Monday 30 November 2009

Less than 20 Shopping Days to Christmas

I should point out that as my bookshop closes Thursdays and Sundays this is the case and this post is just a reminder to those of you who intend to buy people books about the local area for Christmas, not to leave it too late.

I am doing my best to keep stock of everything all of the time, but with my own and other people’s publications this is over 150 local titles, so logistically it is pretty much impossible to have all of them, all of the time.

I don’t think that the people who buy antiquarian and collectable books as Christmas presents will need reminding, but for those of you strapped for cash, I should point out that I have recently bought quite a lot of review copies of books and that these are just new books at secondhand prices.

Sunday 29 November 2009

Computers Wi-Fi laptops café culture security a whole new world and a Sunday ramble.

If you are reading this then the chances are that you either have or will be getting a laptop or notebook (a small laptop about the size of a hardback fiction book) and you will or do use this when you are away from home.

Trains, planes, ships and most common of all cafés now offer free wireless internet connection and the opportunity to do all of the things you usually do on your computer pretty much anywhere.

A big worry here is what if your portable computer gets stolen and your personal information stored on it stolen? We have all heard the stories of the government officials who have left laptops on trains or in taxis that contain sensitive information.

The answer here is to look in your laptops instructions and set a password, you can do this in the computers bios (the bit of your computer that runs everything else including booting windows) doing this means that to anyone who doesn’t know the password, your computer is just a useless piece of junk that they can’t even turn on.

I wanted to go over to Margate this morning and take some pictures, after my previous experience of getting my car vandalised in the main High Street car park there in the middle of the day see I thought it would be a good idea to do this at a time of day before the miscreants are likely to be awake.

The only reason that I didn’t go there is that there is no decent café open with a working Wi-Fi connection, that I know of, anywhere near the main seafront town centre bit where I could have dodged the showers. The only one I have had recommended but haven’t tried yet, BeBeached doesn’t open until 11am. I have just looked on their website, something I couldn’t have done in Margate this morning, without paying for a wireless connection for the day that would have cost as much as a decent coffee.

I took a few pictures on yesterday’s morning walk, before I opened my bookshop see a bit of an odd one this, as one of my objectives was to line up the bulging bit of the cliff behind the Pleasurama site with the cliff top, so that I could avoid it.

As they say, I sure as hell wasn’t going to stand underneath it and therefore don’t want to stand on top of it, thank you.

Something else that occurred to me when leaning over the top of the cliff, was the amount of things that had been thrown over the cliff top there, mostly bottles and cans. See the picture above.

As a lot of these containers obviously contained alcohol, it would seem that a lot of the people lobbing these over the cliff were not really aware of the dangers to anyone below.

The original design of the Royal Sands Development mitigated this problem by putting covered parking down there, but now due to the need to cover up the lack of foundations and getting the roof of the main building below the cliff top this has had to be modified to an open thoroughfare.

I suppose one solution here could be to cover the road down there with something strong enough to catch anything from cliff falls to plummeting bottles of lager.

I noticed on the Thanet life blog see that Simon is having problems with the latest version of internet explorer (MIE8).

First a general observation here about computers and computing, how complex it is and how the people who understand something about it behave.

Now speaking to Simon I would say that he is probably the most computer savvy of our councillors and he also makes part of his living out of lecturing about aspects of IT.

So on the face of it you would expect him to be pretty reluctant to advertise his shortcomings in this field in a public forum, however IT is a different ball game altogether to other areas of expertise. The bottom line here is that no one can know it all and just to maintain a reasonable level of security on our PCs we all have to use new programs that we couldn’t possibly understand completely.

This means that the very first step in resolving the innumerable problems related to computing is to admit that you couldn’t possibly know it all and ask around.

Be absolutely clear on this one Internet Explorer 8 is the only program that will perform some IT tasks at a reasonable level of security, all of the browsers have their pros and cons and I have tried the most popular ones.

There are some tasks that I can only perform using MIE8 the most important being checking what I have published on the internet looks right to most people, as most people use MIE.

As it probably took a team of some of the worlds best programmers about a year to write this piece of software, I couldn’t possibly understand it in great detail.

This gives an interesting twist to the problems facing people engaged in any IT project for any part of government, which is they hare hemmed in by rules and regulations that preclude them from making the first step in overcoming IT difficulties which is admitting you don’t know.

I see our local fishmonger Johnny Dunhill of Eddie Gilbert fame is featured in today’s Sunday Times see I couldn’t find the whole article online. So will pop down there with the camera in a mo to give you some ide what his new restaurant is like.

Here are the low definition uncropped unedited image files for anyone interested, I will do a blog post about his business in the fullness of time

Eventually despite the somewhat dodgy weather I persuaded my wife and two youngest children to go for a walk in Broadstairs, we pretty much avoided getting wet.

Some quite good skies to photograph and I am afraid one of my rather dodgy 70s lenses came out, oh well toys for boys.

Morelli’s just the best ice cream, now has a reasonable Wi-Fi signal and they tell me opens at 8am-ish, so there will be some early morning pictures of Broadstairs.

I took some pictures of the cake I had for Don and even his comment appearing where and when, it did click on the link for the pictures click on the link for them

Sorry the pictures didn’t publish in the right order, I forgot to clcik on arrange the folder the last 3 are from my little camera, which takes more patience to use than I can usually muster.

Working on some sort of principle about blogs being a log of the day life I don’t know here is the fod recipe later

I will probably ramble on some more here as the day progresses and also try to insert some grammar, when I get to a PC with a larger screen where I can see the punctuation.

Saturday 28 November 2009

Royal Sands Development cliff safety issues.

I gather after much prodding from me that council’s engineers went to have a look at the problems last Thursday.

I suppose that the most difficult aspect of all this is that they have spent £1,000,000 of our money on repairs that haven’t worked, my understanding is that they also used consultants from the same firm that supervised the cliff repairs, to advise them when they inspected it this week.

Click on pictures to enlarge them.
I suppose the conversation went something like. “Cor look I can poke a stick under one of the main supporting pillars here and aren’t they the reinforcing rods that should be embedded in the concrete foundations?”

“Nah mate nuffin wrong here, just needs a bit of concrete chucking on top, like wot we done the last time that shop assistant bloke wos down here nosing about”
“What about the gap at the top of the concrete?”
“Is sitck is too fick to go in innit.”

“Yep see what you mean he said he was worried about all the plants growing out the cracks, I said they weren’t cracks the plants were growing on seagull droppings, that sorted him out alright.
What about the bulging bit up there, with the crack in the middle?”

“Nuffin wrong there mate, you can go and stand right under it, I would but my foots stuck in this hole, sorry I meant foundation”

“Is that rust coming out under the big new patch that was so expensive?”

“Nah mate sem seagulls again”

Sorry about being a bit flippant here but I am running out of ideas about how to approach the problem, here is their latest response to me about the top of the Marina Esplanade incline and my reply to them.

Friday 27 November 2009

A few pictures this morning

Not much of any great interest here, still no weight limits on the dodgy bits of cliff although I have had another email saying there isn’t much wrong with the bit at the top of Augusta Stairs, something I will deal with later.

The first few are from the end of yesterday, a bit of tree surgery this morning, but I was pretty short of time, so only about 50 pictures.

There is a hell of a lot in my inbox so there will probably be quite a few postings today.

Here is the link to the pictures

Thursday 26 November 2009

Pictures of Canterbury

We went to Canterbury today mainly to buy shoes as we couldn’t find the ones we wanted in

I have just dumped the whole of what was in the camera card onto the internet with my usual slash and burn approach to internet publishing.

Some of the pictures were taken yesterday in Ramsgate some in the car going to Canterbury and coming back and the rest in Canterbury.

One reason I snap away like this is that my children like to know where we have been on our day off.

Lunch in the Restaurant at the top of the Fenwick store, an excellent hot turkey sandwich but no Wi Fi something that makes me think some of the big stores have some catching up to do on that one.

Here are the links to the pictures.

The pictures, about 450 I think, are going up as I write so you may have to wait for some of them.

Wednesday 25 November 2009

Royal Sands Development and Ramsgate cliff safety issues desperate measures.

I sent the following email of to the council officers in the TDC building control department this morning and am about to forward it to all the councillors, local MPs etc in the hope that someone will address the safety issues involved here.

I will ask the councillors et al for some response for publication here, as this is about the council’s attitude to public safety I am expecting some replies.

Hi ****, ***, ****, I don’t know how up to speed you are on this one, but would appreciate it if you could take a few moments to look at it and possibly even respond.

I made an foi request back on the 23.10.2009 and have had a response from **** **** which said that there was no intention to inspect the cliff façade behind the Pleasurama site until 2011, this lead me to make my own inspection, what else could I do?
Now having discovered a large bulge in the façade with a crack down the middle of it and sent the details of it to him, see I would expect at the very least the area above the bulge to be cordoned off, while it is investigated, can you tell me as a matter of some urgency why this hasn’t happened?
I also made a complaint about the state of the cliff supporting the upper part of the Marina Esplanade incline see and have just added to this web page another picture showing the movement of one of the columns more clearly, can you tell me why a temporary weight limit hasn’t been imposed on the road there, while this is investigated?
Best regards Michael
Click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Ramsgate Renewal Meeting this Friday

Margate Renewal Partnership…,
"has already secured £35million"
to renovate Margate.
Whilst your Public Toilets and other amenities and assets
in Ramsgate are under threat of closure or being sold off
through lack of funding.
Full details at
on 27th NOVEMBER 2009 AT 7.30pm
Being held at
The Media Centre - Cavendish St, Ramsgate
and help secure a future for Ramsgate

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Ramsgate Royal Sands Development and The Freedom of Information Act

This is by way of an update on some of my progress so far, I have to say that I am as much baffled by the way the council is prepared to waste so much time trying to dodge the issue as anything.

This link takes you to my latest correspondence about the dangerous cliff I have redacted the officers name, partly as I am uncertain if he has just been set up by more senior officers, who wish to dodge the issue.

What also totally baffles me is why they haven’t sent someone down there to put up barriers round the part of the cliff top above the part where the cliff façade is bulging, while they get it checked out by an expert.

I really don’t understand their attitude at all, it is as though they would go to any lengths even corporate manslaughter rather than say they possibly made a mistake.

Oh yes and on a more cheerful note I am starting to make a little website to link up some of the local pictures I have published online I have made the web address simple so that it is easy to remember

East Kent Access Road, final phase

film from YourThanet 23 November 2009

Why save Albion House?

Film from YourThanet 23 November 2009 A tour party of town councillors and architects visited Albion House in Ramsgate on Friday, November 20.
Thanet council plan to sell the building for residential units but campaigners have other ideas...

Royal Sands Development Ramsgate a few pictures and my excuses

Firstly Pleasurama I have to deal with the council officer today who has told me in writing that they will inspect the dangerous cliff behind the Pleasurama site in 2011, my ire has now cooled sufficiently I think to do it fairly.

I didn’t have much time this morning, as a parent mornings sometimes go like that, I have after over 20 years of continuous parenting a totally unphased approach to statement like, “daddy my porridge has exploded.”

So the pictures and walk was more rushed than usual, something that I need to explain here is that I spent most of my childhood disabled and unable to go for morning walks, so the reason that I keep putting these pictures up that I doubt would interest many people is just that for those who can’t

There is a lot of stuff that I haven’t dealt with in the last couple of weeks due to the cliff problem and plenty of other things that should have gone on this blog, please accept my apologies if you have sent me something and I haven’t dealt with it yet.

Monday 23 November 2009

A few pictures and thoughts

The pictures are of walking to and from the Pleasurama site to take the pictures of the cliff condition on Saturday. One of the lenses I was using came to pieces in the middle of this and I had to stop and repair it so there are probably some pretty strange ones.

Here is the link to the pictures and I will add to this post as the day progresses.
I don’t get much chance normally to get out of the shop in the middle of the day on Saturdays and it was interesting to see how many people were about.

I have reached another of those watersheds with Pleasurama the two main cliff safety issues the bulge above the site and the problems at the top of the Marina Esplanade incline are in my opinion so dangerous that public safety is involved here and now.

The issues of what will happen when the building work starts in 2011 will have to go on the back burner for a bit and I have to decide how far to take these major safety issues.
It is though a question of how far to go, particularly in terms of naming individuals concerned, when I publish their responses.

Sunday 22 November 2009

Royal Sands Development how dangerous can you get.

The picture above is of a bulge in the concrete block work of the cliff façade above the Pleasurama site, the crack has appeared recently i.e. since it was painted.

I would ask you to consider the pressure of the weight of the chalk behind needed to crack concrete blocks.

You can also see clearly where the whole of the block work infill has been pushed out relative to the adjacent buttress.

Also consider that I recently saw a fire appliance parked above, obviously a fire appliance weighs several tons and obviously I emailed Kent Fire and Rescue about this.

I find it quite extraordinary that they didn’t bother to reply to me, particularly as at the same time there were men working below painting the skirting for the hoardings.
This next picture shows something quite extraordinary, you may remember I took a picture here before showing a gap under the foundations here, both of the block work and of the supporting buttress, as you can see some concrete has been applied to cover this defect up.

I don’t mean that the foundation has been repaired with concrete, but that some concrete has been put on top in a most amateurish way leaving a gap between the top of the concrete and the bottom of the block work and buttress.

You may be interested in photographing and accessing the site, as technically this was trespass, I got a very well known local businessman and property owner to accompany me.

This was both to help substantiate with the police, if they turned up that I had no malicious intent and so wasn’t committing a criminal act and also to provide a respected witness to the absence of foundations, should the need arise.
This next picture is of me poking a stick under the foundations further along, in some places the cliff façade sits directly on the chalk and in others on muddy topsoil.
The picture above shows where a supporting butress sits directly on chalk, the design drawings show that there should be metre wide foundations here to spread the load, they simply do not exist.

I have had a response from the council to some of my questions about this cliff façade, which essentially says that it is quite safe.

In fact aspects of the councils reply are so strange and contain errors that are so glaring, that I haven’t published it as I want to give the officer that made it a chance to modify it tomorrow before I do so.

Click on the pictures to enlarge them and click on this link to look at the rest of them

I also took some pictures of Ramsgate on my walk this morning, to give a little mild relief to what is an otherwise rather depressing post.

Something I found interesting is that there are now very few empty shops left in the pedestrian part of the High Street, I photographed all of them, three I think.

I was also a bit more adventurous with my use of the camera than usual, this was because being Sunday morning I had considerably more time than usual.

I stayed fairly close to the café culture so I could shelter during the showers, I feel I should mention once again what a pleasant environment the Belgian Café is and that it has free internet access, both a strong Wi-Fi signal and free computers if you don’t have your laptop with you.

There should be at least one picture of the inside of the café click on the links below for the pictures, the computer is automatically publishing them to the internet as I write so you may have to wait a little bit for some of them to appear.

I will try to go through and delete the worst of them when I get a chance to view them on a large enough screen.

Saturday 21 November 2009

Morning walk and a couple of hundred pictures of Ramsgate

A few thoughts about the photographs I took this morning.

Another new shop in Ramsgate High Street Mr Bankrupt, some would say that trading under a name like that is asking for trouble.

Another new shop in Queen Street, Baltic Branch, the shop sign appears to be in several languages including Russian and Lithuanian so I am a bit vague about what they sell.

I went down to port Ramsgate to find out if anything that had happened down there re Euroferries, the girl on the Transeuropa desk said nothing they knew of, apparently the new booths are theirs.

The pictures of model ships were taken in the sailor’s church.

They don’t appear to have used external ply for the Pleasurama hoardings, which are already delaminating and in some places they don’t seem to have used external paint either in some places, no real surprises there.

Someone has broken a gap in the hoardings, something that is handy from my point of view as the council are disputing my assertion that there are no foundations to parts of the cliff façade and I need to get in there and take some more pictures.

Click on the links below for the pictures, I will try and at least rotate the ones that are on their sides in the fullness of time.

Friday 20 November 2009

Turner contemporary thoughts

After my visit to Margate yesterday I am now trying to compose my thoughts about the project into something that makes some sort of sense.

The only presence of the artistic side of the project one is aware of is in the droit house, and the only art on display there yesterday was the display of cardboard and glue project work by eight year olds.

As I have two eight year old children I was in a position to judge this better than most, one could for instance see those artworks that had received considerable adult help.

Some of the writing on the cardboard had obviously had been written out for the children to copy, putting words into the mouths of babes and sucklings type of thing.

The question that occurred to me was this expensively refurbished venue with expensive staff and appropriate venue to display a small amount of class work?

Particularly incongruous when the town can’t afford to open its museum.

The inside of the droit house consists of two small rooms the other contained a man at a desk with the inevitable pc apart from the photographs of the construction work see everything was very Spartan.

I would imagine in a world where bricks, tins of beans etc are art one has to be careful what one leaves about, lest the uneducated venerate one’s lunch, shopping etc.

So there was the man to explain what was or wasn’t art with nothing to explain, in that world this could have been an artistic statement; I took a walk upon the pier and saw some art that wasn’t there, type of thingy.

I mentioned to him how unfortunate it was that they were selling the car park, something with which he seemed to concur with.

I said how unfortunate it was that the new gallery is to be so small in terms of exhibition space, this seemed to surprise him, and he said most people seemed surprised how big it was. So I rambled on a bit about it not being big enough to attract enough people, this appeared to come as a surprise to him too.

A discussion about architecture then ensued, now I am loath to criticise something not yet finished but the discussion meandered about the problems that occur when architects are unfamiliar with our costal climatic conditions.

The principle aesthetic feature of the building is that it is to be coated with recycled glass, ostensibly to reflect the light. The problem for me has always been that this glass is not flat, which poses the awkward question how are they going to clean the salt deposited by the sea spray off of it, so that it continues to reflect the light.

Glass you understand is usually cleaned by a window cleaner with a squeegee, something that won’t work on the proposed lumpy surface.

He seemed to be a bit miffed about this too, so I went off in search of more culture in Margate.
The Turner Contemporary presence in the old M&S shop has gone now, even the jolly tiles have gone from the front making the building look somehow naked, strange really that they should not persue the continuity of atracting the art appreciating world in Margate.
I am afraid I never got as far as visiting the artistic attractions on the pier, it was pretty windy, the TC builders were having considerable problems erecting a Christmas tree despite having access to equipment not usually available to most of us on Christmas Eve.

Thursday 19 November 2009

Go to Margate to see The Turner Contemporary being built and get your car vandalised.

I haven’t been to Margate during the middle of the day for a very long time, but inspired by Mike Harrison’s picture of the heads of K9 or whatever they are supposed to be, rising like some left over military installation.........

To be honest a lot of Margate looked as though there had been a recent war there, cataclysmic is the word that came to mind.

I eventually decided to have a cup of coffee and things went a bit third world, I was working on the principle that I would find a café in the café culture and check my emails and that if it was any good I would have lunch there and use their Wi Fi to publish this blog post.

After trying several cafés I was directed to Café G, the coffee was OK but the Wi Fi connection didn’t work properly.

I asked several of the shop keepers I know in Margate if there was a decent place to get lunch with a good Wi Fi connection, no one knew of one, I came to the conclusion that we are spoilt here in Ramsgate with the quality and diversity of our café’s and restaurants.

I would go over to Margate and Broadstairs early in the morning and take photographs far more often if I could get a decent cup of coffee and watch the BBC breakfast news program on my laptop, so if anyone knows anywhere this can be achieved in either place please let me know.

When I got back to the car to top up the parking, the bonnet had been dented in, presumably someone had jumped on it or something, I didn’t even bother to report it and did what I suppose most people do who have attempted to spend money in Margate, I left for Westwood Cross.

I wanted to look at the new Bhs Home store that has opened, I had a sandwich there in the café, it was as though the person who had set up the café there had heard about café culture, even looked in the door of some cafés but hadn’t actually experienced it.

There was a choice to three types of sandwich in packets, like in the supermarket, it was ok in a sort of motorway service station sort of way, no Wi Fi, I left hurriedly when they stared playing jingle bells over their muzac system, it was just too much.

I went into Matalan to try and buy a jacket my tweed one is coming to the end of a long life, the only jackets they do are black, grey, or look like some sort of advanced form of anorak.

By this time I had become somewhat snap happy so I took loads of shots out of the car window while my wife drove me back to civilisation.

I sorted out the car with the rubber hammer when I got home, which was to my mind a lot easier than filling out forms in the police station and an insurance claim. The picture above is of the reflection of some of Margate’s wonderful old buildings in the dent in my car.

Click on the links for the pictures, I am afraid there are over three hundred I will try and delete the worst of them at some time.

Morning Walk and a couple of hundred pictures of Ramsgate.

More slash and burn publishing to the web from the laptop via Wi Fi straight from the camera, one lot between dawn and taking the children to school and another lot afterwards.

A few points for onlookers work seems to be going on at the port in preparation for Euroferries.

The back of the Granville is very dangerous the boards around this deserted building site with plans for a ghastly modern building there is totally unsympathetic to its surroundings, have blown down leaving a great pit for anyone to fall into.

Here are the links to the pictures
they are going up automatically as I type so but will all be viable soon I hope.

Wednesday 18 November 2009

A O Hell and a few pictures from Sunday morning.

The damage to the bus shelter was the only wind damage that I noticed.

I have been trying to find a way to get the AOL program off of our computers and still retain the way it manages email, at the moment I am using Emailchemy in conjunction with Thunderbird, despite yelling “Thunderbirds are go” every time I send an email I haven’t quite mastered it.

If you have sent me an email in the last few days and haven’t had a reply yet, please forgive me, I now have two inboxes one says it has 647 emails in it the other says it has 33 in it but this is obviously wrong as there are obviously hundreds in that too.

If you have received an email from me containing lots of html code that you can see I apologise also.

Nothing exciting here just what was in the camera, see it as a little break between Pleasurama grrrr, the ferry still on I am told, the maritime museum still waiting while TDC forms yet another committee to delay giving them security of tenure so they can get their grants (nearly put my foot through the floor of the museum office the other day), I won’t go on as no doubt there will be more soon.

The ominous crack in the pavement is just behind the dodgy cliff wall that is at the back of the houses in Kent Terrace.

There were really a lot of people about for such a windy day including some surfing next to the harbour wall, something that looked a bit dangerous to me. The bottom two pictures are detail from the high definition originals, too lazy to screw on a telephoto lens I am afraid, mind you it was a bit windy which would have meant even more bits in the camera.

The trouble with AOL is they only give the option of running their huge program, it’s covered in animated adverts and you can’t stop it from running in the background even when you aren’t using it.

Old computers and small ones like notebooks just can’t manage it and the message; waol exe has encountered a problem becomes an hourly occurrence, that said the reliability of their broadband connection is excellent.

Here is the link to the pictures sorry they are a bit repetitious.


Hi EveryoneWe're having a quiz fun night atSt James Night ClubBroad Street, (Just up from Cox & Co Furniture ShowroomonThursday 19th November7.00 for 7.30Master of ceremonies and quiz Supremo Ralph HoultKas, the forces' sweetheart will performing songs from memory LaneAfter the quiz there will be a Disco 'till late - if you're all up to itThere's a free buffet.RaffleEntrance on the door £5.00in aid of the DEMELZA HOSPICE CHILDREN'S CHRISTMAS PARTY being organised byWILKINSONS Please come, bring money and go home broke.
Gerry O'Donnell0781 399 5016

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Royal Sands Development Ramsgate over a million pounds of your money spent by the council so far.

Well actually not quite true as when the council had used up the seven hundred thousand pounds of your money they borrowed three hundred thousand pounds on your behalf.

Click on the link to see what I mean I am now asking them how much money they have spent on other aspects of the project so far, I wouldn’t hold your breath on that one.

I have replied to the response I had to the official complaint I made about the ongoing saga.

Click on the link to read my reply

As no one at Thanet District Council seems to know what to say about the Pleasurama saga everything is met with the longest possible delay. For example the council have to respond to a complaint in 10 working days, which sounds fine, what happens with complaints relating to Pleasurama if my last one is anything to go by is this.

The Major Developments Officer replies on the last possible day.

It then goes on to the head of his department who has to reply within 10 working days, he replies on the last possible day.

It then goes on to the chief executive who has 10 working days to reply, he replies on the last possible day.

Add on to this the couple of days it takes me to absorb and reply to each one and you have another week, so all in all that is seven weeks.

It is only after this that I can take the matter to the local government ombudsman i.e. a senior civil servant outside of TDC who will take about a month to come up with the answers.
This is what happened with the flood risk issue and resulted in the EA report going into the public domain see

Now my questions all have to go through this process, questions which relate to things like how come you spent a million pounds on fudging up and painting the cliff face, even though I told you that as it had some of its foundations missing, the work was a waste of time with out sorting these our first?

Or how come you have boarded off a load more space down there, when you say you won’t start proper construction work until 2011?

The big question of course is why wont the council just tell us what the hell is going on?

I have decorated this post with the only pictures that the council have paid to have put online to show the people of Ramsgate what this development may look like.
You may wish to click on them to enlarge them to get some idea of the brave new world that the architect and council envisaged for us, the architect is the same one used for China gateway who wanted the industrial and human sewage there to be passed though on site septic tanks and dumped into our drinking water supply.

Saturday 14 November 2009

Royal Sands Development Ramsgate another years delay.

I have now been told officially by the council that work on the construction of the development won’t start until 2011.

This means once again I will be lobbying the councillors for temporary leisure and parking use of the site next summer.

I have had the same excuse that I had last year, that was the that the developer will need the site next year to lay pipework and groundworks, well it didn’t happen this year and even if it does next year it would seem unlikely that they will need the whole of the site for the whole of the summer.

The pipework also runs along much of Harbour Parade and I wouldn’t like to think that there will be no public access to Harbour Parade for the whole of the summer.

Finding information about the Royal Sands Development during the last month is a bit of a long story, it is as much a story about trying to extract information from Thanet District Council, as it is a story about the development’s arduous progress.

The most important part of my freedom of information requests and official complaint to the council relate to the weight limits on the eastcliff here in Ramsgate.

Put quite simply if I am wrong about this then I have made a fool of myself, but if I am right, as I fear I am, then lives are being put at risk now.

Not at some future date when the development is built but now, every time a coach full of people drives down the Marina Esplanade incline road and every time a maintenance or emergency vehicle drives onto the cliff top footpath above the site.

Progress so far is not good, my first request for a document has been answered with an explanation of a delay while the legal position is resolved, this seems to me to be quite reasonable and I am happy with its progress, see

My second request has passed the date by which it should have been answered, I am uncertain what action I should take in this instance, I know what to do if I am refused the documents that I ask for, or told they don’t exist, but what to do when there is no reply eludes me, see

My third request has resulted in a request for pictures from me, this is quite reasonable as I offered them within the text of the request. There is however a rather bizarre twist to these pictures as they are of something that doesn’t exist, namely the cliff façade foundations.

As the officer concerned is obviously giving some time and thought to this request, I have considerable hopes that some documents will come of it, after all one wouldn’t expect after a months delay and the return request for photographs to end in nothing, see

Finally we come to my complaint, I have had a response and I have to say that I find aspects of it unsatisfactory, unfortunately this will probably mean raising my complaint to local government ombudsman level.

I am reluctant to do this, as I know it puts pressure on our already hard pressed council, but at the moment I see no alternative.

One area that I am most concerned about here is that the developer closed part of the public highway, without notification and it would seem from the council’s response without gaining permission from the council to do so.

Why this concerns me so much is that it would appear that the developer seems to feel that they are above the law, the information I have is that acting in the way they did is illegal.

Obviously the hoardings that they erected illegally are not permanent and as such not crucially important, what worries me though is that with this being such a large and significant development, with so many questionable aspects that starting in this way may set a trend.

One problem for me here is that on the one hand there is no planning agreement because this is a council owned property. You have to appreciate that if the site was owned by anyone else, one would be mandatory and it would have to be in the public domain. While on the other hand having opted out of this important document because it is a council owned site, the council then say that they have no obligation to provide basic information about the development.

This really is a case of they can’t have it both ways, by that I mean that if they are going to treat the development as though the developer owns the site and not the council then there should be a development agreement.

Obviously the answer that they won’t actually start to build anything until 2011 leaves me petty much speechless.

Last year when the five year period that the planning permission was valid for expired, I was told that as the access road had been started within the period the planning permission stood in perpetuity, I was concerned that the developers main interest was to keep the site undeveloped, while retaining the option to use it for as long as it pleased them.

Essentially having fixed a price for the site with the council, they could then wait for the value of the site to rise to a point where the development was viable, despite the problems associated with building between an unsupported chalk cliff with stability problems and a history of collapses and on the foreshore, in a way that was against environment agency’s strong recommendations.

In many respects we would have been protected from this by the performance bond, which formed part of the original development agreement and that the council agreed to relinquish.

Here is the link to the council’s response to my complaint

Ramsgate Town Council update, some more pictures, in the wind, and a ramble.

Boundary Road Gas Storage Facility and other issues have gone up the town council’s website click on the link to view

One thing you can certainly say about this website that Dave Green has written is that it’s green, yep one of the greenest websites I have ever seen.

It was very windy this morning and I am afraid I didn’t manage to capture this well on the few pictures I took on my morning walk, click on the link to view them

One problem was that the sand blowing through the air just made the pictures look fuzzy.

I can’t quite believe what I have just read but the thing about the gasworks and the water seems to be saying that they are pumping drinking water within Ramsgate, this is what it says:

"I have a response from Morgan Sproates, TDC contaminated land officer.
In relation to providing you with reassurance that the site does not present a wider risk to the environment, there are two key reports highlighting the findings with respect to Groundwater Resources (MWH Final P20 Quantitative Risk Assessment, Ref. 410/002601, May 2004) and Human Health (MWH Quantitative Human Health Risk Assessment Final Issue 1, Ref. 410/002601, May 2004).

In brief, the controlled waters risk assessment indicates that the
chalk groundwater has the possibility to be impacted by contaminants in the made ground and perched groundwater (e.g. coal tars, etc...).
However, the chalk groundwater potable water supply abstraction points located 1300m from the site are not considered to have the potential to be adversely impacted by contaminants associated with the main sources of contamination on site (pls see attached map highlighting Environment Agency Source Protection Zones in relation to the Boundary Rd Gas Holder Facility). The Quantitative HHRA indicates that the USEPA Model (Tier 2 Assessment) has identified concentrations of Polyaromatic Hydrocarbons in groundwater beneath the site exceeding contemporary Screening Levels. However, it maintains that due to the depth of groundwater (~16mbgl) it is unlikely that there is a significant health [risk] via groundwater volatilization to indoor air which could impact Off-site Residents. As previously stated, should the site be redeveloped, then extensive remediation would be required to restore the site to standards required to support a vulnerable end use. To answer your question though, given that the general public does not have access to this site, there is not anticipated to be any current significant risk of harm to human health via available exposure pathways.”

I really hope this is a typo or some other sort of error because if it isn’t then it is taking the most appalling risk with peoples lives.

I will add a bit more to this as the morning progresses.

Friday 13 November 2009

Blogging and libel from a shop assistants point of view

Having just got back to the shop after my day off and therefore I have time to read all my emails and check through the blog and remove any malicious comments, there was one possible libel against a council officer.

This is a bit of a stupid action on the part of the anonymous poster concerned, as if this sort of thing goes on I will have to put comment moderation on, which is a considerable hindrance to lively debate.

Anyway one way or another I am trying to work out which if any of the other comments on this blog could be libellous, a pretty tedious business and any help would be gratefully appreciated.

There is a very good article about this here it says:

“Basic Requirements of a Defamation Case

A defamation plaintiff must usually establish the following elements to recover damages:

Identification The plaintiff must show that the publication was "of and concerning" himself or herself.

Publication The plaintiff must show that the defamatory statements were disseminated to a third party.

Defamatory Meaning The plaintiff must establish that the statements in question were defamatory. For example, the language must do more than simply annoy a person or hurt a person's feelings.

Falsity The statements must be false; truth is a defense to a defamation claim. Generally, the plaintiff bears the burden of proof of establishing falsity.

Statements of Fact The statements in question must be objectively verifiable as false statements of fact. In other words, the statements must be provable as false. (Caveat: Expressions of opinion can imply an assertion of objective facts. See Milkovich v. Lorain Journal.)

Damages The false and defamatory statements must cause actual injury or special damages.”

This is American law I know but blogger is an American site.

I notice that ECR has hidden all the comments on his blog presumably while he makes a similar trawl, there is a technical problem with this as comments on blogger have feeds, so while they are invisible to a normal web browser anyone with a modicum of IT ability can write a JavaScript page that will show them.

So went I and re wrote the script on so the comments on his site don’t show there.

It is very difficult to know how I would stand over litigation relating to anonymous posts that appear to be libellous, obviously I remove them as soon as I see them and obviously I remove anything that names a person or company if the named person or company asks me to.

As it is possible to comment on many of the local and national newspapers and it is possible for an anonymous poster to do this in a way that they would be impossible to track down, I foresee considerable problems in law about who is responsible for what.

One of the greatest problems with the internet is that everyone using it has a limited understanding of how it works and people are inclined to forget that much of what one publishes is in code that one can’t see, but this doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

By that I mean if you make a mistake and rub it out I doesn’t necessarily mean that it has gone away.

Another problem is that of search engine caches which means that if one deleted something from ones website that doesn’t stop it being visible.

Thursday 12 November 2009

Morning walk and a few pictures of Ramsgate

The first few relate to Tuesday and yesterday when I didn’t manage to get a morning walk and the rest to this morning.

Sorry that I don’t vary my route much, the first bit I didn’t have much time and the second bit was after I dropped off the children which leaves me in Hereson, pretty much with the choice of going home the pretty way or not.

As I have said before I wouldn’t normally either bother taking the pictures of publishing them to the web were it not for those who say that as they can’t get out for a walk in Ramsgate they like to look at them.

Just brushing on the technical side of this, as I have said before I use a sort of slash and burn approach to web publishing that would have the average web author foaming at the mouth.

It really does take me longer to delete the ones that are no good than to publish the whole lot, so that is what you get especially when I am doing it this way with the laptop that has a very small screen so I cant really see them properly.

The first four are of one our low flying planes, as you can see this morning’s sunrise was pretty spectacular.

Going back to the people that regularly look at them and encourage me to keep bunging them up, one of them is a well known film director who admits to looking forward to them.

I think the thing here is that once you have spent some time in Ramsgate it is just one of those places that you want to be reminded of, I know during the periods of time that I lived away from here I found myself coming back for no apparent reason, in a way that hasn’t happened to other places I have lived.

Well here are the links

Oh and a bit of an admission here I did go up to Albion House, had I arrived at the home of our town council and it been an ordinary shop in the town I would have gone in to see what they were up to, as it was the front door bell looked as if you ought to have a jolly good reason for ringing it, or else.

The last one was taken when I went to the library to try and find out more about the elusive cliff collapses, no luck this time.
Anyway at the moment you can say what you like about them as I have only seen them on screen where they are about the size of a paperback, I will have a look at them properly when I get time tomorrow with access to the large computer screen in the bookshop where I get to see the whole picture.

Euroferries Ramsgate to Boulougne ferry service update.

This from Euroferries:

“Please be aware we have had splendid support from local restaurants, hotels and businesses to whom we wish to support and bring much welcome business to Ramsgate and to the benefit of residents. A point we would wish to make is that all the investment has been from Euroferries and at no time has TDC or any local authority contributed funds. We have been splendidly supported by Government agencies. All persons effected by the delay have been fully refunded. Thank you once again for your support.

Regards, Euroferries Customer Services Team.

And this from Antonio Sáez:

Dear Michael:Half an hour ago I met an Olsen office in Santa Crruz menber, which told me that Olsen has given a new deadline to Euroferries till next Friday. He told that the ship was ready to go in case this condition is fulfil. Saludos.

Wednesday 11 November 2009

Royal Sands development Ramsgate and the freedom of information act.

Due to my continued exasperation, mostly with getting the council and the developer to tell us in Ramsgate what exactly is going on, I put in some freedom of information requests and an official complaint a while ago.

Now it may come as a bit of a surprise to some people but this is the first time I have made freedom of information act requests, as all of the senior council officers involved will be earning over a thousand pounds a week I don’t like to waste their time.

What really sparked it of was this email exchange.

Date: 08/09/2009


**** is it possible to have a copy of the Pleasurama development agreement obviously with anything showing financial details redacted? I am most interested to know if the safety issues were addressed in it.

Best regards Michael

Subject: Pleasurama Development
Date: 23/09/2009 13:05:33 GMT Daylight Time


Dear Mr ChildCustomer Feedback Reference Number:6136/0Thank you for your message.The documents are several hundred pages long and it would take me months to delete figures etc.. So I see no point in going to the expense of copying the agreement, which doesn't contain clauses on shoreline management (coast protection) anyway.Remember that the planning application, and decision is the key document.

With the formal response from the Environment Agency covering the subject of interest to you.

We know subsequently that (EA officer) **** produced a note from the EnvironmentAgency on what it would wish to see if the application was made 'now'. But that does not form part of the planning consent.Yours sincerely******

They are now all coming to the date by which the council has to deal with them and I am starting to receive emails from various council officers, not exactly answers to my questions, which seemed to me to be pretty straightforward.

Anyway here is the link to the little website I have written for this I have removed peoples names as this is only really about what to expect if you make a complaint or ask for a document under the freedom of information act.

Tuesday 10 November 2009

Albion House Ramsgate a royal residence up for sale.

As some of you will have noticed on Mark Nottingham’s blog see Thanet District Council appear to be selling Albion house off.

I wonder what the new owner would do with the listed status of the ground floor, the mayor is in his parlour and all that, I wonder if the mayor is protected in all this, a stately ornament to Ramsgate, his office or something of that type.

But it does bring sharply into focus what we voted to pay extra for a town council for, was it to have a largely ceremonial function based around an historic building that we couldn’t afford to maintain, something we already had, or was it to have a more accessible elected body to represent the interests of Ramsgate to a district council more focused on Margate?

Would we be perhaps be better off with our town council based in a shop building in the town centre, where they would be much more readily accessible to local people, perhaps sharing a building with the tourist information office, now situated where a tourist would be unlikely to find it.

Window displays featuring major projects that are of concern to local people spring to mind, with information one would expect in this modern climate of open government.

Artists impressions of the new Pleasurama project, samples of the building materials on display, information about progress with the new ferry service, information about the councils support for the maritime museum and Cervia restoration project are examples of the sort of thing I mean.

There is a time and a place for grand buildings and ceremonial and to my mind that comes when local government can say it has achieved something.

Don’t misunderstand me I am not being critical of the town council here it’s too new to have achievements, good or bad, these are just thoughts on the sorts of direction it could consider going in.

Euroferries service delayed there will be no sailing on Friday

I have just telephoned them, all customers that have booked in advance will be contacted and given a full refund.

While I have supported this venture and will continue to do so there is one aspect that I don’t understand and this concerns the Tax Free Shop in Ramsgate.

This is a quote from the Euroferries website: “After check-in, relax in our lounge and take some time to browse the tax free shopping and café before boarding for your destination.”

The Isle of Thanet Gazette has a picture of this shop in last week’s paper and the article says it has been refurbished.

Now my understanding is that tax free shops in UK Channel ports were banned by European Union legislation about 10 years ago.

Eastcliff Richard gone?

I just noticed that ECRs blog says This blog is open to invited readers only anyone know what’s up.

Monday 9 November 2009

Morning walk

Time commitments today have meant that I just haven’t had a chance to post anything much.

This morning was calm to the point of being eyrie I hope some of the pictures manage to convey this here is the link

Sunday 8 November 2009

Ramsgate Bookshop Goes Bust and other Sunday rambles.

Well its not a post heading that I would appreciate, it would hardly encourage customers to turn up, anyway I am still here and likely to remain so, the fact that nearly all of the other independent bookshops in the southeast have gone in the last few years isn’t really of great significance.

Truth of the matter is that I have the range of books at the prices people can afford and as more bookshops close I am seeing customers from further afield.

I suppose what I am thinking about here is the power of any sort of media and the effects that can have on businesses and peoples livelihoods, my concern here is particularly about information published that is plainly not true.

I think of all of the bits of negative Ramsgate publicity that have been published recently the comments in The Independent:

“The once-thriving royal resort of Ramsgate should, in theory, be the perfect destination for a daytrip to the seaside, thanks to the imminent high-speed rail link from St Pancras. I had it all planned: a blustery walk on the beach, fish bought straight from the boat, perhaps a little antiques shopping, before a hearty lunch eaten in sight of the sea. I was thinking, it turns out, of Whitstable. Ramsgate is not, nor could ever be mistaken for, Whitstable.

The short taxi ride from station to harbour (courtesy of a driver with "Love" and "Hate" tattooed on his knuckles) took us past boarded-up shops and repossessed properties. It was clear that the flood of wealth which washed over south-east England during the last decade has largely by-passed this far easterly corner. As my fellow day-tripper Harry said, taking in the blighted landscape, "Suddenly I see the point of Brighton".”

Have most annoyed me, they certainly made me think is it possible for a newspaper to libel a town, perhaps the town council should take legal action.
Oh sorry I forgot click on the link if you want to read the whole article

I suppose from the point of view of a national newspaper this sort of thing is just another cynical way of selling a few more papers, from the point of view of a small shopkeeper running a business in the town it is just a kick in the teeth.

Frankly for its size I think Ramsgate still has more quality shops and restaurants than most towns in the area, in fact I think the criticism was most unfair, something along the lines of they couldn’t be bothered to take a look so they just made up what they though their readers would appreciate.

A question that you may want to ask yourself, is do you buy a newspaper in order to read something that someone has just invented?

Sorry I couldn’t get any good pictures of Remembrance Day in Ramsgate today there were just too many people in the way, so only the back of their heads.

When it comes to information and who it comes from I am very reluctant to mention peoples names, but seem to be coming up against quite a bit of anonymous comment suggesting that I have just made it up.
I was talking to the people that look after the Royal Victoria Pavilion today, the picture of the ladder is really just to confirm this.

One very worrying thing that was mentioned is that the amount of deterioration is rapidly increasing, the problem being that the building is made of an iron frame with brick infill.

What is happening is that water is getting in and the iron is rusting expanding and causing the brickwork to burst out of the frame, the distortion is causing more leaks and more water to get in.

What we have here is a wrangle between a wealthy company (The Rank Organisation) and the council causing the destruction of one of Ramsgate’s important pieces of heritage.

I do wonder if it would be better for a national newspaper to point out this sort of thing, perhaps it would be cynical to imagine that The Rank Organisation has the potential to be a good source of advertising revenue and is best left alone.
Ramsgate was busy again today with quite a few shops open and the choice of places offering a meal quite astonishing, with considerable competition obviously helping with both the prices and the quality.
Click on the link for today’s pictures

Euroferries Ramsgate to Boulougne ferry service, update from Tenerife

HSC Bonanza, ready.
Dear Michael: Finally I went to the dock (Los LLanos), to know what was going on. Nobody was near the catamaran, outside, who could inform about (only amateur fishermans).
The starboard side is finished (fresh) also, 1400h. She could depart tomorrow morning. The voyage will take 2 and a half days, so if all is in accordance betewen Euroferries and Olsen, she will arrived long before next saturday. Saludos de Antonio desde Tenerife.