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.

11 comments:

  1. Michael, I strongly suggest that you contact a newspaper or the BBC with this. Naming & shaming seems to be the only way to get through to many authorities these days!

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  2. Michael,

    I agree with annoymouse above. You could try the Daily mail or the Sun maybe.

    If you are wrong then why have TDC not challenged you? I find this curious. I suspect that TDC are aware of the facts. I do not think they will build the flats until the dangers you highlight have been addressed. It's just that they would rather do it without the glare of publicity. They have egg on their faces. I have no sympathy for them. Something terrible could happen if TDC are left to their own devices.

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  3. If you had a pound for every time someone advises you to go to press, or to name and shame, you'll be a rich man Michael.

    Would that it be so simple.

    People in authority conceal facts, avoid decision making etc.

    I would mention here my police area of 1972 (the bonus being history annoys a particularly loathsome local Thanet blogger). I have kept alive concerns about sudden deaths in the Sue Ryder organisation. However as part of that I have included in reports THREE child deaths in Hackney Social Services care at a private care home The Beeches at Ixworth Suffolk.

    Three deaths occurred in three incidents from Dec 1971 to April 72. HM Coroner in West Suffolk traced the records for those deaths for me a couple of years ago to include in my reports.

    Through the wonders of the internet a greater truth emerges

    It emerges that Clinton Davis MP was questioning child deaths in that home over the previous SIX YEARS (not just the three months I had made HM Coroner aware of)

    The problem is that only about two got inquests and so far it has not been possible to find how many died ( HM Coroner waived inquest to allow GP death certs to stand.)

    Another problem is that the local Coroner did not hold inquests. They occurred where death occurred (where the child was ambulanced to)

    So there remain (in spite of Stage 2 of the Shipman Inquiry) matters to be addressed re Coroners Law being part of the mechanism by which UK honours its Common Law duty and international commitment to protect life.

    We have trodden this ground before. If the development goes ahead and there is a tragedy be ready for the Inquest Michael.

    No matter how long after the event it may be before relevant facts emerge in the meantime do what is right.

    And take all the criticism the same way as all the one quick solution advice. Just smile. Unto thine own self be true.

    You are seeing it too re 6th Thanet Gun Range now via email attachments Michael ? Do what is right and wait for further facts to emerge. Worked again.

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  4. It often IS that simple. Look at the recent footage of the non-recycling in Margate that was featured in several national newspapers & on BBC news. So ignore Rick & go for it!

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  5. Could it be that the council are well aware of the problems, and that discussions are going on to resolve the issues. Granting of planning permission is not the end of the matter. The development is still subject to building controls, safety issues etc. and the fact is that the development has not been properly started - for some reason.

    Do you expect all negotiations to be conducted in the public domain? Should the council take issue with every bystander who choses to comment?

    Michael, if you're sure of your facts, why not try the press. Someone will end up with egg on their face - or is that the stumbling block?

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  6. Most planning applicatations are outline, in that it is granted with approximate footprint, access, size, type, etc. Then they come back with either Permitted or Refuse with the conditions such as subject to consultation on materials, colours, health and safety, road access, section 106, etc, etc, etc.......

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  7. We have too many annonymice here. Or is it just one annonymouse. Whatever the case may be, it is confusing. Perhaps the annonymices could each choose a unique name. It would be helpful.

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  8. To the anonymouse that referred to Michael as a "bystander": I think that on reflection you will agree he is much more than that.

    I wonder, have you taken into account the TDC official who thinks the plants on the cliff face are growing out of seagull droppings, and that there are no cracks in the concrete? I think you will agree that this does not inspire confidence in TDC.

    In your defence of TDC you are saying nothing more than that they arrogant.

    Something is clearly wrong here. Surely you can see that.

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  9. This danger clearly exists otherwise development would have started by now. It is left the people who are supposed to to be responsible for safety in an engineering sense to correct this. However the budget does not encompass expert engineers at either a district or county level.

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  10. Pesky do-gooding environment agency trying to muscle in and soil the profitable patch as usual, just for so called 'safety and environmental' concerns. Luckily they can't here because they're too late, and nor can they at Manston since the airport isn't operating with planning permission.

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  11. I will do my best to respond to all of this.

    First five 15.50 JH Richard Card 21.16. The problem here is more one of my motives, naming and shaming isn’t my objective here, this is something one can really only do once and then no one involved would want to talk to me.

    My objective is to try and cooperate with those involved to produce a safe viable development here that will last for a reasonable amount of time.

    I have to admit to having put some FOI requests in to try and get an up to date picture of the situation, this is something I don’t usually do but I think needs must this time around.

    As far as the press are concerned I am sure they would rather cover: “Massive Development Collapses” than “Shop Assistant’s Concerns About Safety of New Development” so the may not be that interested yet.

    21.18 As an example only and in the light of the many announcements from the council that either work was about to start or had started, (on one occasion several councillors and the developer donned hard hats and were photographed wielding shovels and pickaxes for a local paper article that said building work had started) I will site the following: at the beginning of March 2007 I received an email from the council’s planning department saying the following. “The only remaining obstacle to commencement of works is the signing of Highways agreements, which are complete from a Council perspective. Works to alter car parking arrangements near the site will be undertaken and then construction will commence.” About two weeks later I received the report on the condition of the cliff and started my efforts to get them to repair it.

    No I don’t expect them to conduct all their negotiations in the public domain, just to engage in the public consultation that they promised at the outset.

    22.38 This planning application involved the submission of detailed plans most of which are available on the council’s website, I recommend you work back through all of my posts for the last week as this will help you better understand the planning situation.

    JH at 00.25 I don’t think they appreciate how difficult this makes any sort of dialogue, sometimes I wonder if they do it because they don’t really want any sort of reply, or to engage in any sort of coherent discussion.

    JH at 00.38 as far as I can see from talking to various council officials about various local issues, it isn’t so much arrogance they have more a sort of barrier that they have developed between their understanding of the world through all their rules and regulations and the real world.

    I genuinely think that they reach a point where they feel that if they follow the correct guidelines they can surpass the constraints of us mere mortals, in this case that would involve holding back the sea.

    1.48 This is not really correct both councils have access to experts via outside agencies like the Environment Agency and Jacobs; it was these two that prepared the reports for the councils that I am using to justify my arguments.

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