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 http://www.cardyconstruction.co.uk/ and nothing that I can find on the council’s website http://www.thanet.gov.uk/system_pages/search.aspx?terms=pleasurama and http://www.thanet.gov.uk/system_pages/search.aspx?terms=royal+sands
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 http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/tdc/pleasurama_update.htm 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......