Monday, 19 July 2010

Council U Turn on Westcliff Hall Auction

I have just noticed that the mayor of Ramsgate has left a comment on ECRs blog to the effect that the council have withdrawn Westcliff Hall (The Motor Museum) from the residential property auction that they had put it in.

The picture above (click on it to enlarge) shows the cliff being cut out for its construction.

Westcliff Hall was built in the early 1900s and opened on the day the First World War broke out, not an auspicious start.

It was last used to house Ramsgate Motor Museum see http://www.thanetonline.com/RamsgateMotorMuseum/index.htm and has been empty for a number of years.

As far as we understood here in Ramsgate negotiations were well underway with a local group supported by Ramsgate Town Council, with Thanet District Council the owners, to convert this into an arts leisure facility.

Then last week signs appeared on it saying that it was to be auctioned by a well-known residential property auctioneer.

Westcliff Hall is one of several prominent council owned sites that have fallen into disrepair and partial or total disuse here in Ramsgate.

Others are, The Maritime Museum, The Grosvenor Casino, Pleasurama, Nero’s, Tiberius, The Marina Swimming Pool and Albion House, to give them the names that we last remember them as.

I will be charitable here and say that it is an unfortunate coincidence that all of these are council owned.

Recently I have tried to find out from the council the status of these and frankly I haven’t been very successful, my understanding of the situation at the moment is as follows.

Please feel free to correct any information here.

The Maritime Museum, after first offering the museum operators security of tenure and then withdrawing it the council have again offered them security of tenure, I believe this will subject to various council committees meeting.

Grosvenor Casino the council have had negotiations with the leaseholder, The Rank Organisation who have agreed to carry out external repairs to the building.

Pleasurama, this ongoing carbuncle on our seafront has presented the council with various problems, apart from the obvious physical ones of the proposed development’s proximity to an unsupported chalk cliff and the intention to build in a high risk flood zone without a flood risk assessment, I think the council’s main concern here has been to protect its financial interest in the site.

Last year after delays starting the development because the developer couldn’t meet the council’s financial criteria, as set out in the development agreement I believe that the council officers decided it was time to get out of this one.

The council’s director of finance made recommendations that the council should pull out of the development on the grounds that the developer hadn’t upheld the terms of the agreement.

These recommendation were put to a full cabinet meeting and the cabinet decided to go against the recommendations of the director of finance and let the developer go ahead with a revised and less demanding agreement.

The last I heard is that the council have given the developer a 199 year lease on the site, so it could be some time before anything much changes there.

Nero’s although this was an important Victorian theatre, and a critical part of the Granville Marina complex for some reason it wasn’t listed.

With this one the council decided to demolish it without any public consultation and without any public warning.

Tiberius, this was previously the home of the casino, I was away from Ramsgate when this was dilapidated and destroyed, so I don’t really know what happened there.

The Marina Swimming Pool, I am pretty sure that this was destroyed by poor maintenance, this happened long enough ago to publish one of the funny stories about the council’s actions that contributed to its demise.

The story goes that the swimming pool was run by the maintenance and engineering side of the council and in some reshuffle – I expect the word stakeholders was used – the council decided to transfer it to their leisure department.

A large ferro cast structure in the sea is a complex piece of civil engineering, the forces of the sea acting upon the structure partially balanced by the water in the pool.

Anyway the long and the short of the story is that the council’s engineers gave instructions to the council’s leisure officers not to empty the water out of the pool.

No prizes for guessing what happened.

Albion House, this is still a rather sensitive one, but the story is that Thanet District Council offered it to Ramsgate Town Council under terms that were unreasonable, particularly considering the dilapidated state of much of the building. It is thought to be the only UK royal residence that has nets on it to prevent part of the crumbling structure falling on people as it crumbles off.

Over the years I have watched the significant council owned sites in the town destroyed one way or another and now I have reached the point where I have started to speculate on what there is that council be next.

So what else is there:

The Sailors Church, I am pretty sure this is council owned, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see this one go under the hammer in one sense or another.

Oh yes and Eagle Café, certainly prominent, disused and council owned, there was a rumour that there was some sort of court action, which was started and then dropped.

And another one the Tourist Information Office, also council owned, disused although not really in a prominent position, so perhaps I shouldn’t include it, I don’t want anyone to think that I am being unreasonable.

Having said all of this one would expect the privately owned properties in this part of Ramsgate to be similarly disused and derelict, particularly as private owners aren’t funded by council tax, but this doesn’t seem to be the case.

6 comments:

  1. The Eagle cafe has been allowed to get in a very poor state, the old ice house on the way down to Sally port is derilict, half the arches are closed. in fact everything TDC owns or touches in Ramsgate falls into disrepair, even the lights on the pier are all out, a sort of midas touch in reverse.

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  2. PS. I've also heard that the Hoverport at Pegwell Bay has closed though I haven't seen it myself.

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  3. 23.40 I think the problems with the arches stem from the failure to put in a waterproof membrane when the work to strengthen them was done, about 20 years ago I think.

    I don’t know about the old ice house, but its another one for the list and I will look into it.

    The hoverport closed years ago and the buildings were demolished, however I believe the hard standing there including the hoverpads that lead into the sea were built on colliery spoil and that there is a pollution issue there. Some pictures of this area for you http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/610/id17.htm and http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/done/id11.htm

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  4. Two large excavators were seen parked on the hover pad on sunday.

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  5. I'd heard about the ageing slag at Pegwell Bay before but I thought they meant the nearby "dogging" area!

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  6. "a sort of a midas touch in reverse." That is a hilarious comment, and, unfortunately, altogether too a propos. I really wish the council would just hire a quality property auctioneer to get rid of these properties for them so that they can be beautiful and useful once again.

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