Saturday 31 October 2009

BBC licence fee Wi-Fi and other strange early morning reflections.

On my walk this morning I succumbed to the temptation of one of the Belgium Café’s excellent cups of coffee and discovered yes they do have Wi-Fi, which enabled me to watch the BBC breakfast news live on my laptop while I was there.

Interestingly the BBC say that you have to have a TV licence to watch BBC live television this way and they seem to very vague about who can do what, I presume that means that all the members of my family that live in this house are covered.

But what of my son who is at university in hall of residence, he apparently has to have a licence to watch live TV this way in his hall of residence, but when he is living here during the vacations we don’t need an extra licence for him, so presumably he is covered to watch BBC in other places by our licence.

The law on this doesn’t seem to be at all clear, anyone got any ideas if he can watch TV say in an ordinary café or restaurant while he is at university if he doesn’t have a licence to watch it in hall?

I have been having some thoughts on disobedience and naughtiness in general, my eight year old children are doing the ten commandments in their religious education at the moment and this means they are discovering new sins that they didn’t even know existed.

As I usually do if I go for a walk in the morning I took a few pictures, this morning’s include Halloween decorations, Ramsgate market setting up, the youf of today dressed to intimidate so I thought it wise to buy a poppy from them, some reflections in the harbour and other stuff. Click on the link to view them

I should point out to any Halloween revellers having difficulty getting their broomsticks off the ground or some such thing that we have a large selection of “mind body and spirit" books in the bookshop at normal secondhand prices click on the link to look at pictures of them

Friday 30 October 2009

Ramsgate Royal Sands development access road safety.

The latest plans for this development still show the main bus and taxi access to this site as being down the incline road between the top of Augusta Stairs (opposite the end of Augusta Road) and the two car parks one where Nero’s was and the other where the Marina Swimming pool was.
I have raised concerns in the past about the arched viaduct at the bottom end of this slope (past the remains of the Marina Restaurant) being able to support the weigh of the traffic for the life of the development.

Today I am concentrating on the upper part of this slope, which has something of a history of collapsing.

For clarity it is best to separate it into three parts and I will deal with them one at a time.

Starting at the top with the area by Augusta Stairs, this part of the chalk cliff collapsed in November of 1955 taking the previous steps there with it.

Considerable reconstruction work was carried out there during 1956 and 1957 to provide a concrete structure that both supported the cliff there and provided new steps for pedestrian access.
Unfortunately the civil engineers that designed this structure considerably underestimated the destructive forces involved in our cliff collapses. Four months before the work was due to have been completed, in February of 1957 a further collapse knocked down much of the support work that had already been done and much stronger work involving the use of much more concrete produced the steps we have today.

As you can see the photograph avove (taken this week) the chalk cliff here is once more moving outward, the tell tale cracks in the road surface and the displacement between the pavement curb and the raised curb, to prevent out of control vehicles going over the cliff are indicators.
The ground here also appears to be sinking, as you can see from photo above the bottom of the wall between the road and the top of the steps. Let us hope that the engineers didn’t guess wrong the second time.
Next the cliff façade here also collapsed this was attributed at the time to a fault in the cliff some distance back from the cliff face, the solution to this was to build what they called marina Road Balustrade, picture of the top of it in the photograph above
Unfortunately as you can see from the photograph above it would appear that another fault is developing in the chalk some distance behind the cliff face.
Finally if you look carefully at the walls of the Marina Restaurant you will see they are unusually thick and from the considerable difficulty in demolishing them, evidenced by the lack of cracks even close to the stresses caused by smashing the roof in, very strong.

My research into this sort of Victorian civil engineering suggests that the primary function of these walls at right angles to the cliff face and connected to it, were to support it. This is probably the reason that the cliff only collapsed down to this point in the 1950s.

Now most of the walls have been knocked down one wonders about the cliff support between the balustrade and the viaduct.
The council tells me that they are quite happy to have set a 40 tonne weight limit on this road, but then they have a vested interest in selling the site.

Ramsgate town council agenda Monday 2 November 2009

I have just been sent this and related documents I couldn’t find it at a glance on the councils website so have published it and them on the internet click on the link to view

The rest are all on the council's website see

Thursday 29 October 2009

Quex Park some pictures

We took our children to Quex Park today there was plenty to entertain them, mask making, the lights out and ghosts, decorate your own cake £1 extra but they did get to eat it, I slipped off and took a few pictures click on the links for them.

There is a bit of local folklore surrounding these two statues, up until relatively recently there was a long period of time where the fountain didn’t work and they lacked the cleansing and protection it has afforded since its creation.

Their creator was allowed one exception to natural law for putting in a flaw in their forms; this was that every hundred years they come to life for an hour.

I heard from the only witness to this event a description of what happened, for what it’s worth here it is.

As soon as they became aware of their fleshy forms they both vanished behind the bushes, a certain amount rustling was the heard followed by some grunting and then the girl spoke to the boy thus.

“Now you hold the pigeon and I will do it on its head.”

There are certain difficulties associated with photographing inside Quex, one being it is difficult to get permission and anther being that the exhibits are behind glass so please accept my apologies for the quality of some of the pictures in the next sets.

Lunch at Quex Barn

Boarding school and monasticism has left me a quick eater so I am running this post off at the restaurant table, good food reasonable prices and wi-fi

The two pictures above are of my children’s meals from the children’s menu.

This is my steak sandwich

Widows 7 and a misty morning

I am trying out windows 7 (evaluation copy) on my laptop at the moment and so far it seems to be ok, I never managed to get on with Vista but I think this is going to be better.

This mornings experiment is to publish to the blog and to publish the pictures taken this morning to a conventional website see as you see it was very misty.

Sorry about the bits in the camera I will clean it out again, also the experimental post, but it is my day off and I am playing about.

One of the most useful things about this version of windows is the large icon view when previewing images in a folder.

For those of you unfamiliar with web publishing on the move, as an example I can wander around pretty much anywhere in the world taking pictures, I can then wander into a cafe with Wi-Fi stick the memory card in the laptop, press a few keys and the pictures are on the web.

My wife reckons that the pictures were a bit dark so i have run them through a program that auto corrects them click here to view

Wednesday 28 October 2009

Does Thanet have a Conservative run council or not?

Walking round Ramsgate this morning and looking at aspects of the failing infrastructure and the lack of sensible investment, I got to thinking about the way we have been governed under this administration.

One question that I find very hard to answer; is are we being governed by a cabinet with Conservative ideals and policies?

Obviously the people of Thanet voted for a Conservative administration and from this one would assume that they were asking for a cabinet that was made up of a majority of Conservative politicians with Conservative ideals.

What I am wondering however is if the majority of the cabinet members stood as Conservatives, not because of their ideals but because they thought by standing under that party banner they would have more chance of being elected?

This then begs some further questions like:

Where do those councillors with genuine Conservative ideals that never get into the cabinet stand?

What do the local Conservative associations think about this and would they continue to endorse the actions of the cabinet regardless of how far from mainstream Conservative policy they get?

What does the local Conservative whip really mean in terms of the way it is directing policy and is it in fact silencing genuine Conservative voices?

What do the Labour group think about this, do they consider themselves to be an opposition to an ideology or to the random desires of an unidentifiable group?

Do the Labour group prefer the status quo and see it as furthering their chances of being elected?

How should someone with a genuine Conservative ideology vote in the local elections?

As a floating voter I expect there to be pros and cons with being governed by either of the main political parties.

Something I do expect with local Conservative government is for there to be a core of Conservative councillors with experience in commerce, industry and technology and for those councillors to be bringing this expertise to form the core of the leadership.

Another thing I expect is that when we have a Conservative lead district council and a Conservative lead county council, as we do at the moment, is for our district council to get at least a fair share of the county resources for our district.

Now here in Ramsgate our basic infrastructure, roads pavements, cliffs, harbour etc is all just falling to pieces and I wonder why this should be the case.

I also expect a Conservative administration to have its fair share of small shopkeepers, like me they may not be the brightest peas in the pod and if this is the case shouldn’t be holding senior positions, but I would expect them to ensure that the interests of small shopkeepers were protected within the trading environment.

Anyone that has been to Margate recently will see that this has obviously not happened and I wonder why this should be the case.

This is what the Conservative party’s website has to say about their local government policy.

“Conservative councils are greener, helping to improve the local environment and protect green spaces in our towns and villages. They are safer, fighting the crime, anti-social behaviour, vandalism and graffiti that ruin people’s quality of life. And, at a time when people are being hit by the economic downturn, they offer better value for money.”

Does this sound like the the way our cabinet are guiding council policy?

Is there anyone who would like to leave an expanded comment on what Conservative policy is at district council level?

I will probably add to this as the day goes on, please if you comment avoid personal references to individuals.

A few pictures of Ramsgate for the likes of Don who may not be able to get out

This is just yesterdays and today’s early morning walk, mostly just meandering about the a few pictures of infrastructure problems mostly that relate to cliff stability are included as it was a case from publishing straight from the camera card to the web.

Incidentally the Augusta road residents seem to have come up with a novel way of dealing with seagulls on rubbish day, hanging the sacks on the railings something that makes it very difficult for the seagulls to open them.

Here are the links

Tuesday 27 October 2009

Royal Sands Development Ramsgate, more on the most dangerous bit.

The cliff in the Wellington Crescent area of Ramsgate is particularly unstable and dangerous for a number of reasons, the poor maintenance record of the cliff top surfaces, the maze of tunnels and caves inside them, the various façades that have often been badly constructed, the vibration caused by the guns mounted there during the two world, wars all are factors in this.

Over the years there have been a number collapses and with the help of other local historians I am endeavouring to gather as much information about them as I can.

I have been trying to persuade the various people involved in the Royal Sands Development that building 4 metres away from a 22 metre high unsupported chalk cliff that is in poor condition, isn’t an engineering solution but just madness.

Frankly I am finding this an uphill struggle and am becoming inclined to pull my punches less and less, the picture above is of the 1957 collapse and this link leads you to the newspaper articles about it

Make no mistake about this the cliff behind where the new development is supposed to be going to happen in the next few weeks is an unsupported chalk cliff, it is in poor condition and riddled with caves and tunnels.

Unsupported chalk cliffs collapse in random and unpredictable ways and when this one next collapses it is highly likely to demolish part of the new development, maiming and killing people inside.

There are engineering solutions to building residential accommodation on this site, they are however unlikely to be popular as they involve both the council and the developer admitting that they have already wasted a considerable sum of money.

Monday 26 October 2009

A few thoughts and pictures from the last couple of days.

I am having a bit of a break from Pleasurama on this post and will try to catch up on some of the things I have missed, this is intended to be a fairly meandering sort of post so I don’t recommend it if you are in a hurry.

I was up fairly early on Sunday morning and had a fairly thoughtful walk to the end of the west pier and back, there is usually no one else taking pictures and I was surprised to find several photographers about with very large cameras and lots of attachments, turns out they were from Deal.

I gather that there was a major cliff collapse in the area of the tunnel entrance in 1957, the info comes from local railway books mostly Terry’s one on the tunnel railway it only says that a cliff collapse at the sands end of the tunnel caused the narrow gauge railway operating there then to close while a strengthening wall was built and this subsequently reduced it from two tracks to one.
Oh and yes and this rather unusual comment “workers were warned of further cliff falls by the use of a bell which they found necessary on several occasions.”

As you can see from the picture the whole area is in a bad old state, click on the link for more pictures of this

Once I arrived at the harbour it became fairly obvious that the Thanet Coast Project was something I would need to investigate later in the day, more pictures at

I then wandered along the cross wall and noticed a plane fly really quite low over the houses on the westcliff, as it was still early on Sunday morning when a lot of people were still asleep it did occur to me how stupid of the airport it is to let planes over fly the town at this sort of time when they don’t need to, it really isn’t doing their cause any good at all.

This next picture is of Antwerp Flyer at full power astern, their helmsman discovered the sand bar in the harbour entrance quite unexpectedly and came to an abrupt halt, I hope there was no damage to the keel, I believe he took my signalling to him to be the actions of some sort of lunatic until he hit the bottom.

As you can see from this picture his next attempt at the harbour entrance was far more cautious, right close to the west wall where the water is deepest, click on the link for more pictures

I returned home and did my best to answer various comments on the blog over breakfast but became distracted by various discarded children’s toys, a remote control car and the innards of an animated stuffed animal caught my attention in particular, hence the short video.

Later on I went to investigate Thanet Coast life, a pity it wasn’t more heavily promoted, despite all that was going on I don’t think there were many more people about than one would expect on a fine day at this time of year.

Another really daft thing was that they had sighted the tent with the band in right opposite the tent with all the people trying to convey information about the project so it was difficult to hear what they were saying, click on the link for more photos

Next a rare treat the maritime museum was open with free entry, apparently they now have the ok from the council to open for another 3 months but still no security of tenure so they still can't get their grants and get on with sorting the museum out.

I do wish the council would get on with this one, it doesn’t help them to lose the continuity of opening either, anyway it’s open Wednesdays to Sundays again, click on the link for more pictures

On to this morning, going down Augusta steps this morning I noticed there is rust coming out of the concrete in several places, I believe this should be treated before spalling starts to occur and more expense is incurred, click on the link for more pictures

Walking up the eastern harbour wall I noticed there is some movemnt and cracking to the surface, I am beginning to wonder if the council is really interested in these things though.

There is also some sort of water leak behind the brickwork on the western incline viaduct, what a pity that they weren’t waterproofed properly when the structural repairs were done as it makes many of the arches pretty much unusable.
On to the westcliff and another low flying plane (picture at top of post) and several worrying defects to the infrastructure that I won’t bore you with click on the link for the pictures I feel I must end on a high note here and point out what a marvellous job the council’s parks and gardens department does on planting in such an attractive way, click on the link for the rest of the pictures

Saturday 24 October 2009

Royal Sands Development Ramsgate

It is important understand that in terms of Ramsgate this development is not like any other in recent years, both because of its size and position.

The only other comparable development on Ramsgate’s prime foreshore of comparative size is Ramsgate harbour, because of this the development will have a considerable impact on Ramsgate throughout this century.

We are now at the fifth crunch time with this prime site and the last twelve years. By this I mean after it closed as an amusement arcade the first crunch was it was to open as a factory outlet in the existing building in 1997. Second crunch was the Whitbread development to be built by the contractor Featherstone Construction that failed in 2002. The third crunch was the very high development to be built by contractor Robert Leonard Group Plc, they pulled out in 2005 after doing a certain amount of boarding up of the site and not much else. The fourth crunch was even more surreal Contractor Knight Developments told everyone on several occasions that the start of building work was imminent, this was despite knowing that the cliff needed repairing first, what they did do though was the last lot of roadworks down there, what amazed me was that they did them despite knowing that the Environment Agency had strongly recommended a flood risk assessment before any work commenced. Knights pulled out somewhere early in 2008, leaving the site pretty much as it is now.

Now we have a new contractor Cardy Construction and new and different plans from previous ones. For about the last year I have tried to engage them in some sort of dialogue in the hope that at last, of some sort of safe and viable development. My main objective being to warn them of the previous contractors pitfalls and get them to proceed in a way that may finally lead somewhere, in this I would say I have had a modicum of success but my patience is wearing thin.

My main gripe with them is that I have failed so far to get them to engage in any sort of way with the people of Ramsgate, by this I mean using the usual forms of communication to tell us what is going on and to endeavour to take the people of the town with them with a project that will be broadly acceptable.

The type of public engagement I have been asking for is for occasional drop in sessions in Ramsgate, say in Albion house or some other venue where plans, artists impressions and samples of the building materials would be on display and local people could ask questions about the development and some sort of web presence, at the moment there is nothing on the contractors website and nothing that I can find on the council’s website and

At the moment the only source of information about this project is on a few local websites and blogs, something I find inadequate in view of the scale and location of the project.

Now we come the problem with this blog and how it relates to the development, by this I mean that my concerns about the sort of development we are going to get in terms how it looks and how it functions have been overshadowed by my concerns about safety.

Most people I speak to assume that these concerns of mine will all be covered by the various types of building legislation and are far more concerned about what the development will look like and how it will effect the view from the cliff top.

I believe the greatest concerns here are to do with the roofs of the new development, right next to the conservation area on the cliff top, these roofs are huge and around the level of the cliff top.

I say around as I have reason to suspect both the architect’s competence and the planning departments ability check on the height.

By way of example this link takes you to one of my surreal correspondences with the planning department about the height at the bottom of the page you will find an email from the planning department conceding that the section AA is taller than the elevation where it intersects section AA, by this I mean that had the building been built to this particular set of plans, it would like the Tardis have been bigger on the inside than on the outside.

Anyway sticking with section AA for a moment, this section is shown on all of the plans including the latest ones that Cardys intend to build to, a very pertinent point here being that at here the font edge of the roof of the building that you will be peering over the top of is 160 feet away from you, which is a lot of roof to peer over.

Now at the previous public drop in session at Albion house, years ago now when the proposed roof was to have been made of corrugated tin (like a factory unit roof) quite a few local people didn’t like this idea.

We then went through a period of time when it was explained that this roof would be changed to a planted (sedum) roof and to it would look quite attractive.

Now the word is that this would be impractical because seagulls would nest in it, so the roof is to be made of what looks like grey ribbed rubber, rather as though the architect has been inspired by a contraceptive device.

I suppose his remit was to design a block of condominiums so one way or another there may be some sort of logic at work here.

Anyway back to my patience wearing thin, I tried as I know others did to get temporary use of the site for leisure for last summer and was told that the contractor needed the site as they would be working on it. No work happened and this prime site was wasted for the summer season, much to the detriment of Ramsgate’s economy during a time when other seaside towns benefited considerably from people holidaying in the UK because of the recession.

I tried throughout the last year, with both Cardys and the council to get them to engage in some sort of dialogue with the people of Ramsgate, I got assurances from the planning department that Cardys would renew the promised consultation process.

I think probably what has brought my patience here to an end is the new boarding, not because it is unreasonable to enlarge the boarded up area but because it is unreasonable to do this without informing local residents.

There were not even any signs notifying us of the loss of half of the promenade, nothing on the councils planning website either, now ordinary people if they want to close part of any public pedestrian route have give public notice and get council permission.

What worries me here is that someone here feels that they are above the law, something I find particularly worrying because aspects of the planning application don’t make sense.

I will add to this one as time permits......

Visit of Chinese delegation & 'In principle' agreement to purchase land

China Gateway International (CGI), the AIM listed property company, announces that it has hosted a delegation from the Chinese Peoples Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, including the Honorary President of the China Friendship Foundation, Madam Li Xiaolin, the daughter of the former President of China Li Xiannian. Also in the delegation were Mr Yao Mingyu, the Vice Chairman and Secretary General of the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, and Mr Lu Changhe from the China National Culture and Art Company. The delegates were also accompanied by Mr Hu Yuandong, the Head of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) Investment Technology Promotions Office (ITPO), Beijing.

The purpose of the visit was to show the delegation the Company's property at Manston and explain the concept of the China Euro Cultural Industry Hub (CECIH).
The CECIH project plans to attract up to 300 businesses & commercial organisations from China to a purpose built 'Hub' at Manston Business Park. This would be the first of the 'China Gateway' buildings to be constructed.

The Company also announces that an 'in principle' agreement has been reached with East Kent Opportunities (a joint venture between Kent County Council & Thanet District Council) for the purchase of a further 5.5 acres of land (subject to contract) at Manston Business Park, adjacent to the Company's existing land holding.

A further announcement will be made if a Contract to Purchase is entered into.

For further information, please contact:

China Gateway International PLCKen Wills +44 (0) 1843 822444

Beaumont Cornish Limited Roland Cornish +44 (0) 20 7628 3396

Square1 Consulting Ltd David Bick/Mark Longson +44 (0) 20 7929 5599

This information is provided by RNSThe company news service from the London Stock Exchange.

Ed. Sorry about the delay with this one, I got the press release late but thought it would be of interest to some people published in full, so here it is.

Friday 23 October 2009


AN expanded and updated edition of a popular book recounting the history of Margate’s Dreamland amusement park is now back on booksellers’ shelves.

Dreamland Remembered, by Whitstable journalist Nick Evans, has been published in time to mark the 90th anniversary of John Henry Iles purchasing the site in November 1919. JH Iles took over the existing Hall By The Sea, a seafront dance hall and pleasure garden, originally opened in the 1860s by circus showman ‘Lord’ George Sanger, initially renaming it Dreamland Hall before opening the famous amusement park to the public on July 3 1920.

The book traces the story from its beginnings, through the ups and downs of the 20th century, to the present day with hopes high of securing multi-million pound grant funding to help create the country’s first heritage theme park.

High points in the Dreamland story include the immediate success of the famed Scenic Railway, building of the cinema and ballroom complex in the 1930s, the importance of beanfeast outings as well later changes in ownership, method of operation and the park’s decline in recent years.

Nick Evans said: “I first published my book in 2003 and I’m delighted it has since become regarded as the definitive history of Dreamland. With all that has happened since and what is being planned for its future, I felt this was the right time to bring the book up to date.

“This new edition boasts a lot more historical detail than the earlier versions as well as featuring dozens of new photographs, some of which are in colour.

“At the beginning of 2008, I was fortunate enough to be given access to Margate Museum’s collection of photographs and many are included in this 90th anniversary edition. Of course, the museum has, sadly, since closed so I’m very glad I made the effort at the time.

“Many more photographs and much of the information come from my own extensive collection of Dreamland material, saved by my late father Bill Evans in 1981.

“A freelance journalist like me, he was Dreamland’s press officer for much of the 1970s and was given original posters, photos and brochures by the outgoing management as they made way for new owners, the Bembom Brothers. He gave some of these items to Margate Museum and it was ironic to see his handwriting on a few of the photos as I worked on them last year.”

More recent information and pictures from the late 1990s have come from a collection held by another former park publicist, journalist (and now distinguished editor of the Whitstable Times) John Nurden.

Dreamland Remembered contains 240 photographs, around half of which are shown in print for the first time, spread over 128 pages. Of these, 30 pages are in colour.The book costs £15.99 and is available at local bookshops around Thanet and east Kent.

Ed. I have copies of this book in stock in my bookshop here in Ramsgate.

Michaels Bookshop
72 King Street
CT11 8NY
U. K.Telephone (01843) 589500

Wednesday 21 October 2009

Royal Sands Development Ramsgate securing the cliff face that had moved.

My recent posts about this development has meant that I have had various dialogues with several engineers that specialise in various aspects of chalk and problems related to different projects involving its stability.
One aspect of the report on the condition of the cliff façade that has generated particular interest is how the bit of it that was on the move had been dealt with, the following is a quote from the report.

“There is an area of the façade, which is severely cracked and has experienced outward displacement. This indicates that load resistance failure and requires a serious engineering solution possibly ground anchors. The drawings indicate that the façade was to be constructed to a minimum thickness of 310 mm, however inspection through the weepholes, show varying dimensions down to 230 mm.”

Obviously with the total lack of public consultation about this major project there is scant information about how this problem was addressed, or how successful the work done to this part of the cliff was.
I did take some pictures click on them to enlarge and there is this quote from Dave Green’s Eastcliff Matters blog:

“The area of cliff facade which has not yet received the specified anti-carbonation coating is awaiting stabilisation works which are currently being designed. Testing undertaken during the construction phase indicated that a section of cliff facade in this location is not sufficiently stable. The solution to this will involve the installation of a series of ground anchors which will tie the concrete facade to solid chalk several metres behind the face of the facade. A new reinforced concrete 'badge' will be cast over the existing facade in this location to allow the new anchors to be tensioned sufficiently to stabilise the existing structure. Once complete, the works will receive the same coloured coating as the rest of the facade to protect it from future chloride and carbonation attack. The design has taken longer than anticipated, and work was hoped to commence onsite in October. However, our consultant has been slightly delayed by the company who produced the geotechnical information but has now completed the design work and will produce contract drawings/documentation next week for pricing. I think we should now be in a position to return to site and commence these additional works at the beginning of December.”

For the non technical reading this it easiest to liken it to screwing the concrete wall in front of the chalk cliff to the chalk behind, to stop it from collapsing.

What really riles me though is the arrogance of the people involved in assuming that local people wouldn’t be interested in such a major civil engineering project, so they didn’t tell us what was going on, just as they haven’t told us why a lot more of the promenade has now been boarded off in the last week.

A Policeman’s Lot is Not a Happy One

I finally managed to make the new police Kent crime statistics website to sort of work see as dreadful websites that are both hard to comprehend and don’t work properly it takes the biscuit.

Taking the Thanet crime statistics they seem to be saying:

The level of Burglary in this area is average

The level of Robbery in this area is high

The level of Vehicle crime in this area is average

The level of Violence in this area is high

The level of Anti-social behaviour in this area is high

Trying to understand their statistics beggars belief, you can download them and open them if you have the right software installed, perhaps they lack the ability to publish a chart online, anyway I have just published the Thanet statistics as a normal web page, click on the link to view is it me or is something wrong with the maths and is the something getting worse.
I thought the picture would amuse some of you, it’s of the local policeman and the chap who ran the caves that collapsed on the westcliff, they are standing right on top of them probably not all that long before they collapsed.

Tuesday 20 October 2009

Seals in Pegwell Bay on Video.

A look at the male seal population in Pegwell Bay. The trip was lead by Horizon Sea Safari's of Ramsgate, and skipper John Brooks who talks about the seals here... October 2009

Ed, many thanks to Tom Betts of Your Thanet for this interesting video, it’s easy to forget the significance of the wildlife in Pegwell Bay when looking at local pollution issues.

I am reminding people that the main runway at Manston Airport still hasn’t got fuel interceptors on much of its hard standing and the main runway as far as I know.

What this means is that a major fuel spillage at the airport would probably end up in Pegwell Bay and kill the seals.

Monday 19 October 2009

Is this the end of secondhand bookselling as we know it.

I have been looking at paperless books after reading a post on Thanet Life you can look at the latest in this technology at and I am wondering how long it will be before the supply of recent books dries up.

It really is quite difficult to work out if this is the greatest revolution since printing or just another gimmick that won’t catch on that much.

One thing is certain and that is that the few big retailers that have now got hold of the monopoly of new bookselling want to make sure that they have everything published in electronic form.

Following Google's plan to digitise all books published, which is facing some opposition, Amazon has launched its own program, 'Search Inside The Book' (SITB). Amazon are demanding that for all new books they require a PDF file of the whole text, to allow them to decide which sample pages they will show to the prospective buyer. The PDF file must be with Amazon three months before publication date.

I am wondering if the book publishing world and book authors have cottoned on to the fact that they are going down the road that the music industry started going down with the invent of the tape recorder.

By this I mean once you give the public an electronic copy of something, some bright spark finds a way to share it for nothing and it makes it very difficult to collect royalties.

Anyway I don’t suppose Amazon will ever get the problem I had in the bookshop on Saturday, this was a customer complaining that a book was too cheap. The bloke went pretty much brasic and it was all I could do to keep a straight face.

As I have said before we now have a recession section where all the hardbacks are 10p and all the paperbacks 5p, anyway I have recently expanded this section and put some of it right at the front of the front of the shop.

The paperback in question was therefore 5p, I won’t name and shame here, apparently the bloke in question is the author of the book.

Manston History Museum visit.

With pretty much all of Thanet’s museums closed or under threat of closure it is becoming increasingly difficult to know where to take my children for an hour or so of history.

Yesterday I thought we would give the Manston History Museum a go, it is off season and they had no special event on so my expectations were not very high and I doubted it would amuse them for more than half an hour.

How wrong can one be entry is only £1 for adults and 50p for children and two hours wasn’t really enough time for it.

I took a few photographs, to give you some idea of the range of the collection click on the links to view them.

I would say the fact that we didn’t have time to visit the Spitfire and Hurricane memorial museum which has free entrance and is on the other side of the car park says it all really.

Sunday 18 October 2009

Royal Sands Development Ramsgate, what are you drinking, the water or the wave?

As those of you that read this blog will know I have been very tied up with Pleasurama this week, I suppose the most depressing part of that being that there is really no regulatory body to turn to.

Before my five year long experience with Pleasurama, I had assumed that in this country, if one could provide reasonable evidence that some major project was potentially dangerous to human life, one just wrote to ones MP or local government representative and they would at the very least check what one was saying and if necessary get some experts to investigate what one was saying.

Now after god alone knows how many emails phone calls and the like, here I sit, totally bemused.

The dangerous cliff has been investigated and found to be dangerous, some work has been done to it that appears to have got it from a state where it needs safety rails round it to protect the public, to a state where it conforms to the local norm i.e. it just needs a don’t sit under the cliff sign.

What I haven’t been able to get is a qualified professional to answer the question, how close is it safe to build a residential development to it?

After questions about the flood risk, that I eventually had to take as far as the Local Government Ombudsman, I finally managed to get the Environment Agency to report on the situation.

Yes they concurred with me that there was a serious risk to the people inside the building from a tidal surge storm, but no they couldn’t make either the local council or the developer implement their safety recommendations.

Now please understand here, I am not saying that the building shouldn’t be built because my vague notions as an amateur engineer consider it may be dangerous. What I am saying is that in the light of two reports by qualified experts, employed by government to ensure that the development will be safe, raising concerns about two aspects of the development being potentially dangerous, these concerns should be investigated before more work is done on the site and more money is wasted.

Some quotes from the EA report with a few notes:

“we don't have sufficient information to confirm whether or not the site is vulnerable to waves of a much greater height and if so, if this could undermine the structural integrity of the proposed buildings.”

I take this to mean that they believe some sort of investigation should be made to work out if the building will fall down in a storm, trapping the people inside.

“We are certainly disappointed that access from the development to the top of the cliff, which we believe to have been in the original layout, has since been removed. In the event of the esplanade being impassable, access from the cliff-top would ensure a safe dry route to and from the residential units. As the proposal stands, a serious flood could potentially leave resident' stranded in their homes without a safe means of escape, for the duration of the event,”

I take this to mean, we thought the plans you sent us had some sort of escape for the people to get out if the building starts to fall down in a storm.

“Areas immediately behind defences lie in the High Risk Rapid Inundation Zone (RIZ) and are particularly vulnerable due to the risk of the defences being over-topped or breached, resulting in fast-flowing and potentially deep water with little or no warning.”

This one can be taken several ways, we recommend that all residents are good swimmers could be one, I am not certain that even a good swimmer would want to wake up in fast-flowing and potentially deep water though.

“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.”

I take this to mean, we can’t make you get a flood risk assessment but it would be stupid no to.

I suppose with all of this interpreting other people’s signals there will always be a sense in which one is trying to work out whether they are waving or drowning.

Saturday 17 October 2009

Royal Sands Development Ramsgate the most dangerous bit.

I don’t know how many of you bothered to read the engineers principle condition report on the Marina Esplanade Façade adjacent to Wellington Crescent.

This is a report by a professional firm of civil engineers commissioned by Thanet District Council.

I don’t know how much I had to do with this report being commissioned, I had been asking the council about the advisability of building so close to what appeared to be a tall and rather dangerous cliff for some time, before it was commissioned.

I had a fairly long discussion about this with a friend of mine recently and realised that I hadn’t made the significance of this report clear enough.

Bright enough chap but no engineer, what he had assumed was that the concrete cliff façade was built to hold the cliff up and stop it from collapsing. His logic ran along the lines of:

It’s made out of concrete; concrete is strong; therefore if properly maintained it will stop the cliff from falling down and demolishing the new development.

Obviously he had completely misunderstood the cliff façade, this is a concrete wall about 20 metres tall and averagely about a quarter of a metre thick in old money this equates to something over 60 feet tall about as thick as a 2 brick garden wall and about 300 yards long.

Any engineer looking at this will tell you that without the cliff face to hold it up a puff of wind would blow it over, it has one sole purpose which is to prevent the chalk from weathering, something that causes bits of chalk to drop off.

The biggest of the repairs to the façade can be explained in layman’s terms thus; a big bit had come lose from the rest of it and moved out away from the cliff a bit, so they screwed it to the chalk behind to stop it falling down.

Having got that out of my system here are a few quotes from the report and notes on their significance.

“Marina Esplanade Façade is in a condition that would be defined as short serviceable life.”

I take this to mean that the façade won’t last as long as the new building.

“Evidence of particle migration at the top surface also gives rise to concerns that hydrostatic may be imposing on the structure forces, which the concrete barrier is not designed to resist.”

I take this to mean that an unknown amount of chalk has slipped down and is lose behind the barrier pressing against it.

“It is considered that erection of a tower crane for construction purposes should be erected at lest 22 metres away from the edge of the façade topside.”

I take this to mean, the whole thing is riddled with tunnels and cracked chalk, so since we just don’t know how strong it is treat it as a lose pile with its sides sloping at 45 degrees. As the cliff is 22 metres high don’t put anything heavy closer than 22 metres from the edge the edge.

“the wall is thinner than the designed thickness”

I take this to mean that when constructed the contractor didn’t follow the plans.

Lets assume for a moment that the repairs had worked out as was hoped, even then we would have had a cliff riddled with tunnels and caves, some of which have been discovered and others which if they are there haven’t been discovered. This cliff has sustained considerable damage because of lack of maintenance to the surface above, so the chalk has many cracks in it.

I should point out here very clearly that nothing has been done to strengthen the cliff itself apart from a small amount of filling of some open holes on the front of the façade.
The pictures in the post were taken by me this morning, sorry I only had my ancient pocket camera with me, it’s more kilo pixels than mega but it gives you some idea.
You can see things are not as they should be.
I am afraid the brown streaks in the picture above may mean the reinforcing rods are still rusting.
As you can see from the picture above the nice new coating comes down not to a solid foundation but muddy chalky soil.
Here you can see the lack of proper foundation under one of the thicker bits.
When I asked the council experts about the vegetation growing out of the cracks, I was told that these weren’t cracks but the vegetation was growing out of seagull droppings that had landed on the cliff face.

Chocolate press release

Passing the kitchen just now I was informed of an urgent press release reminding us that it’s the last day of national chocolate week.
It still isn’t too late to indulge.
Apparently it is very important to eat all of the chocolate up by midnight tonight.