Saturday, 12 December 2015

The Pleasurama Development in Ramsgate aka The Royal Sands and some watercolour painting in Canterbury and Ramsgate.

First the watercolour painting of Canterbury Cathedral from Chocolate Café, I think this is pretty much finished.

What I did here was to start a rough sketch of the cathedral and then sort of get lost in it.

Here is the rough sketch.

An example of what I am drivelling on about here are the eight windows on the towers in the foreground, these are all pretty much the same in reality, but as you can see they can be painted in different ways.

Pleasurama is rearing its ugly head again, I have written about this so many times and apart from council tax vanishing into fudging up the concrete cliff wall and minimal site works in an attempt to keep the planning consent valid, very little has actually happened in the eleven years since the planning application was first passed.

I guess it’s time to try and summarise where I think we are with this one.

I did a bit of work on the sketch from Miles Café Culture looking towards Ramsgate Harbour Arches yesterday, I guess this is best summarised as adding boatishness to the harbour in the hope that the end result will look like the boats in the harbour.

My method is sitting in Miles and painting stuff I can actually see, whether it will work or is working remains to be seen, the most I can say, like the cathedral, is. What? something seems to be happening or has happened.

I guess the main thing I hope for is something that can only be done this way, couldn’t be done by painting from a photo or manipulating a photo but has to be done by being there.

In this instance I think part of it is concentrating on the detail of the buildings in the distance but letting the middle and foreground go a bit impressionistic. Of course much of it is just what happens, related to my mood when I do different pieces.

With Pleasurama I have roughed out what I think the key issues are:-

1 The flood risk and sea defence, the seaward side of this strip of land is bordered by the sea.

A. The sea defence in front of the development is wholly council owned, was built in 1860, the council hold no plans or maintenance record for this structure, so all liability for maintaining the sea defence for the life of the development falls with the council.

B. The ground of the site, from the bottom up is, chalk bedrock at about low tide level, the sand beach laid down from the cliff on top of the chalk bedrock, the tunnel chalk spoil laid on top of the sand beach in 1860 when the site level was raised to construct the railway station there.

C. The recently constructed foundations for The Royal Sands, these are not piled into the chalk bedrock but sit on concrete pads resting on the old sand beach.

D. Flood risk assessment, despite the EA recommendations vide no assessment has been made, either to ascertain whether the site is suitable for a residential development of this size or to determine what work would need doing to build on the site. This basically runs out along the lines of height of sea defence and the distance behind it you can build.           


Taking an assumed development life of 100 years, the usual practice here would be to design and build a new sea defence to protect the development for that amount of time.

With no flood risk assessment and the site being designated as high risk, it would seem unlikely that it would be possible to insure or obtain finance for the proposed dwellings there.

My understanding is that the developer intends to build on this site based entirely on assurances from the council that it is safe from flood and storm risk for the expected life of the development.

I would think that the best option for the council here would to get the EA to take over the management of the sea defence here, my understanding is that this and Ramsgate Harbour are the only parts of the Thanet coastline sea defence not managed and maintained by the EA.

As a further note the sand beach in front of the sea defence is not a natural feature and was built up on the wartime defences, I guess we all know that the beach has been rapidly eroding over recent years.

Recommendation. That the council commissions a full independent site specific flood risk assessment, the best people in the uk for this are H R Wallingford, they did the one for Turner Contemporary. 

2 Chalk Cliff.

A. The landward side of this strip of land is bordered by an unsupported chalk cliff, this has been the subject of a number of severe collapses during the last hundred years, the most recent being in 1967.

B. When the development first gained planning consent I made remonstrations to the council which resulted in the cliff façade being partially assessed. The exposed part of the façade was visually examined, vide

My intention was that the council conduct a survey of the cliff structure aimed at making the cliff façade suitable for building a residential development adjacent to it, what actually happened was that the structure was deemed to have a short serviceable life and be in need of urgent repairs, it was discovered that it was so dangerous that the cliff top footpath had to be fenced off until these repairs had been completed.

C. The normal approach to building a residential development next to an unsupported chalk cliff would be to either build it far enough away that future cliff collapses wouldn’t damage the development, or design a suitable cliff façade and construct this first.

The council seem to have taken the temporary repairs to the concrete weathering façade as meaning that the site below it is suitable for development, without any report saying this is the case.

The existing façade wasn’t intended to prevent the cliff form collapsing, it isn’t a cliff support structure like the other cliff support structures in Ramsgate, Harbour Arches, Harbour Parade arches and Marina Road Arches, all of which have brick structures at right angles to the cliff face, to support the cliff.

D. The existing façade can be split into three parts, the squared portal part at the lift end of the structure, this appears to lack the design foundations for the support pillars, the contractor investigated one and found it was missing, vide I would assume the others will be the same; the rounded portal part which dates from the major collapse in 1937, this is a well constructed concrete structure nearing the end of its life (usually about 100 years for this type of structure); the brick structure at the Augusta Stairs end, this dates from 1860 about half of this collapsed in 1967, recent site excavation shows that the central part has no foundations.

E. The cliff façade repairs 2009, in 2009 the cliff façade was scaffolded pointed and coated, this work was supervised by the council’s engineers, cost £900k, shortly after it was finished cracks started to appear in the façade.

At the end of 2009 I went onto the site and examined the façade, one of the portal infills was bulging so badly that I contacted the council and they replaced it in 2010.

Then from 2011 to 2013 I made representations to the council to have the cliff surveyed again, which they eventually did and resulted in the recent work.

F. The first action the council should make with regard to the cliff façade is commission a survey related to developing the site, as opposed to surveys that result in emergency repair work to a structure with a short serviceable life.

If it is considered that the structure, or part of the structure can be used with a residential development below it for part of the development’s life then, the distance between the development and the cliff façade required to facilitate maintenance and eventual replacement should be calculated. 

At the moment we seem to have a situation where on the one hand the developer has investigated aspects of the cliff façade and found serious structural defects, but on the other hand council officers have assured the developer that the structure will be safe and viable for the expected life of the development. What appears to lacking is any survey report showing how the cliff could be maintained with the development three metres away from it.   


The main difficulty here is that the council appears to be saying that it will take over the liability of maintaining the cliff façade with a likely major pointing and every five years, until the façade has to be replaced. The council doesn’t seem to have done the necessary investigations to determine how much space they will need to maintain and replace the façade once the development has been built.

3. The most recent work.

Evidently something has gone wrong with this, up until this week the situation was that the scaffolding had been removed and the work finished.

Earlier this week there was a rumour that the wrong paint had been used, this was followed by the council issuing a statement that the job wasn’t in fact finished and that the final paint coating would be applied in the spring.

Obviously most of us have had our houses cleaned, filled and repainted and are aware that the scaffolding – which is often he most expensive part of the work – isn’t removed before the final coat of paint is applied.      

4. The new developer.

I guess most people had hoped that when the various offshore and onshore versions of SFP Ventures failed to develop the site would return to the council and we would see new plans for the site.

Back in July the local paper reported that Cardy Construction who have been the main contractor since 2009 were going to start building with the intention of finishing the development within two years from then, see

All of the sources including TDC say that this build will be to the original planning consent, presumably with the modifications that should reduce the height to some extent.

This is on the new TDC planning website at there are 60 planning documents and a new measuring device. In practice though the measuring facility isn’t any use as the plans appear too small on the website to do anything useful.

Reading between the lines it appears that Cardy Construction, who are a reputable local developer took over SFP in lieu of debts to them accumulated when they were the main contractor.

It appears that they now either own the site or have an option to buy the site from the council, they also appear to have assurances from the council saying that the cliff won’t fall on it and the sea won’t inundate it and wash the sand, the foundations stand on, away.

Back in July I contacted the Cardy Construction, who up until then had been forthcoming both on the various safety issues I had reported to them and on the progress of the development and got the following answer, effectively saying they had agreed with the council no to say anything about the development:-

“Dear Michael

Thank you for your email. And trust that you are keeping well.

It has been agreed that all press releases etc will be coordinated and facilitated via TDC

Kind Regards


Obviously I have contacted the council several times over the last year, asking them in various ways; what is going on. The main problem here is the council don’t seem to have an office tasked with coordinating the development.

Various phone calls to the council leave me with the feeling that Pleasurama is a bit of a hot potato, which no one wants to hold on to.

So we have a local developer with the option to build, plans which seem to have been fudged together by a group of people who didn’t take into account the basic limitations of the site.

However they are a major local developer with a good track record in this area, so what will happen next is anyone’s guess.  


  1. Excellent analysis. Cardy appears to have been subject to a gagging order by the late departed (from her job at TDC) Edwina Crowley. I wonder if their communications have been recorded?

  2. Michael,

    I venture to suggest that your comments are purely academic. For the past comings and goings suggest to me that the the flats, etc will never be built, and that TDC would welcome an avenue to escape.

  3. Michael,

    I venture to suggest that your comments are purely academic. For the past comings and goings suggest to me that the the flats, etc will never be built, and that TDC would welcome an avenue to escape.

  4. Well John, every so often I feel obliged to try and do something, Serendipity there is no mileage in looking for recrimination towards past council officers, they do what they do, get a large severance payment and along comes another one, if you are looking for some sort of Watergate enquiry perhaps you should look abroad.

    This really is just a rough daft of where we are now, prior I suppose to yet another communication to the council, both asking what is going on with the development and how they plan to address the main site limitations cliff and sea.

    Please provide any report saying:- This site sitting on an EA designated high risk flood zone doesn’t need a flood risk assessment. How large a gap needs to be left between the cliff face and the building to facilitate maintenance. That the cliff façade is in a condition that is safe to build a large residential development under it.

    Obviously as none of the main issues ever get addressed the cost to anyone engaged in any business activity in Ramsgate racks up, this is a seaside town and the main plot of land adjacent to the main attraction – the beach – has been a derelict building site for years now and so far no one involved in making this the case has ever managed to come up with a convincing argument that the site is suitable for anything more than summer amusements.

    During all of this time there really doesn’t seem to be any real reason why the site couldn’t have been surfaced and used, funfairs and parking, apart from the fact that it would draw business away from Margate where the local councils have sunk both our money and money that they don’t have to spend.

  5. Excellent article Michael I will be publishing more on this later

  6. Has Cardy seen this analysis? If not, it might be interesting to ask for a detailed point by point response. And maybe one from our MP...spotted on the Sunday Politics show today.

  7. Michael,

    I do not understand your remark about my wanting some sort of Watergate Inquiry. Other than you are seeking to put words in my mouth, for some reason or other.

    I am satisfied that Cardy are fully aware of the construction problems. They may even know about some that you have not spotted.

    In engineering terms anything can be done about anything. It just depends upon how long you are prepared to wait for completion and how much you are prepared to spend.

    There is no problem here that a competent local government cannot solve.

  8. John unless you are also posting as Serendipity then my references to Watergate weren’t aimed at you.

    My take over Cardy although I could be mistaken, is that they would up owed a considerable amount by the previous developer and hoped that taking over the project they could recover their losses.

    The idea is to build 109 apartments, which could sell for about £200k each i.e. about £23m, lets say £15m build cost, £20m for a decent sea defence and say £50m for a decent cliff façade.

    I think this only really makes sense in the way Dreamland or the airport cpo made sense to the council.

    Something along the lines of, lets hold a meeting and decide to do this that or the other.

  9. Two bedroom modern sea view apartment on the market in Ramsgate for £340k, three bedroom for £395k ( I guess apartments right on the sands would cost more. The down side is that the government are making it less attractive for individuals to buy to let.

  10. Well Dave that would make it seem more viable

  11. According to Ian none of the 7 apartments have sold just along the road which doesn't bode well for the Royal Sands

  12. Had a look today some seem occupied


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