Monday, 28 November 2011

Lack of confidence in Thanet District Council the Pleasurama example.


With all the comment on the previous post surrounding the functioning of the council I was looking for some way of expressing the how and why fo the way local people come to feel about the council.

Here in Ramsgate the Pleasurama project is the largest thing ever to happen on a council owned site. This project dwarfs say The Turner Contemporary and theoretically the council stand to gain a considerable sum of money from it.

In practice I reckon all that has happened is they have spent well over a million pounds on it, the project is years behind schedule, Ramsgate has had about a decade of the its prime seafront a building site, much to the detriment of the town in every sense.  

Periodically I contact the council to ask them what if anything is going on as this site which according to health and safety notices should have had about 200 people working on it for nearly two years, appears to have had between two and four people working on it.

One way or another you would think the council would have something or another to say about this state of affairs, so below my email to them and their reply. 

Subject:
Pleasurama development
Date:
04/10/2011 15:34:02 GMT Standard Time
From:
To:








Hi ***** I recently telephoned TDC to get an update on the situation with the Pleasurama development in Ramsgate, I spoke to *****, who didn’t know the answers. I asked him how he would prefer I raise the issue, foi request, official complaint or another approach. He asked me to contact you directly by email.

Can you confirm this method of enquiry is the one you prefer and can you give me an estimate of when I will get a response?

I don’t have complete faith in the council’s email system, so please confirm that you have received this email.

Obviously all is not well with the way the development is progressing and delays or failure of the development are detrimental to the town’s economy, if you have any off the record thoughts about situation please let me know.

The following statement, questions and your answers to them are intended for publication, although I will not publish your name on the internet.

As you are probably aware the work on the development is far behind the schedule in the development agreement, work since the start of this year has consisted of between 2 and 4 men on site.

The method of construction stated in the agreement, pile boring and steel cage isn’t being used.

The developer is using a private building control firm.

There have been cliff condition issues.

1 Is it the council’s intention to enforce the terms of the development agreement?

2 Have the council had any correspondence with the developer relating to the delays surrounding the development, and if so can you provide copies of it, or a summery of its content?

3 How far is the council prepared to let the slippage in the work go before taking action?

4 Is there any public or council access to the building control information relating to the changes in construction method?

5 As the development is situated in a high risk flood zone have the environment agency been consulted over the change from pile bored foundations to shallow foundations.

6 Is there any public or council access to the working drawings for the development?

Best regards Michael


Subject:
Re: Pleasurama development
Date:
18/11/2011 11:03:07 GMT Standard Time
From:


Michael
Most sorry for the long delay in replying. I did the draft ages ago and
must admit thought I had sent this before I went on holiday, and even
though I did get the chaser to respond other priorities have got in the
way. Response as set out below:

Thank you for the opportunity to provide you with my off the record
views about the progress of the development. However, I hope you will
not be upset if I keep these to myself.

In relation to the specific questions you ask I have the following
comments:

1) The council is expecting compliance with the terms of the agreement.
I cannot respond in relation to any proposed action of the council if
these terms are breached.

2) Any contact previously with the developer in relation to the
agreement is covered by commercial sensitivity and will not be provided
even in summary form.

3) Please see comment in 1 above.

4) The council do not have any automatic rights of access to the
building control information relating to the development. Clearly you
can seek this information directly from the developer's building control
provider if they are willing to supply this.

5) Contact with the Environment Agency has not be made by this council
in the context of the foundations for the development. As in 4 above you
could seek from the building control provider whether this formed part
of their process.

6) The answer is the same as for 4 above.

****

Now as far as I can see the only thing I can do is turn the thing into both an official complaint and a foi request, wasting both my time and the council’s.

The pictures of the site were taken last week.

This link takes you to the post about when I last checked up on the Pleasurama site http://thanetonline.blogspot.com/2011/10/royal-sands-development-on-pleasurama.html

25 comments:

  1. Michael,

    I like this bit, purely as an example of good drafting, "Thank you for the opportunity to provide you with my off the record views about the progress of the development. However, I hope you will not be upset if I keep these to myself."

    Michael, This whole reply from TDC is evasive. It has the aroma of a man who is hiding something. It is either that or he does not see why he should bother to answer questions from a mere taxpayer. I suspect that he is replying to you with a stock letter.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Michael, Another thought: why do these TDC officials not sign emails with their name? I always signed my name when writing to members of the public. In fact we were instructed to do so.

    ReplyDelete
  3. John they do publish their names and it is me who removes them, I figure with my high internet profile that if I didn’t every time someone Googled their name, up they would pop saying some daft thing to me

    ReplyDelete
  4. Only a matter of time before you get the tired old f**ts moaning about you wasting council officers' time with pointless questions; as if they have any other purpose. Keep up the good work; this eyesore has been there for far too long and needs close scrutiny by outsiders

    ReplyDelete
  5. If the developers estate agent's Royal Sands web page ( Holmes Spearman) is anything to go by development has slipped a few more years.

    "INVESTORS - exchange contracts off plan NOW with a 50% deposit and the developer will allow a discount off the property sale price equivalent to an interest rate of 6% per annum calculated pro rata according to the time between exchange and completion in 2014."

    As a frequent visitor to Ramsgate, staying for 3 or days at a time, I gave it a miss this year and wont be comming back until this eyesore is removed one way or the other.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Interesting constructional situation Michael, with private building control.

    The piled foundations have been replaced by shallow concrete buckets, and the majority of columns placed broad-side to the sea.

    When the tsunami hits they will go down like dominos.

    ReplyDelete
  7. the estate agents confirmed to me the development would be ready in mid 2014

    ReplyDelete
  8. Anon 07.40

    Sure they didn't say 2114? :-)

    ReplyDelete
  9. So there goes the overage agreement then?

    ReplyDelete
  10. Don't you just love expert opinion like that of Readit. The developers are obviously total idiots by comparison with our illustrious, retired, resident civil engineer.

    By the way, Ken, which tsunami is likely to come up the English channel? The one expected when the mile wide meteorite thumps into the North Sea perhaps. You really are clutching at Hollywood disaster movie stuff to maintain your anti-TDC rhetoric.

    Oh, and Michael, what will you do to occupy your time if Labour take control of Thanet. Could hardly carry on your perpetual critcism then, what?

    ReplyDelete
  11. 10 17 Here is the expert opinion, it is quite long to may have to go into more than 1 comment

    creating a better place
    Environment
    Agency
    Our ref: KT/2007/104024/0101
    Thanet District Council Your ref: TH/03/1200
    P0 Box 9 Date: 08 February 2008
    Margate PLANNING DEPARTMENT
    CT91XZ


    TOWN AND COUNTRY PLANNING' ACT 1990
    MIXED REDEVELOPMENT including 107 RES DEV, HOTEL, RETAIL, FOOD
    AND DRINK, ETC. PLUS CAR PARKING
    PLEASURAMA AMUSEMENT PARK, MARINA ESPLANADE, RAMSGATE
    Thank you for forwarding plans for the proposed development at the former
    Pleasurama site in Ramsgate. I am sorry you have had to wait so long for a
    response but as we discussed in our recent meeting, I was under the impression that
    there were further amended plans to follow.
    According to our records the Environment Agency was initially consulted on this
    application in October 2003. At that time our indicative flood risk maps did not
    identify the area to be at risk from tidal flooding. The maps were based on a
    predicted ~1 in200Yea( tide and ground levels along this part of the coast were
    shown to be above the “at risk~ level. Therefore no specific flood risk comments
    were included in our response. In hindsight this is regrettable as the proximity of the
    site to the frontage does mean that the area is likely to be susceptible to wave
    overtopping and could be subject to flooding in extreme storm conditions.
    Since 2003 we have had both a policy change with the publication of Planning Policy
    Statement 25: Development and Flood Risk (PPS25) and, publication of our
    updated flood maps which now show part of the site to lie in Flood Zone 3a (High
    Probability). Although we might not object in principle to some form of development
    here, if we were to receive a similar application under the current guidelines, we
    would require a Flood Risk Assessment (FRA) to identify the risk, look at flood
    resilient construction and address the issue of safe, dry access. Without this
    information it is difficult to determine whether the development can be considered
    “safe” (PPS25 09 The Exception Test).

    ReplyDelete
  12. We are aware that there have been amendments to the original application but
    believe the Agency was not asked to comment following the initial consultation in
    2003. It is difficult to say whether our response would have changed at the times of
    these amendments. We are certainly disappointed that access from the
    development to the top of the cliff, which we believe to have been in the original
    layout, has since been removed. In the event of the esplanade being impassable,
    access from the cliff-top would ensure a safe dry route to and from the residential
    units. As the proposal stands, a serious flood could potentially leave resident'
    stranded in their homes without a safe means of escape, for the duration of the
    event,
    As a guide, we would currently recommend all residential accommodation ~n the
    Ramsgate area to be set at a minimum of 5.6m above Ordnance Datum Newlyn
    (ODN). This is following the predicted sea level rise allowances in PPS25 until the
    year 2110. Unfortunately the plans do not show floor levels relative to ODN.
    However the site survey (Drawing No. PL 10-101) indicate average ground levels to
    be approximately 5,8m (although not shown I am assuming these levels to be ODN).
    With the ground floor proposal for commercial use only, it can be concluded that the
    residential accommodation, all on the first floor and above, will be set well above the
    recommended 5.6m ODN. It should however be made clear that this is a static tide
    level which makes no allowances for wave action, This static level would be deemed
    safe some distance from the frontage where wave heights would be expected to
    dissipate. Areas immediately behind defences lie in the High Risk Rapid Inundation
    Zone (RIZ) and are particularly vulnerable due to the risk of the defences being over-
    topped or breached, resulting in fast-flowing and potentially deep water with little or
    no warning. Again, if this were a new application we would expect an FRA to identify
    the RIZ and predict potential wave heights.

    ReplyDelete
  13. For example the FRA undertaken by HR
    Wallingford for The Turner Centre application identified wave heights to be
    significantly different from the predicted “200year”static tide level for Margate.
    Whether this development is sufficiently set back to be outside the RIZ is difficult to
    say without further investigation in the form of a detailed FRA. Although the
    residential accommodation may well be set high enough above the static extreme
    tide level, we don't have sufficient information to confirm whether or not the site is
    vulnerable to waves of a much greater height and if so, if this could undermine the
    structural integrity of the proposed buildings. A site specific FRA would assess the
    potential for wave damage and recommend suitable mitigation measures.
    It is appreciated that this proposal was submitted over 4 years ago, prior to the
    publication PPS2S and before our maps highlighted the area to be at risk, Certainly
    in terms of flood risk policy, things have some-what moved on. In light of those
    changes and without further information I regret it is impossible for the Agency to
    confirm whether or not the proposal as it stands is wholly consistent with current
    policy. And whilst we accept that this development already has planning permission,
    we would highly recommend that a full FRA is undertaken which could inform
    appropriate resilience and resistance measures. The assessment could also inform
    the production of a suitable flood warning and evacuation plan, for both the
    residential and commercial parts of the development. We would obviously
    recommend that all future residents and commercial units are registered with our
    free Flood Warning Service,

    ReplyDelete
  14. I hope this letter has been able to clarify the Agency's position however should you
    wish to discuss the matter further please don't hesitate to contact me again.
    Environment Agency
    Orchard House, Endeavour Park, London Road, Addington, West Mailing, Ken, MEI9 5SH.

    ReplyDelete
  15. To anonymouse at 10:17,

    Be that as it may; but at least Readit has the wit and character to not hide behind being 'anonymous'.

    ReplyDelete
  16. John, the label does not make opinion any less valid, indeed some fine prose and poetry is of unknown origins.

    ReplyDelete
  17. The public ar not stupid either. They will see a good property buy when it exists. This developer is asking for 50% deposits for properties that wont be ready for nearly 3 years. Who in their right mind is going to speculate at least £150,000 up front now with a similar amount to follow. Very much a punt in the dark with the economy and property prices unstable and a seller with no proven record of such a scheme.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Anon 10.17. It is you who is stuck in perpetual criticism mode. My first line states "private building control", no mention of TDC at all.

    And by the way, Active Architectural Technologist not Retired Civil Engineer

    ReplyDelete
  19. Readit, an expert opinion here, is the building control information relating to how they have addressed the flood risk, available to the public or to the council who still own the land? It is as I am sure you understand literally a matter of life and death as the last time we had had a tidal surge storm in this area the mortalities were measures in thousands.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Michael, as I understand i, but I am by no means an expert. Planning application documentation is in the public domain, hence UK planning.com.

    However building control drawings are not subject to the same rules and Building Inspectors whether private or Local Authority can refuse to let you view them.

    ReplyDelete
  21. If the scheme completes in 2014 which is waht has been suggested in previous posts then from what I have read from the Development Agreement that will be on time. When you consider the current economic climate and previous delays to the project as a result of the Cliff Face repairs then I think the Developer should be applauded for staying with the scheme and having the determination to deliver the project at such a tough time.

    ReplyDelete
  22. If the scheme completes in 2014 which is waht has been suggested in previous posts then from what I have read from the Development Agreement that will be on time. When you consider the current economic climate and previous delays to the project as a result of the Cliff Face repairs then I think the Developer should be applauded for staying with the scheme and having the determination to deliver the project at such a tough time.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I'm planning a new extension for my house. How do I go about employing my own building control officer so I don't have to put up with visits from those pesky Council ones, who keep telling me to dig deeper foundations?

    ReplyDelete
  24. Ken it is the failure to consult the electorate after the results of the consultation that I think seriously undermines either parties leaders mandate to govern.

    As far as I can see most of the officers and councillors primarily have their own interests at the top of their agendas, so I am going down the road of suggesting that they now face a situation where the interests of the electorate could coincide with their interests.

    With the balance of power as it is I would say that for most councillors the gamble of whether their interest would be best served under the directly elected leader system or the existing system is about equally balanced. Although I suppose the directly elected leader system probably favours the more able councillors from both parties, as they would have more chance of a position of responsibility under an elected leader than under the present system.

    The thing I like least under the present system is that I have no effect on the leadership of the council, as my vote doesn’t count in this.

    I suppose the responses that I published in Mondays post about the Pleasurama site sum up the council’s problems, they come from a very senior officer and much of my enquires were about a serious safety issue. Should the basic safety advice from the environment agency be ignored? The box ticking and evasive answers show the problem of the sort of mindset within the council. It was four years ago that the EA recommended emergency escapes and a flood risk assessment, since then the council have signed a 200 year lease, without going to asset disposal and without these basic safety considerations being part of the terms.

    The mindset like that o the councillors is one of, we know best.

    ReplyDelete

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