Thursday, 20 May 2010

Royal Sands Development Ramsgate, the Pleasurama saga goes on.

As I do periodically I have done my best to ascertain the situation with the development, always the main problem here is that although this is such a major development, that will have a significant effect on the future of the town, it is very hard to find out much of what is going on.

It appears that we are now going to have more repairs to the cliff repairs, although this seems to be uncertain, the picture above was taken a few days ago and shows the state of the cliff façade now.

The council officers don’t want to say much about it, the developer is very difficult to contact and the contractor due to actually build it, doesn’t have much to say about it either.

My main concerns are those of public safety, because the intention is to build it between an unsupported chalk cliff and a foreshore that has a history if severe storm damage that occurs about every fifty years.

Firstly I have had a response to the internal review of my freedom of information request see http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/foi/ what I got was a pretty useless document, imparting information that was already in the public domain and at the last possible moment within the period to respond.

I haven’t bothered to publish it online as it relates to what was going on four years ago before the cliff repairs that it relates to, however it does mean that I can now forward my request to the information commissioner for investigation.

This combined with the fact that the local government ombudsman is now taking up my complaint about the cliff façade repairs and the delays to the development, something that directly effects my business as it is located directly behind the site, means that I am hopeful that we will soon see some positive results.

Before I go on I should stress here that what I am trying to achieve here is to break the deadlock that has occurred because the council has passed plans that don’t appear to viable.

The two main obstructions to any further progress are that there still hasn’t been any flood risk assessment, something that was strongly recommended by the environment agency and the problems associated with the cliff façade.

Without the flood risk assessment it is just not possible for anyone to say that the building will be safe from damage caused by the sea during a severe storm.

The problem with the cliff façade is fairly similar, what happened here was that the council spent about £1m of our money having the façade repaired and coated (painted to you and me) and very soon after this was done it was obvious that the repairs had been unsatisfactory.

Cracks appeared in the façade and weeds started growing out of them, one bit was so badly cracked and bulging that the council had to have it replaced and now doubts exist about the structural integrity of the rest of it.

Initially it appears that the council acted properly, they had the cliff façade surveyed by a large multinational firm of civil engineers, their report described the structure as being of a short serviceable life, in very poor condition and in need of urgent repairs.

In fact not suitable to build a large residential development close to, even after the repairs, this was evidenced when the council had the bulging bit replaced, it was a relatively small part of the façade and fairly low down, however when the bulging bit was pulled down they needed to use a demolition vehicle like a crane with a big spike on the end. As the lumps of concrete were falling down, the cab of this vehicle needed to be about thirty feet away from the cliff to avoid the shower of concrete.

Now it appears that some more of the façade is going to have to be replaced and I believe the concerns are more about who pays, than more fundamental question of how the façade can be maintained, once it has a building thirteen feet away from it, seems to have been missed.

The underlying problem here is that the council approved the plans before the environment agency strongly recommended a flood risk assessment and before the cliff façade was surveyed.

This means that the developer has permission to build a development that is potentially dangerous, without both a flood risk assessment and a survey of the cliff to determine just what has gone wrong since it was repaired, it isn’t really possible for anyone to say how dangerous it is, in fact to be honest it could all be perfectly safe, the problem however is that no one really knows.

Now we come to an area of speculation, where I put together some suppositions based as much on what people haven’t said as what they have, any more information to improve the accuracy of this would be appreciated.

I think that the councils main concern is that if they admit that the site isn’t suitable for the building that they have approved plans for, then they are concerned that the developer who has already spent the best part of £3m on planning, road layout and drainage, may take them to court to recover this money.

I think that the developer has accepted the councils reassurances that there isn’t that much wrong with the cliff, that a flood risk assessment isn’t really necessary and that he would probably put up the money to patch up the cliff repairs and get on with the development.

I think that the contractor that is supposed to build the development, would like to have the work at the moment, during what are difficult times in the building trade. Certainly if the development could go ahead it would provide much needed local employment.

The rub here though is that the contractor is a reputable firm, local, large and with a good track record, in fact any firm large enough to take on the project is going to employ people who are experts in civil engineering and will be only too aware of the problems.

It is my contention that this is why the three previous contractors have pulled out of the project, to walk away from a £22m project is no small step.

The problem for us in Ramsgate is that it is now six and a half years since the developer applied for plans, to build what appears to be a development that just isn’t viable on that site.

During this time the main leisure site in Ramsgate, immediately behind the main sands, has remained a building site on which nothing has been built. This is a problem that blights the economy of the town.

So far it seems that about £5m has been spent about £1m from our council tax, around another £1m for the first road layout that I think may have been publicly funded and what we, the developer and the council taxpayers have to show for it appears to be as follows.

Cliff repairs done at considerable expense, that have obviously gone wrong, to a greater or lesser degree.

Plans drawn up and re drawn about seven times, approved and pored over by me, the council planning department and the architects, also at considerable expense, that still do not appear fit for purpose.

Two new road layouts built at considerable expense over the last ten years, one for a previous development there that never happened and now torn up and the latest one, built on the sea defences without the flood risk assessment strongly recommended by the environment agency.

How anyone can go ahead with any work on the site without first knowing the exact condition of the cliff and the exact position regarding flood risk defies common sense.


These links are about the need for a flood risk assessment.

http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/2010/03/margate-wins-four-million-pounds-plus.html

http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/2009/10/royal-sands-development-ramsgate-what.html

these relate to the cliff façade issues

http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/2010/02/ramsgate-royal-sands-development-safety.html

http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/2009/11/royal-sands-development-ramsgate-more.html

http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/2009/10/royal-sands-development-ramsgate-navy.html

http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/2009/11/royal-sands-development-how-dangerous.html

and this one to the crazy plans

http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/2009/10/ramsgate-royal-sands-development.html

of course there is much more on this blog and my other websites because of how long the saga has gone on and anyone wanting to trawl through it all is quite welcome.

Sorry it was rather a long winded post, I am inclined to put my ides together while writing, besides I suppose you don’t have to read it unless you want to.

8 comments:

  1. as much as I try Michael I can never go over all the material in this post. I get bored easily and I feel this is what the people concerned hope will happen to you, that you will give up and go away. The fact of the mater is the jobs a bad un and you need answers. Keep at it my friend.

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  2. Well I have the attention span of a newt, and I managed it all. For once, however, I find myself speechless. What an utter flippin' shambles!

    Keep at it Michael. Although when or how this mess will be sorted out is anyone's guess.

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  3. I think you should up sticks and move to Broadstairs. Plenty of nice shops available to you and no huge eyesore on the seafront to worry about and waste time trying to sort.

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  4. If you look at the façade either side of the lift on the western under-cliff it looks like it has been designed. Moving towards the harbour the arches look massive, and again designed, but have warning notices about cliff falls attached to them. I suppose the fence alongside the pavement could be argued that it is to stop people climbing the cliff, but more likely to be part of a safety buffer zone.

    When looking at the façade by lift on the east cliff, the tops of the arches do not seem to be uniform in size or even positioning. It wouldn't be enough to stop me walking along the cliff top, or even the base of the cliff in its present condition. Neither would it concern me greatly to visit the site during the construction phase, as the risk would be at an acceptable level during that time frame. But, before even considering buying a flat there and I would need to see an insurance assessors report, and have a reasonable quote for long term cover against loss by cliff falls or floods.

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  5. Unfortunately it is another one in a long list of crass decisions by TDC, winding it back a couple of years i suppose they were hoping to get some capital receipts to build their new swimming pool and tell eveyone what good guys they are. Now along with the EKO debacle
    it is another few million quid down the drain, and yet again the local resident and tax payer loses out. Whoever employed these bunch of jokers as TDC directors most of whom don't live in thanet should be in the dock alongside the directors.

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  6. If you read section 16 of the 'The Coalition: our programme for government' document just published then the days of secretive local goverments are numbered. I just hope that whatever the government puts in place has teeth that will enable officers and councillors that break the new measures to not only be removed but to be procecuted as well.

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  7. Don I suppose the problem is and always will be that I tend to write this stuff up in between doing other things and while I am trying to understand it myself.

    What I am not trying to do is to produce a short news bite, I am assuming that when people get around to reading this blog they have time on their hands and want to try and understand the issues in some depth.

    Richard we always come back to the old problem, the building is just too big for the space available and as the years go on nothing much happens, of course at some time someone may come along and build it, below the flood line, over the cliff top, too close to the cliff or even all three I just don’t know really.

    15.02 bookshop relocation is no longer easy, optimally I would like to be situated in the middle of Ramsgate’s café culture, something that would be mutually beneficial, the problem is that I need the space for a stock of 30,000 books this means over 100 bookcases. Any reasonably good shop site in the area, that was large enough, would be too expensive for a secondhand bookshop and I believe that you will find there are now very few large secondhand bookshops with reasonably priced quality stock anywhere.

    17.04 my understanding is that this façade was built at different times, rather in bits and pieces, according to the survey made of it in 2005 it isn’t built to the spesification of the design drawings, they economised on the thickness.

    The bottom part of it that was below ground when the survey was done, hasn’t been surveyed to my knowledge, obviously doesn’t conform to the design drawings and parts of it where the bottom of the façade is now exposed seem to have no foundations or inadequate foundations.

    What I am trying to achieve here is a proper independent and professional survey before any more money is spent, something that would appear to benefit all of the parties involved, apart from possibly the council who want to sell the site as a viable building site.

    John different league altogether I believe TDC spent less than half a million on EKO some of which will probably be recoverable.

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  8. Hi
    i believe the initial investment in EKO was just over £500K, I think last year they had to spend another £50K to avoid having their knuckles wrapped over non submission of accounts, they have just approved an additional £95K a year for 2010 & 2011, and they have a debt to KCC for £2 million as there share of the cost of the New Haine road. It seems incredible that TDC seem to constantly complain of shortage of funds yet the Cheif Exec and director of finance are pouring money down the drain into their pet projects.

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