party activists making much of Labour starving our forces of equipment, claims were made that our navy would soon be on a par with that of Belgium and the proportion of civilians in MOD to uniformed personnel was going to be sorted by a Conservative government. Well after the totally finance driven strategic defence review our forces are still short of equipment, they are much smaller than they were, with the navy even closer to the size of Belgiums, whilst the cuts of civilian staff, being about equal to the numbers of redundant service personnel, means the proportion of civvies to uniformed is actually greater.

      I have said it elsewhere, if you bothered to read, unless Cameron swiftly becomes a Conservative, if he ever was, and possibly does a deal with UKIP instead of dismissing them as closet racists, we are going to have to face the awful prospect of Milliband and Balls with Crow pulling the strings. If it happens, it will not be down to you or I, but to Cameron and a parliamentary party that did not listen to its own supporters.

      Also, Tim, be careful where you go with your handful of God botherers. The Coalition for Marriage (C4M) got one of the biggest petition followings of all time and are still very active. This spans Catholics, Anglicans, Muslims and Jews to name but a few of the religions who, in the majority, are opposed to Equal Marriage. Roger Gale's divorce is irrelevant and to introduce that says little about your own diversity tolerance.

      Rest assured, I share your regard for Laura and abhorence at the thought of Labour, but, at the moment, Cameron is serving it up for them on a plate and it needs more Conservative MPs to challenge him rather than singing his praises for promising us things in the next government that he should have got on with in this one.

    19. Should be 2015 instead of 2010, though perhaps I was right the first time as far as Cuddly Dave is concerned.

    20. I take your point Tom but the only way to deal with Cameron and keep a country that is vaguely solvent is to prevent Labour returning.
      There is a very real danger at the next election that the LibDems will hold the balance of power again and this time will get into bed with Labour - and imagine the chaos that Ed Balls and Vince Cable can wreak.
      We don't live in a perfect world but I would suggest that a compromise Conservative regime is miles better than a Milliband/Cable world. Step 1 is to devise the strategy and that includes getting behind your local MP. She's never going to agree with everything you want but she's better than Ladyman by a long way.
      I expect you're going to blame the closure of Howe Barracks on her.

    21. Tim, you really seem to have the impression I have some down on Laura. I don't and I think she is one of our better MPs. My gripe is with the party leadership and its apparent ability to alienate whole swathes of its normal grass roots support, from service personnel and police officers to the religious, countryside alliance and blue rinse brigade.

      As to Howe Barracks, well just another example of joined up thinking with the plans to withdraw our troops from Germany over the next four years necessitating the building of new barracks and houses elsewhere. Probably Howe Barracks sits on a piece of more saleable real estate than the likes of Catterick or Leeming. Incidentally, whilst I know you were RN, supposing as a youngster you were thinking of joining the army. What is the big attraction, travel and adventure maybe. Well Aldershot to Catterick and return would not have appealed much to me and I am sure it will not to today's youngsters, but then the Eton to Westminster brigade, without a proper job in between, simply would not understand that, would they?

  2. As ever Michael well done. You are exposing more short comings of this dodgy project. I am sure that the Council can't sustain is support for Pleasurama for much longer.

  3. I think it's time for a public inquiry into the Pleasurama debacle. If they won't give us one, perhaps we should set our own public inquiry up in the Belgian Bar. We could have submissions of evidence from interested parties. I wouldn't be surprised if Andy Barrett didn't have something to say himself. Of course, the people actually responsible should be invited to give evidence but I'm willing to bet they won't. We need a Chair; perhaps Peter Landi would be prepared to do it?

  4. Good to see that TDC are now paying all their employees a minimum Living Wage (£7.45 per hour) instead of just national minimum wage (£6.19 per hour) and therefore benefiting the lowly cleaning & catering staff, something I certainly couldn't imagine the Ezekiel-era Tories ever doing... shame that this doesn't extend to TDC funded employers such as Margate Winter Gardens who will still be on minimum wage though.

    1. Pity they did'nt mention that they are doing away with overtime payment to pay for it

    2. Who needs overtime when you're earning an half-decent wage?

    3. Ask the road sweepers in ramsgate

    4. Sounds to me like just being greedy. If they were on minimum wage before, then they'll be getting nearly a £60 per week rise for a 40 hour week. I wish I'd got that when I was on a minimum wage job at The Winter Gardens (a minimum hourly wage 364 days per year, including back holidays and all-nighters; the only time we got time & half was New Year's Eve).

      Personally I'd limit the working hours for everyone. If there's more work available, then the companies should employ more people rather than giving overtime while so many others are jobless.

    5. Peter I'm not saying its right or wrong, I'm saying the press release is misleading because
      it portrays the council as increasing wages, when in reality there is no net gain to the workers.

    6. OK, the reality is that they're earning the same as before for working less. Still not a bad result...

    7. Same Hours as before not less 38, but they got overtime fore weekends 5 days out of 7, no net gain.

    8. And Peter do you also think that people over retirement age should not continue working so that the young can have their jobs. All those old MP's included in this.

  5. The Ezekiel/Latchford administration thought that the minimum living wage idea was a wastle of money.

  6. Don't forget that Mr £90,000 Hamburger, who only lasted 5 months at the Council, & Chief Executive McGongigal £109,000 plus, were only last year, trying to cut the wages of TDCs lowest paid and increase the pay of the top executives. It was only when Cllr Ian Driver spoke out that they were forced to backtrack. I should know I work for the Council. Lots of staff were cheering in the offices when they read Driver's letter in the Gazette. He is a peoples champ.

    1. 8:58 I think that should be 'chump' in your last sentence.

    2. Or just plain loud mouth!

  7. Note that ECR's post from this morning has been removed.

    1. Yes, I was wondering about that too. Maybe he's being careful as (alledgedly) Rebecca is in trouble because of friday's Gazette story.

    2. Don't just whet our appetites, Peter, but tell us more. From whence came the rumour about Rebecca, what journalistic standard has she breached and who is the source of the trouble? See ECR has followed up his missing item with a rather nondescript o9ne about Ronnie Barker and Porridge.

    3. Tom; eye on the ball man:

      View conversation
      Mar 1 Louise Oldfield ‏@margatearchi
      Ezekiel waves good bye to family and is lead away. #ezekieltrial
      from Maidstone, Kent
      Mar 1 Louise Oldfield ‏@margatearchi
      Judge Nicol giving Rebecca Smith opportunity to see him next week. #ezekieltrial
      from Maidstone, Kent
      Mar 1 Louise Oldfield ‏@margatearchi
      Judge Nicol wishes to give editor Rebecca Smith opportunity to speak with him. #ezekieltrial
      from Maidstone, Kent
      Mar 1 Louise Oldfield ‏@margatearchi
      Discussion re Thanet Gazette front page article today. #ezekieltrial
      from Maidstone, Kent
      Mar 1 Louise Oldfield ‏@margatearchi
      A very sad state of affairs that one hopes will not repeat itself. #ezekieltrial #Margate
      from Maidstone, Kent

    4. Thanks, Michael, do not normally bother with twitter as all a bit one liner for my taste.

    5. I did wonder how Rebecca could get away with such a story when the court case wasn't concluded when the paper was put to bed.

    6. And what's even worse is she's upset Iris. She's a gonna, you mark my words

    7. Louise did an excellent job from the court and deserves praise for her efforts.

    8. Thanks Michael, that's where I saw the info (I usually don't do twitter either, but Louise linked it from her blog and I occasionally followed the trial).

    9. Tim I think you may have got the wrong end of the bananana here my guess is that this may be more related phase 2 than any wrongdoing by the reporters covering this case.

    10. That's what I was thinking, that it could prejudice further investigations / charges.

    11. Michael
      I think you're right, and on checking Louise's feed I noted that the "A very sad state of affairs that one hopes will not repeat itself" bit came before the references to the Thanet Gazette so I presume that this comment referred to the case that had just finished. The rest I had always assumed related to ongoing investigations.

  8. My guess is this is as much about justice being seen to be done and getting this balance right, I would guess that in view of what was a landmark judgement and a council that was lead by crook for about seven years this balance is seen to be important.

    Frankly I just don’t think the implications of this have sunk in yet, but I think this judgment will have a long term effect particularly on decisions made by that cabinet, with those made in secret being the most scrutinised.

    Perhaps you should cast your mind back to August 2008 when Simon Moores, Alistair Bruce and Ewen Cameron threatened to resign.

    1. Did they? Remind us...

  9. Wow, check out these blasts from the past!

    1. Because it pleases his tiny little mind, Anon 2:15, for had you not noticed he can only cope with a one line sentence at a time.

    2. Anon 2:15 can obviously only cope with one word at a time. Still, you seemed to understand it.


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