Saturday, 9 April 2011

Pleasurama, Royal Sands Development Ramsgate Cliff Safety, Duty and Civil Disobedience

After my communications with the contractor earlier this week there has been some investigation of the cliff façade foundations.

The pictures should all expand if you click on them, looking at this first one taken through the site gate it appeared that not only have they cut back the chalk as far as where the pillar should continue down but have actually undermined the chalk under the pillar.

This was all too much for me, so I went on to the site, you have to appreciate that there were people walking along the cliff top path at the time. I had had assurances that the foundations were there and it certainly looked as though they were not.
 The following pictures were taken close to the pillar that has been undermined.

Here are the rest of today’s pictures from the camera card I am a bit lost for words at the moment, obviously I have alerted Kent Fire and Rescue’s USAR team.   


  1. Michael: You are, indeed, monitoring an "accident waiting to happen" at Pleasurama! In my fifty years around rock engineering, this latent instability just "just jumps out at me," even so far away as the hills of the Missouri Ozarks.

    Allen W. Hatheway
    Retired Professor of Geological Engineering
    University of Missouri
    Rolla, Missouri, USA

  2. Michael, I am lost for words, considering a local man has been detained recently for corporate manslaughter, following the death of a worker in a trench.

    What would the contractor or TDC get for losing a cliff load of people? Let alone the damage caused by a falling cliff, the new concrete columns would fall like dominos if that lot comes down

    Perhaps it was something I said in a previous post "stupid or confident?"

  3. Carry on 'Bean Counting ' Michael, it keeps you out of trouble

  4. Allen, Readit, you won’t believe this but Kent Fire and Rescue have just phoned me back saying that they have looked at the site, seen there are no foundations, contacted Thanet District Council who have assured them that it isn’t dangerous.

    Kent Fire and Rescue say they are satisfied with their answer from the council and won’t be closing the foot path above or preventing vehicles from going up there.

  5. Michael, just a rough calculation, a 20 metre high concrete column about 1.2m x 0.6m with concrete at 2500 kg/cu metre works out at about 26 tonnes per metre square on the bearing strata. Or 2.5 tonnes per square foot.

    I have no figures for the crushing strength of chalk but it is not renowned for being a very consistent material.

  6. Readit I make that about 35 pounds per sq inch, experiments seem to put Thanet chalk between 100 to 400 pounds per sq inch, all a bit ad hoc with the bathroom scales. It seems to have much lower compressive strength when wet than when dry. Trouble is that when you make the chalk taller i.e. not a cube the strength reduces a lot due to lateral burst.

    All in all I would keep well away from this part of the cliff, I suppose if this isn’t the end for the Pleasurama development it will certainly add considerably to the cost.

    I am seriously considering publishing my entire files on this one, emails names restricted council documents the lot.

  7. Linkie

    As you know Michael, you published, some time ago, the response to me from Environment Agency about Sericol contamination of the aquifer.

    Over twelve years of a then secret remediation project 470 tonnes of cyclohexanone had been recovered from the chalk layers below the Sericol Poorhole Lane site.

    THis is a soluble solvent. And chalk is hygroscopic ? It holds moisture. Which is why weightlifters wipe the grip chalk off the barbells and dumbells before storing them as otherwise the handles rust due to chalk holding mositure next to the steel.

    If I recall the EA explained that much of the spillage over thirty years would have gone down natural fault lines in the chalk. To such an extent the Rumfields water abstraction plant, about a mile away, was switched off as a safety precaution for ever upon discovery of the 30 year leak in 1993.

    An interesting question to TDC would be about Sericol. Once drainage was deliberately introduced to achieve remediation, they were intent on telling no one about, what happened to the calculated load bearing qualities of the chalk layers ?

    There's the thing Michael. Drainage. You drain nearby or above and the layers weaken ?

    IMO This is a f-ckup waiting to happen.

  8. Maybe read in the style of "The Guvnor" All Hail the ale.

    I suppose the way to look at this might be from the standpoint of Mr Gravity.

    He is a goblin who lives at the centre of the earth. And he does magic so that everything with "mass" he gives "weight". By exerting a force tending to pull everything towards the centre of the earth where he resides.

    Some people refer to him as Isaac Newton's very own Santa myth. The Santa of Gravity.

    Now then, he looks up at Sericol. Aye aye. Those secretive little TDC humans have removed 470 tonnes of stuff. "If I get my way over this", says Gravity Santa Goblin "I will now try to fill that ground back up with 470 tonnes of something else. For example is there a building above the site attempting to defy my magic by remaining poised upon the aerobar type chalk ? Oooh what a grand opportunity for a bit of gravitational mischief"

    Hope this is helpful.

  9. I thought Building Control departments were supposed to monitor dangerous structures.

    If this was on a private building site I am sure everything would be halted, pending investigation.

  10. Confused in ThanetApril 10, 2011 12:55 pm

    Isn't it just typical of Thanet. A long overdue building project site preparation is underway and out come a whole host of local experts who know better than the District Engineers and Surveyors Department, the Consultant Structural Engineers and the Kent Fire Brigade experts.

    Never mind the experts for a book shop owner, a retired conspiracy fantasist, a geologist in Missouri and an aspiring local independent politician, declare the cliff is unsafe.

    Must remember to stay clear of the Ramsgate Eastcliff when walking my yorkshire terrier lest her weight brings the whole thing crashing down. At least I will have plenty of people to sue!

  11. Confused, I think you may be confused, the situation as I understand it is that the council’s engineer and their advising engineer were working on the assumption that the foundations on the design drawings actually existed.

    In the last couple of days the contractor dug where the foundations should be and they just weren’t there, Kent Fire and Rescue have been and had a look, last I heard from them the council’s engineer was due to inspect the problem this morning.

    My gripe is that the cliff top path hasn’t been closed as precaution while all this is going on, just in case there is a collapse.

    There is no question now of me being wrong about this situation, I sent the pictures off to Allen as he is the most qualified expert I know, having a professorship in geology and a licence to practice as a civil engineer.

    Since you have miles of cliff top in Thanet I would recommend that you avoid that few yards until the experts involved have decided what to do, as I should miss your comments.

  12. Confused in ThanetApril 10, 2011 7:26 pm

    Fair enough, Michael, I shall head in a Dumpton direction. Still confused how anyone, least of all engineers, can assume foundations are in place.

    Now I know why the yorkie was getting stressed!

  13. Confused, you have to appreciate that the various cliff wall structures there were done when the site was a fun fair and amusement arcade, some of it even during the war when the site was commandeered as HMS Fervent.

    I used to work there as an engineer back in about 1970 and have a bit of an inside understanding about the way this type of setup works, blocked drains, lethal wiring in fact everything a short term solution with the next season only in mind.

    Or a gang of national service servicemen given the option of digging a hole in solid chalk two metres deep and 100 metres long, filling it with concrete or selling the cement, it isn’t that difficult to fathom.

    I made a thorough investigation of the site not long after the £1m cliff repair contract started to crack up and sprout weeds and reported several defects to the council, one of which was a large bulge with a crack down the middle which they repaired, another of which was the absence of foundations which they ignored.

    Undisturbed chalk is easy to spot and to lay the foundations it would have been necessary to disturb the chalk, which to me appeared not to have happened, I don’t think this was an argument that the council’s engineer could follow.

    He had planning sheets drawn up by various council officers between 1930 and 1960 and assumed that they represented what the builders had actually done.

  14. The whole situation probably isn't help that the council got rid of all its chartered engineers several years ago.

  15. Do I get the impression that corruption in Thanet is not a new phenomenon?

  16. No..corruption or alleged corruption is not a new phenomenon at all on Planet Thanet... so Im not confident that the place will ever improve..coastal erosion is the best that can happen to it.
    It has never managed to regenerate because there is always someone who can see how to get their slice of bread buttered at the expense of others.
    Thats the sad thing about folk who move to the area.. have lots of optimism.. learn the reality become disilluioned and move on.. so Readit please enjoy your time there but dont expect the place to change .. it hasnt in 70 odd years...

  17. The cliff face reinforcement may well be an engineering disaster, as Michael's enquiries would suggest, but corruption is going over the top.

    Not suggesting for one moment that there has not been a bit of back scratching, brown envelopes or even political expediency over the years, but to suggest Thanet is any worse than elsewhere is ludicrous.

    There were people who stood to make a lot of money from the Pleasurama site redevelopment, but their investment is looking pretty sick now. Endless delays have considerably reduced the icing on the cake. Indeed, the selling agent involved even opened and subsequently closed at a loss, an office at the harbour to handle the sales. If this is corruption it is not providing a particularly juicy pie for the fingers to poke in.

    It smacks more of a long running stuff up, if Michael is correct, going back to National Service days and an ill conceived project in more modern times. It is hardly in the South Sea Bubble league for corruption, but more the East Kent Rubble!

    Of course, it could be an insurance job, if any underwriter were stupid enough to accept such risk, for which Thanet does have previous. Mind you, fire has always been the preferred option to avalanche.

  18. Bill, in other parts of the world building a civil engineering project and omitting the foundations shown on the construction plans could get those responsible put in jail and the key thrown away.

  19. As it could in Thanet, Ken, but if Michael's research is correct, this seems to be a result of accumulative errors over many years.

    The crime would evidently arise if the development went ahead with the developers and planners aware that the cliff reinforcement were unsafe.

    Mind you, I was not disputing liability but more Maid of Kent's suggestion of Thanet being a hotbed of corruption. I grew up here, have visited the place throughout my years working away, and returned over a decade ago. In my experience corruption is no worse here than any where else I have lived and worked and a lot less so than some places.

  20. Big word corruption chaps and not much good mentioning it unless you can prove anything, the idea that a little mild corruption is normal and acceptable whereas bigger corruption isn’t is an interesting one.

    Having said all of that it would be interesting to know why the cabinet decided to go ahead with this one against the advise of the council officers including the head of finance, who will soon be our new chief executive. Also interesting to ponder why there was no flood risk assessment or emergency pedestrian escapes, strongly recommended by the environment agency, before the current set of plans was drawn up.

  21. Seems to me like you just mentioned it, Michael, and then went on to pose some queries to enhance the possibility.

  22. Retired EngineerApril 11, 2011 8:41 pm

    I am a retired Civil Engineer currently living in an apartment in Wellington Crescent. I have been following the progress with much interest. I was particuarly alarmed and concerned to read recent posts on this blog regarding the alleged 'missing' historic column foundations. So I decided to investigate the matter. However rather than trespass or gain access illegally I chose to contact the builder and ask if they would facilitate safe access. They were very helpful and seemed on to willing to assist. I was met at the gate by the Cardy Supervisor who kindly provided a site hat and high vis vest and safely escorted me onto the site. I asked to be shown the specific column shown in Michael Childs recent photograph. Within just a few minutes I very quickly established the presence of an enormous historic concrete footing. How Michael C did not spot this I fail to understand. Looking at Michaels photograph again it would seem that he must have been standing on the 'blessed' thing when taking his pictures. Perhaps in the haste to scarper from site to avoid being arrested he failed to spot it. The builder confirmed that TDC had already been to site today and left with photographic evidence that confirmed that the foundations were in place as per the historic designs. My visit to site and investigations were over and done with in less than 15 mins and I was able to return home in the safe knowledge that all was well. Its a shame others didnt take the same lead and properly investigate matters before making wild and such scare monger statements. I only hope that the Kent Fire and Rescue services didnt waste to many hours on this matter. I am sure they had far more important life saving emergencies that would have deserved their attention. Perhaps they should send an invoice for any costs expended as a result of this false call out. Those that continue to 'Cry Wolf' will run the risk that they will in the end be ignored....

  23. 20.41 Good for you...

  24. Hi "retired Civil Engineer." Can you explain why the blindingly obvious foundations which you have seen with your own eyes, do not appear on ANY of Michael's photographs? Can you explain why they have been able to dig into the chalk below the pillar when (you say)a huge concrete foundation is there. I am confused and I'm sure a lot of other people are too. As a qualified person, perhpas you can help us out?

  25. Retired engineer, particularly helpful comment as I had assumed the pictures were enough and an explanation unnecessary.

    This sedimentary chalk was formed ninety million years ago and what you are looking at in the pictures is undisturbed sedimentary chalk as it was laid down, in what we engineers call soft sedimentary formation caused by slow accumulation of calcareous ooze on the deep ocean floor.

    Once you have dug it up you get what is technically know as, lumps of chalk, this looks quite different to the trained eye of the person who has engaged in technical engineering process called digging a hole in the ground.

    Any foundations under this sedimentary formation that you can see in the photographs would have had to have been laid more than ninety million years ago, tell me did you retire a long time ago? Does the Cretaceous Period ring any bells?

    7.47 that’s what you get allowing open and anonymous comment, but as I said above it is particularly helpful for me in gauging the way some people can see things that I have published and make perfectly good sense to me.

    Thanks for pointing out the obvious, you can put your hand under the concrete support pillar down there, not a very pleasant feeling.

  26. Retired Engineer, please rest assured your home on Wellington Crescent is quite safe as you have seen with your own eyes.

    What we really have here is an exercise in stirring it up against the Tory led TDC in the run up to local elections where, elsewhere, the Labour manifesto is a bit short on substance.

    It will all die down again after the election, especially if Labour win for, in such event, the cliff face pillars will be miraculously underpinned.

  27. Retired EngineerApril 12, 2011 11:15 am

    I look forward to a humble apology. You are making yourself look very silly.

  28. All we're asking is (your) photographic proof "retired engineer"... or perhaps you were simply made redundant due to failing eyesight?

  29. 10.20 the correspondence I have with local politicians about this site dates back to April 2004 and includes Labour and Conservative councillors and MPs, all with different perspectives on various aspects of the problems associated with the site.

    There is nothing party political about a dangerous cliff, if it falls on you it kills you regardless of political affiliations.

    Retired Engineer, very difficult to apologise to an anonymous individual who can’t tell the difference between lumps of chalk and a sedimentary formation and claims to be a civil engineer, perhaps were referring to the different meaning of the word possibly you studied etiquette.

  30. Peter we crossed over there, when you think of what hangs on this for the council, the developer, potential purchasers of the apartments there etc, one would have though that someone would have come up with a picture of the foundations if they exist.

    The bottom line for me is that they still haven’t cordoned off the footpath while they make their investigations, Kent Fire and Rescue have examined the site and say they can’t find any foundations, but don’t have the authority to cordon off the site while the council continues to insist that the cliff is safe.

    At the moment I seem to have a situation where if it doesn’t collapse and kill a sufficient number people then I am going to look a bit of a twerp to some people.

  31. Feathers seem to be getting rather ruffled with unnecessary rudeness and, as ever with Peter, snide innuendo, this time about a contributors eyesight.

    I must admit I find it very hard to believe in this day, with health and safety and constant recourse to litigation for compensation, that anyone involved would take the risks that have been implied.

    Surely it should be possible to clear this up from some official source, but, in the meantime, can we not keep the exchanges courteous.

  32. Thanks for your contribution Bill, nice to have a sober comment for a change.

  33. Look people I don’t think that I can respond properly to the concerns here without some pictures and a detailed description of the various complaints I have made about the cliff here, so I will put a new post that I hope will clarify the situation.


Please note comments that may be libellous, comments that may be construed as offensive, anonymous derogatory comments about real people, comments baiting internet trolls, comments saying that an anonymous comment was made by a named real person, boring comments and spam comments, comments in CAPs will be deleted. Playground stuff like calling real people by their time stamp or surname alone, referring to groups as gangs, old duffers and so on will result in deletion. Comment that may be construed as offensive to minority groups is not allowed here either, so think before you write it, remember that the internet is a public place, that it is very difficult to be truly anonymous and that everyone who uses it leaves a trail of some sort. Also note the facility to leave anonymous comment will be turned of during periods when I am unable to monitor comment, this will not affect people commenting who are signed on to their blogger accounts. When things are particularly difficult on the commercial spam front I may turn comment moderation on for periods.

If you feel that someone has left a comment that is offensive and directed at you personally please email me (link on the sidebar) asking to have it removed, you will need to tell which post and the date and timestamp of the offending comment. Please do not reply to the offending comment as I will assume you continuing the dialogue as meaning that you want the comments left there.