Friday, 24 September 2010

Plans to Demolish Ramsgate Harbour Slipways, Another Update

I have been discussing this development with the council, developer and architect mainly trying to find about the issues that were raised in the last posting about it see

I will start with the information about the lease, at the moment these are verbal assurances from a senior council officer, in view of the time the comments on the demolition application have to be submitted by 1st October, it is unlikely that I would get anything in writing before that time.

These comments relate to the lease for the part of the site comprising slipways 2,3 and 4, which is where the proposed development would be built.

The demolition application would, if successful, mean that these slipways cease to be usable.

This leasehold interest was bought from the boatyard operator by the developer for £90,000.

The conditions of the lease stipulate that the site can only be used as a ship repair facility.

The council have no intention of changing the terms of the lease at the moment and I have been assured that such a change would only be considered after a proper consultation process.

The current lease expires in ten years and the council assure me that, no lease longer than 25 years could be granted by the council, without going through the full asset disposal process.

This of course leaves us to consider what would happen if the developer fails to get change of usage for the site that he holds the lease on. I would conclude that he is unlikely to operate it as a ship repair facility.

Obviously I am not party to the agreement between the developer and the ship repair business owners, so there may be some part of the agreement that says the leasehold returns to them if the developer fails to get change of use or planning consent.

On the other hand we may be going into a situation where that part of the yard just falls into decay, I suppose much of this would depend on the will of the council to implement the terms of the lease.

I now come to the planning applications. The first application is the one to demolish the slipways workshops winding houses etc L/TH/10/0736

Now a new set of plans have appeared on the council’s planning website, planning ref F/TH/10/0737 the council’s planning website can be found at

These are the plans to erect the development and the main difference that I can see is that these include a flood risk assessment.

This flood risk assessment doesn’t make sense to me.

I am going to have to put my science and engineering hat on here and do some explaining about sea levels, sorry about this but I have to assume that some people won’t know about sea levels.

In this country we use two different sea levels, the base level is called “datum”.

One is chart datum, this one appears on navigational charts, tide tables and is marked up next to the lock gate in the harbour.

The other is ordinance datum, this one appears on Ordinance Survey maps and architectural drawings.

Ordinance datum is 2.58 metres (about eight foot six inches) higher than chart datum.

Drawing no 206/05 (I have put it on the internet for convenience, the little numbers are the levels above ordinance datum) shows an internal corridor, which is 3.6 metres above ordinance datum or 6.18 metres above chart datum.

The flood risk assessment’s highest predicted static tide 6.3 metres above chart datum, in fact ordinary high tides in Ramsgate are about 5 metres see for this weeks tides.

A spring tide or a tidal surge would push this figure up by about a meter and if the two occur together then we start to get into the realms of exceptionally high tides.

On top of this you get the effects of any wave action, I think highest waves in the harbour would be in the order of about 3 metres.

This corridor looks like it would be the only safe dry escape for the Seascouts.

I suppose the only thing in my assessment of the problems related to the high tide, that isn’t confirmed in the applications own flood risk assessment, is the maximum wave height in the harbour.
These pictures are of the damage sustained to the harbour wall adjacent to the development during a storm about thirty years ago. I have seen wave heights in the harbour of about 2 metres and been on pontoons with a wave height of over 1 metre, I suspect that 3 metres as a maximum may be an underestimate, best look at the pictures and make your own mind up.
With any plans if I find that there is something that doesn’t make sense to me in simple engineering terms the first place I go is the source of the plans, in this case the architects.
As this is a simple matter of, either the lower part of the development floods or it doesn’t and I asked them about this on the 20th and it is now the 24th I am beginning to suspect that there is a fault with the plans.
I have also put this to the council’s planning officers, who have forwarded the issue to the environment agency for comment.
Now we come to the look of the thing, or in this case things, I will start with what is there now, at a first look the corrugated sheds, vehicles and engineering equipment don’t look very attractive.
I suppose there is the characteristic that they have been there so long or at least buildings and equipment that are similar that most of us hardly gave what they look like a second thought, they are just part of the harbour.
In terms of slipways 3 and 4, these were the ones built in 1942 to service wartime vessels, the most interesting part from an historical point of view is the winding equipment in the winding house that dates from then.

It is a time capsule of preserved and working engineering from the Second World War.
On the yards perimeter fence next to the Clock House are the boards showing Ramsgate Lifeboat rescues, the whole thing is very much tied up with the town’s connection with the sea.
In the last few days two new boards have appeared above the lifeboat ones, there is no explanatory notice but these boards have a very unusual characteristic which is that they change colour depending on the angle that you view them from, click on the link for more pictures of this

I am assuming that they are the material that is to be used in the construction of the new development as this is also supposed to change colour depending on where it is viewed from.

I suppose that it was this aspect of the new development that interested me the most, rather in the way the glass coating or the new Turner Contemporary interests me.

At this point someone who is very much for the new development turned up, and I told him what I thought they were, so there we were two grown men wandering up and down looking a the colours change.
After some consideration I remembered where I had seen this effect before, even the colours were similar.

Back in 1972 I had a summer job on a travelling fun fair and I had a pair of trousers that were made out of a fabric that did this, I am afraid the word that springs to mind here is tacky.
Looking at the planning drawings I haven’t put up any of the artists impressions here, as it is the plans that we are actually being asked to consider, the portholes life buoy on the wrong, landward side of the building, I am afraid that vulgar is another word that comes to mind.
I am still wondering about why the boards that change colour are where they are, above the lifeboat boards that will presumably be removed if the new development is built, seems a tad tactless in view of our connections, see
I would have thought that if the idea was to check the building material’s resistance to salt water, the other side of the slipway would be more beneficial, the video is of an ordinary spring tide, with a moderate sea running.

This video was taken adjacent to the eastern side of where the new development is supposed to be going. I do wonder if the architect has considered this effect.
Having said this it does occur to me that I am probably mistaken here and the boards are something to do with the fun fair that will be coming for the quad bike event that the town council are organising.
The other day when I first looked into this the choice was between attempting to retain working slipways and the boat repair yard, which as I have said is not something attractive in an architectural sense or getting behind a new development.

Now it seems that the new development hasn’t been thought out properly, so we are being asked to support something that doesn’t appear to have been designed with existing sea levels in mind.
Given that the development is expected to have some sort of useful life then there is also the problem of rising sea levels to consider.
I have had a very busy day in the bookshop and will add to this post during the evening as I get time, I am using my rather ancient laptop so have put up an associated website as it just can’t manage the huge files on the council’s planning site, see


  1. Why the hell isn't this kind of information sumarised and made available to the public. It would save your time, TDC time and allay many of the fears people have about the mysterious ways of TDC planning department. It will be interesting to see if the spoken word matches the outcome.

  2. The winding gear on slipways two and three are original but the power supply to them was modified several years ago the two petrol engines powering the winch gear were replaced by electric motors as have the no1 slipway power unit been replaced and moved outside from the original in the slipway house

  3. 20.14 I was wondering something similar about the Granville Restaurant development today, one of the local councillors told me it was going to have to go on stilts and I looked on the council’s planning website but there was no information about this. Perhaps it was a joke, any ideas?

    20.23 I am afraid my information about the workings of the harbour is very out of date, this sort of information is very helpful when trying to find out what aspects of our heritage are still there to protect, I suppose the original engines just went for scrap.

  4. Having some knowledge of how TDC works. The agreement by the cabinet and the officers to the sale of half of the lease of the slipways must have had a very senior officer driving it forward, more than likely a director.
    TDC are being very disingenuous over this issue. There is supposed to be a port master plan being drawn up, and the splitting of the lease would certainly something that would be covered in this process which is supposed to be on going. Normally a decision of this nature would have to wait for the results of the working group drawing up the plan. If nothing is going to happen for ten years as TDC would have us believe there was hardly an rush to get an agreement. One would almost expect a developer to go for change of use before anything else. As many other people have commented there is a nasty smell come from the slipways, and it isn't rotting fish or seaweed, it is deals behind closed doors by cabinet members and directors of TDC, to favoured developers and friends.
    The fracas in the wollen mill was a playground spat between rival gangs. This is a serious issue that affects the future of the harbour and the town of Ramsgate, and it is all being done without any proper accountability, without democracy and to the benefit of very few. regenerstion and planning the cabinet et al T Dan Smith would be proud of you.

  5. Friend of RamsgateSeptember 25, 2010 6:48 am

    Thank you Anonymous 22:47 for an apparently enlightened view point. Slowly this whole debacle is being exposed and I don't think it will be long before the bad smell gets so pungent that it has to be investigated.

  6. investigated by who them selfs?

  7. Michael, why waste so much time writing and investigating all this. The vast majority aren't interested, just let things get built. It is all progress, let us leave the past, and in this case an eyesore, behind. A nice shiny building would be far better :)

  8. Friend of RamsgateSeptember 25, 2010 12:32 pm

    slim jim, there’s the Ombudsman, Police or private prosecution depending on the evidence gathered.

    Anonymous 09:55, Michael is right to do what he's doing because our Council don't appear to be carrying out their statutory duties. The problem here in Thanet is that all too often deals are done behind closed doors and then massaged through the democratic process with the minimum amount of information being made available. We must all make up our own minds about why this happens.

    Listed buildings are deemed to be of special importance to the nation and have special status to ensure they’re protected from purely contemporary opinion for the benefit of future generations. Heritage is a non renewable resource, when it’s gone it’s gone. Enforcing this protection is the responsibility of the Council's planning department, the same body that tends to operate behind closed doors.

  9. bulldozers in by christmas

  10. Michael
    Perhaps you could draft something that people could top & tail and send in by the due date. if we could get one or two or even one or two hundred to send into the planning committee some notice maybe taken. ???

  11. A first draft, any comments improvements welcome

    The Director of Regeneration & Planning
    PO box 9
    Cecil square

    Dear Sir,
    Application planning ref L/TH/10/0736 Ramsgate Slipways
    Application planning ref L/TH/10/0737 Ramsgate Slipways

    Following the September 2010 submission by Neath properties, I wish indicate my objections to the proposal for the application for the following reasons:
    (Please tick any item you agree with)
    The development on the site of a Roman fishing village.
    The development on a listed structure.
    The removal of an asset to the harbour.
    The change of use of the site.
    The lack of public consultation.
    The development of a site close to a SSSI.
    The effect on the local fishing community
    The environmental and ecological damage which would be caused by the proposal
    The enormous visual impact the development would have on the locality
    The lack of a professional Health Impact Assessment
    The extra noise and pollution which would be generated
    The extra traffic levels on local roads
    The damage caused by the increased carbon footprint
    The blight to and the detrimental financial impact on my property
    The negative socio-economic impact on the local community
    The doubts raised by the claim of the jobs that would be created.
    Further comments:

    Yours faithfully,
    Signature: Name:
    Date: Address:

  12. The planning committee won't take any notice of objections, even if there were thousands of them. If the objections are in a set format they will dismiss them out of hand. This has happened time and time again in recent years.

    Councillors do not see it as their job to represent the views of the people of the town. They view themselves as leaders who must tell people what is good for them. I had this confirmed last week when I spoke to one of them.

    More damaging is the fact that they will rely, completely, on advice from their officers. If the planning department says "Yes" the Councillors will refuse to go against that advice, even if they hold personal reservations.

    If you find the two paragraphs above contradictory, welcome to the crazy world of Thanet. Yes, in this weird little corner of the world, the electorate's views are irrelevant, but unelected civic servants are to be revered.

    The elections are coming up next year. The only solution is to elect public-spirited individuals who will represent the views of people of the town and will not kow-tow to jumped up civic servants. You won't find individuals like this within the political parties. It isn't consistent with belonging to a political party.

    Basically, we need to remove party politics from TDC. It has done nothing but damage over a long period of time and will continue to do so unless we act.

  13. What would the value of the lease, with planning consent, be ?

    What are the implications for the Pleasurama development of the flood risk assessment related to this site ?

  14. rumour has it that neather properties( who ever they are) paid £90,000 for the lease and it has 10 years to run. It costs them £15,000 + insurance per year to TDC. On that basis it has cost £250,000 before they start. but a prime water front property that goes from commercial and sea scout use to residential would i respectfully suggest be worth a lot more than a directors inflation proof pension. so I would suggest something in the region of £5 million.

  15. Sounds like standard developer practice...the land will always be an asset but gamble that in ten years time that they will get a change of use permit. Makes sense to me as an investment that could give a good return.
    So given a choice between a run down slipway and landing and a well built residential unit that would attract big spenders into the town,I know which one I'd go for...

  16. I will make some attempt to respond to the comments here, I am afraid that there really isn’t any response to anonymous and unsubstantiated comment implying that council officers or councillors have behaved improperly.

    The money that changed hands here was between the developer and the shipyard operator and although the fact that we have two leases from the council, instead of the normal, one lease to the operator from the council and a sub lease from the operator to the developer, there is no evidence of impropriety.

    My understanding here is that the council wouldn’t practically be able to stop a lessee from selling part of a lease, even if they engaged in some sort of expensive litigation.

    9.55 I started out with a fairly open mind on this one and have tried to get explanations about aspects of the development that don’t make sense to me from all of the people involved. My two main points being; is the development safe from the sea and are the building materials suitable for the salt-water conditions? I would have thought that the person with most to lose if these questions aren’t properly resolved is the developer.

    I have also asked the developer to let me have copies of artist’s impressions of the site, so that those of us without architectural training can tell what the thing is going to look like, promises have been made but nothing has turned up.

    You seem to be suggesting that there should be no planning process and no constraints on what activities should be allowed by landlords.

    I think the worst case we had of this locally recently, was when someone decided to use his flat to paint motorbikes, in this instance the materials he was using caught fire.

    As far as no one being interested, I can only assume that you have access to different statistics top me, mine suggest that 600 people have read this post since I put it up.

    22.50 If you wish to comment supporting or objecting to the development you are best to write your comments in your own words, as I believe that every different set of comments has to be considered separately.

    23.10 Thanks, some good points there.

    12.35 This is for a café and bar complex the only residential aspect being small and for staff.

    Pat M I believe noncompliance with the terms of the lease would mean the council repossessing as happened with Westgate Pavilion.

    Not sure how the run down aspect occurred, on the one hand the operator says he recently spent a lot on repairs to slipway 3 and on the other he says it isn’t viable, as an example.

  17. A couple of comments michael.
    TDC always set great store by not allowing leases to be sub let or split. I think they would have problems stopping them selling it in its entirety, but i don't think they would have any problems withholding their agreement in selling part of the lease, perhaps a lawyer would like to comment ??
    The residential aspect being small and for staff is correct, but once the precedent is set and they have an agreement for a small residential use a pound to a pinch of salt or all the tea in china the plan would change be amended as they always are in thanet. TDC are already changing business use to residential in a fairly controversial manner.

  18. Thank you Anon 12.35

    I am happy for people to make money but are they about to do so by undermining the harbour operation and are they doing so safely.

    We have covered on this blog before the primary duty (Of a Public Authority) to protect life. And now a flood risk assessment is on TDC records I wonder what implications it could have for the Pleasurama project.

  19. All those who remember seeing the crosswall underwater, always knew there was a flood risk, but tdc always like to play fast and loose with the truth.

  20. Some of the comments here have made me question why the developer is choosing to develop this site at all.

    In terms of an investment whilst it may pay off, it seems to me that there are many risks to take into account and some of these really are considerable unknowns.
    The planning issues are the obvious ones, along with making sure that what is contructed is rentable or saleable to a sufficient number of tenants or buyers in a given timeframe. This is the gamble, as we all know that cafe and restauarants are seasonal or part time operations and are facing increasing compettion locally with decreasing customers.

    Also when compared to the vacant nearby properties which are for sale the construction costs of the new development will be very high indeed.

    If I was an developer I would think long and hard about my choices, especially building alongside a noisy slipway yard.

    Much of this proposal just doesn't make sound economic or business sense in its current form, or its INTENDED use.

    The developer presumably is not stupid. This makes me ponder IF things didn't work out and the restaurants and cafe's remained unwanted burdens, what would the developer do then?

    Could they be 'converted' and 'expanded' to some other profitable use?

    Luxury harbourside houses and flats perhaps?

    Do the planning regs and current application processes take this possibility into account?
    If they don't then it will all be VERY convienient.

  21. Nautilus its a gamble, spend some money on the site to show commitment and hopefully get some return on it. Then in 9yrs time before it all reverts to the landlord float the idea that you'd be prepared to take up a longer lease subject to a change of use permit. I think a council would be far more amenable to accept that with a guaranteed income, than be faced with an empty property providing nil return and the resultant costs of seeking a new tenant.

  22. Nautilus and Pat I have just discovered that the developer has made an application to the council for a lease extension in excess of 25 years, something that the council will have to take though the asset disposal process.


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