Sunday, 20 February 2011

Pleasurama Royal Sands Cliff, a conspiracy or a conundrum and other Sunday Rambles.

A long old ramble about Pleasurama first
The cliff behind the Pleasurama site in Ramsgate has become something of a local joke to those of us living in Ramsgate, we all saw the extensive and expensive works to repair it, about £1m of TDC money was expended on these.

After that we all saw the weeds growing out from the cracks between the new paintwork, the weedings the repairs to the repairs, the bits dropping off and at the moment we can all see the rather dodgy looking bits where parts of the bottom of the cliff has been exposed.
Having made various fusses about Pleasurama for years now extending back before this blog see http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/tdc/report.htm or even as far back as seven years, see http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/seafront/ and more on this blog see http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/search/label/Pleasurama%20development

With the cliff safety issues relating to the Pleasurama site I genuinely thought that I had made my point and that the council, The HSE and the developer had taken what I have been saying seriously and had some sort of “make safe the way of the cliff” plan.
Then Simon Moores reacted rather oddly to one of my comments, with a comment on his blog.

“So please no more conspiracy theories of this kind on my weblog if you will and the same with the cliff. You are starting to sound like Rick banging on forever with allegations that the IRA had some loose connection to Thanet councillors” see http://birchington.blogspot.com/2011/02/itson-weblog-so-it-must-be-true.html
That was last Sunday and I thought I ought to check the situation i.e. to make sure that my concerns are being addressed properly. There are all sorts of concerns related to this cliff, most of which are open to doubt and my banging on about them will eventually either show me up to be a bit of a nut, or there will be a cliff collapse there and, what, I will be able to say, I told you so, or something.

One concern that I thought every one agreed with me about, is that there needs to be a weight limit for service vehicles driving along the cliff top footpath, next to the edge of the cliff.
I am not naming names here, I am not Rick and certainly not invulnerable to libel, even if what I am saying is the truth, nor do I want to put people in the awkward position of having their name googled as an exact phrase and coming up associated to something like this, maybe years later, when they are applying for a job or something.

Anyway the senior engineer at the civil engineering consultants that the council use, agrees with me and the council’s own civil engineer agrees with me, that driving heavy vehicles along the edge of the cliff is a bad idea.
If you are an engineer there isn’t much else you can do, you see although the concrete cliff wall looks impressively strong, to people who are not engineers, it doesn’t actually do anything to hold up the cliff and wasn’t designed to do so.

What you are looking at, although you can’t really see this, is an unsupported chalk cliff and I don’t suppose you would drive your car too close to the edge of one of these, were it just grass and chalk.
In fact chalk cliffs from an engineering point of view are generally much stronger than they look and a lot of Thanet roads go within about 2 metres of the edge without much in the way of worries.

It’s the last few feet next the edge that’s best avoided, for something very heavy as I am sure most people can work out for themselves.
The added problems with this particular bit of cliff relate to different things that have happened to it over the years, tunnelling, navel guns mounted there during the world wars, long periods of bad surface maintenance, that sort of thing.

Anyway after Simon’s comment I wondered just how seriously the health and safety people had taken my concerns, so I wrote to them and it seems that the council may have been a little economical with the truth when talking to the HSE about the cliff.
There are several documents that I have relating to the cliff, they were obtained via the freedom of information act, they may seem a bit dull but click on the links if you want to read them.

http://www.thanetonline.com/cliff/

http://www.thanetonline.com/cliff/id3.htm

http://www.thanetonline.com/cliff/id4.htm

are the ones that the I think the council may have forgotten to send the HSE and

http://www.thanetonline.com/cliff/id2.htm
the one they definitely did send the HSE.
I don’t really know what is with the council and Pleasurama, the EA sent them a letter three years ago, saying that they should insist on some basic safety modifications to the deign see http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/ea/

The senior council officer, who is to be the new chief executive of the council, advised the cabinet to terminate the development agreement and they ignored her, I don’t think I should publish confidential internal council documents, but do have the documentary evidence supporting this if pushed.
Then all this business about the cliff safety, I don’t think that anyone reading the developer’s contractor’s report http://www.thanetonline.com/cliff/ about the condition of the façade could reasonably disagree with my contention that some sort of further investigation should be made.

Then the business of the recently issued 199 year lease, I haven’t enquired about this one, but do wonder in the light of the Hartsdown application and all the delays over the Maritime Museum lease, why the Pleasurama one didn’t go to consultation, or perhaps it went to a secret public consultation like the leadership one.
I know people probably think that I bang on about this consultation that I consider to have been rigged, but if you are one of them you may ponder for a moment, why it hasn’t appeared on the council’s consultations page, see http://www.thanet.gov.uk/council__democracy/consultation.aspx perhaps they are in a state of denial about this, see no evil who knows.

The trouble is that if I make a complaint about this again, they may think I am being vexatious, as it is they haven’t yet answered the feedback I made about this consultation when it was on.

Anyway back to the dodgy cliff and Pleasurama, the bit that worries me the most is the bit where the drain has blocked at the top of the cliff, this caused a puddle on the footpath, this froze and thawed causing the surface of the footpath to come away, this caused water to get behind the cliff façade, this caused bits of the façade to drop off.

The council say that some of this is wrong I think, I a not quite sure which bits they think are wrong, the last link in this chain of events was when the council put up a barrier at the bottom of the cliff and I thanked the only to get a reply from them, saying that the barrier wasn’t to protect people from being hit by the lumps of cliff that had been falling off.

Obviously there is work going on down on the Pleasurama site at the moment and having joined the church of responsible blogging, I emailed the council’s press department saying that I was going to do a post about Pleasurama, they emailed back saying that there was going to be a meeting about this at the end of last week. So I emailed them back saying I would delay the post until then. I made it very clear that a lot of people including myself would like to know what is going on after all this time.

The current development agreement says that the metal cage that forms the structure of the building should have appeared by now, so with the development agreement having been thrown out the window again, what is going on is anybody’s guess.

As yet I haven’t heard from the council, so this is a sort of partial post.

A look at some of the other Thanet blogs over the last week.

I will start with the one that I publish but don’t write http://thanetpress.blogspot.com/ this is where I publish press releases that people send me and new council documents, frankly it isn’t a very popular blog, only about a third of the number of people that read this one, read it. Quite a lot of blogs don’t even have links to it, including Bignews Margate that links to the other main Thanet blogs.

Pageviews today 147 Pageviews yesterday 180 Pageviews last month 5,431 is what the stats say for this blog but two recent posts there have been getting some comment.

One has the emotive title GO-AHEAD GIVEN FOR TREE MASSACRE see http://thanetpress.blogspot.com/2011/02/go-ahead-given-for-tree-massacre.html I have to admit to being a bit unclear about this one and have been reading the comments with interest.

The other is http://thanetpress.blogspot.com/2011/02/employees-and-contractors-from-pfizer.html?showComment=1297692530692#c3615986546683633728 about the Pfizer closure.

Starting at the top of my sidebar today Thanet Life http://birchington.blogspot.com/ the latest post http://birchington.blogspot.com/2011/02/no-right-turn.html has video of a pilot’s eye view of the approach to the Runway at Manston over Ramsgate.
As Simon points out there really isn’t an alternative to overflying Ramsgate when landing and taking off in this direction.
Manston expansion is one of those strange Thanet mysteries that seem a bit odd given the economic climate, the latest episode being the Parkway railway station, despite government being Conservative all the way up and a promised reign of common sense it would seem that despite the desperate need for money to sort some of Thanet’s problems, the only big lump of future government money seems to be for this station.
If comment is anything to go by Simon’s post last Sunday http://birchington.blogspot.com/2011/02/when-whistle-blows.html was very popular and is about the Margate Football Club plans at Hartsdown Park.
Next Ken Read’s blog http://in2thanet.blogspot.com/ with an informative post on the development of Ramsgate Harbour http://in2thanet.blogspot.com/2011/02/wind-in-our-sails.html
Next to one of the local news pros Isle of Thanet Gazette's Saul Leese who started his own YouTube channel yesterday, see http://www.youtube.com/user/mindbloggles this is called Mind Boggles.

I tuned in, waited for mind to boggle, and, yes, it boggled.
Publishing 6 vids to YouTube since yesterday suggests that Saul may have gone critical.
I have just returned after taking the children to Morelli's in Broadstairs for an ice cream and notice that Simon has put up a very encouraging post about the undercliff in Westgate, it really does sound like some sort of cooperation between residents and the council, see http://birchington.blogspot.com/2011/02/big-society-at-its-best.html

I also notice that Simon is getting the same problem when you try to expand some of his pictures by clicking on them if you are using Internet Explorer, you get a virus warning instead of a bigger picture.
I think someone must have reported Blogger to Microsoft as being a malicious website. A bit like those spam emails saying you have a malicious file in your computer, they give you instructions to delete it, the only problem being that the file you delete is vital to the running of your computer.
Tony Bignews Margate had a post with a lot of comment on it last week, see http://bignewsmargate.blogspot.com/2011/02/boring-biased-and-conservative-bbc-in.html even quick comments from Cllr Chris Wells. `What is it you want to ask, Tony? Reminded me of an oft parodied or plagiarised thing in literature that I am not sure of its origins, you know the one where the computer asks the questions.
I will endeavour to ramble on as the day progresses.

10 comments:

  1. There was no conspiracy across the Channel when the French investigated their chalk coast from Upper Normandy to Picardy. During the investigation period, 1998–2001, 55 significant collapses were recorded. Of these 5.5% were very large-scale, 34.5% large-scale, 34.5% medium-scale and 25.5% small-scale collapses. But Michael you should know that only one man is entitled to an opinion in Thanet and if yours or any other local disagree you must all be sad, mad or bad! All of you.

    Last week KCC was banging the drum about how tourism in Kent was leading the economy in a report by VisitKent. The report uses data from 2009 and highlighted the fact that 1.4 million people visited Tourist Information centres. 50,000 people visited Margate TIC and almost the same number visited Ramsgate. Would any shop in Ramsgate with that amount of footfall close?

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  2. Very strange to commission a geotechnical report and then ignore its recommendations, especially when you want to construct a high value building next to the cliff face in question. Very Strange.

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  3. One thing is for sure and that is if any of the apartments or the hotel carries with it any unacceptable risk whether from the sea or the cliff, then no insurance company will touch it.

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  4. I guess one of the questions which should be asked is: "who might be held liable should a disaster occur?" If it were to emerge that compnesation might have to be paid from the public purse, those responsible for making decisions would have duty (dare I say, an obligation) to publicly explain those decisions. On the other hand, if those making the decisions are personally liable and are carrying sufficient personal insurance to cover any claim they need only convince the Health and Safety Executive of the soundness of their reasoning.

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  5. 8.22 I think most of these were collapses due to sea erosion, the large Ramsgate cliff collapses that don’t seem to be anything to do with sea erosion and we have had four that I know of, seem to be mostly peculiar to Ramsgate.

    And yes 1,000 people a week does sound a bit unlikely especially for the now closed TDC run Ramsgate office that they moved into Charlotte Court where most tourists couldn’t find it.

    8.54 I thought they did act on the geotechnical report that they did, hence the concrete badge, I think the problem is that it was only done in a localised area and they missed the bit that looks the worst, the foundations.

    10.08 I think the building is proceeding on and insurances will be based on assurances by TDC that their cliff is safe.

    The façade belongs to TDC and the district auditor tells me that no contingency has been made for liability. The eventual situation of the two way road between the cliff face and the back of the building which will be 2 metres wide in a 60 foot deep canyon, with the cliff façade support pillars sticking out, looks dangerous.

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  6. My first though was regarding to Insurance can you imagine the developer being stuck with the whole development unsaleable.

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  7. Don the big problem will be when either we have a big storm, the 1953 one swept a 12 ton crane that had been working on the beach, right over the sea defenceless and into the site, about where they intend to build a children’s play area, or when the cliff collapses as it last did there in 1957.

    If you get bored at some time have a look at the plans, particularly the most up to date ones of the ground floor. Planning ref F/TH/03/1200 planning site link on the sidebar.

    What you see with the road by the cliff was caused by the cliff wall not coming down to ground level, so they had to raise up the ground meaning that the lorries couldn’t get under the building. Just imagine a lorry negotiating around a car and catching one of the cliff wall support pillars, bringing down tons of concrete and chalk.

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  8. I have followed your published worries regarding the cliff face at Pleasurama with mounting concern, both from the point of view of it falling down and also with an increasing recognition that no-one in authority seems to be able or willing to do anything about it.

    As a professional you have a duty to call on your expertise in these sorts of situation. From your point of view, saying nothing is not an option. The history of this country is full of people who wouldn't take No for an answer and were subsequently proved right.

    The attitude of your fellow blogger from the north coast therefore surprises me. He too is a professional and I'm sure in a parallel situation would be banging on about his concerns as hard as you are.

    Then I recognised a common factor in all discourse with him. As soon as there's a danger that he might have to vacate an entrenched position, the argument becomes personal. You are accused of being "vexatious", of "making snide remarks", etc. Or just plain ignored.

    So, back to the cliffs. The danger is real and the biggest dangers are when either the base of the cliff is unprotected or water is allowed to run down behind the face of the cliff. Don't believe me - just go down the coast to Dover. Ask why there are two South Foreland lighthouses. Have a look at the cliffs and note the cliff falls on the foreshore. They happen almost every week so there's bound to be a fresh one to see. Don't take my word for it; ask the locals, ask the insurance companies who won't provide cover for properties there. Mind, one would have to fly down there because the Tunnel train drivers' manager has said that Cheriton is the hub for cross-Channel traffic, so the 13 ships currently plying their trade between Dover and the French coast are purely fictitious.

    All sensible bloggers know that they are generally liable for the content of their blogs - that's why Rick is so frequently chastised/deleted. However, unless the post is unlawful, removing it, editing it or asking for no further posts of its type amounts to censorship. And we don't approve of censorship, do we?

    Whenever someone in authority becomes vexed with hoi polloi it's generally because hoi polloi are right. The reaction that you are getting with regard to both the governance consultation and Pleasurama confirms me in my belief that you are right on both these issues.

    And why did so many Councillors turn out at Westgate yesterday? May 5th!

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  9. Perhaps the new ch. exec will sort it out....

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  10. Only if she does a runner like the last one? Now the going of her predecessor does raise some serious Audit Issues?

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