This is one of those last chance to have your say things, it relates to the well known local developer, who has recently been responsible for the restoration of the Custom House and the Marina Restaurant, both very attractive and viable developments.
The Custom House is now the home to Ramsgate Town Council and because of the way this has been arranged, the subletting of the other parts of the building mean that the parts used by the council are effectively rent free.
Commercially the difficulty with the slipways partly relates to their commercial viability and partly to the commercial viability of Ramsgate Harbour without slipways.
The slipway operators take on this, being that only slipway No1 is commercially viable, this viability is partly related to the rent and rates for the site, the rent being set by TDC and the rates by the Inland Revenue.
Slipway 4 is really just a bit of sloping concrete with a trolley on it that leads into the workshops and has really been replaced by the TDC owned lifting cradle, in fact the lifting cradle means that much of the work on the smaller craft can be done without the slipways, so the cradles very existence renders the whole slipway operation less viable.
Slipway 2’s cradle (the bit that goes up and down on the rails) was condemned by TDC a couple of years ago and hasn’t been replaced.
The TDC owned lifting cradle (don't get your cradles muddled or you bring up the wrong baby) near the harbour gates has limitations, both in terms of weight and in terms of the beam (width) of the vessels that can use it.
Slipway 3 has mostly been used for the windfarms catamarans (wide twin hulled vessels) during the last couple of years. These are both to wide and too heavy for the lifting cradle.
Slipway 1 has to stay whatever happens as it is a heritage lump, a listed Victorian slipway. Slipway one is mostly used for much larger vessels, often for replating and when a vessel is on slipway one (one has been stuck on it for about the last 3 months awaiting parts) the only way to get the windfarm vessels out of the water, for repairs and maintenance is to use slipway 3.
The overall commercial viability of the harbour is a difficult one, it seems to have an income from mooring and port fees in the multimillion pound a year bracket and harbour maintenance appears to have been fairly minimal over the past few years.
I am no accountant, so I can’t extrapolate what actual income TDC receive from the harbour, but assume it is a fair amount.
Part of the problem here is that TDC haven’t yet produced their harbour master plan, so it is difficult to tell how vital the slipways are to the overall long-term commercial viability of the harbour.
Most especially this relates to the windfarm vessels, it is unclear just how vital the long term use of the slipways is to the windfarm operators, obviously it would detrimental to TDC’s income if they took their operation elsewhere.
Another factor with the windfarm vessels is that they are new and still under warranty, so the work on them is mostly done by firms from outside the area, this means that there is very little to be derived, in the way of income, for the slipway operator for letting them use the slipways.
Anyway what happened was that the developer bought half of the lease from the slipways operator for £90,000 and TDC issued a separate split lease to him, roughly covering the area for slipways 2 to 4.
There is an added problem here, which is did TDC issue the lease with the full knowledge that the developer wanted to use the site as a bar and restaurant complex? Meaning that if TDC try to enforce the terms of the lease i.e. that the site be used for ship repairs, could this be open to a legal dispute?
One last thing on the lease, which is that I think when it was issued officers omitted the side access to the maritime museum, which if this was just a mistake, could lead to more delays in granting the maritime museum lease.
That was the background, so now onto the planning applications, the first application was for the modern brightly coloured development in the picture.
Apart from all of the problems mentioned above, for me the main problem was the flood risk assessment presented with these plans.
This flood risk assessment had various flaws the most glaring of which was that the flood risk assessor had made an error and confused Mean High Tide with Maximum High Tide.
Whatever the financial implications of the development, it was obvious that a building, inhabited parts of which would definitely flood, was a non starter, so my main objection to the first development was on the grounds that the flood risk assessment was wrong.
One of the factors with planning applications is that if they get turned down, then you have a limited time in which to reapply before you have to start all over again and pay the planning fee again, this can be several thousand pounds.
So I think there was a bit of a rush getting this one in, when I looked at the application I soon realised that they had used the faulty flood risk assessment that had been a major factor in the council’s turning down of the previous plans.
Something important to understand with flood risk assessments and the business of building on the foreshore is that the sea has waves, so you have to make an allowance for what the Environment Agency call RIZ, they explain this in their letter to the council about the Pleasurama development, click on the link to read it http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/ea/
Usually design of this sort of development design revolves around two factors, the height of the sea defence in front of it, relative to the maximum high tide, and the distance that it is behind the sea defence to allow for wave dissipation.
Both of the applications for building on the slipways involve building part of the new development on a small pier above the sea, so there will be no wave dissipation, plus the added problem of any floating objects getting trapped below the development and being impacted into the bottom of the development by wave action.
Now the latest development the one that looks like an Edwardian railway shed, was designed by one of the senior planning officers who has just left the council, so you would have assumed that he would have known about this.
In fact I am very surprised that he has put the cart before the horse in this way, the normal approach, I would have thought, would be to do the flood risk assessment first and then design the building to be safe within the constraints of the existing environment.
Anyway when I went to object to this development based mostly on the fact that the flood risk assessment was wrong, I spoke to the officer in charge of the application, who said that the wrong flood risk assessment had been submitted and I could delay my objection until he let me know that the right assessment had been submitted and I had had a chance to check it was ok.
I also had a chat with the developer, who said pretty much the same and that the assessment would be with the council in few days. Much more than a few days passed and so I contacted the officer in charge of the application.
He said that the new flood risk assessment still hadn’t been submitted and as time is running out on this one, I would need to object in the next few days, based on the existing, wrong assessment.
So if you want to comment on this one, you had better be quick.
The main planning reference is L/TH/11/0875 the council’s planning website is http://www.ukplanning.com/thanet
The council’s planning website is a strange place and there seems to be pretty much the same application filed under the ref F/TH/11/0874 I can’t link to the plans as unlike normal websites the web address of the page the plans are on doesn’t stay the same.
The first applications relating to the previous brightly coloured development are: The one to demolish the slipways workshops winding houses etc L/TH/10/0736 and the development F/TH/10/0737 may be helpful in trying to assess this new one.
The officer tells me that the retention of the slipways for continued viability of the harbour as a whole are a valid reason for objection too.
On a more personal note here I think there is the whole business of the expanding café culture to consider, my guess is that rather like the case in Whitstable, the background of a real working harbour is a major attraction.
On the face of it the working fishing boat environment can be fairy disruptive and sometimes rather smelly, but it is something real going on and is obviously a major factor in the very successful regeneration of Whitstable.
With the fast train, Ramsgate is now a faster and easier commute to London than Whitstable is, regeneration is now extending from the café culture into the High Street with new shops opening.
I think there is a very real danger that the part of the harbour next to the café culture could turn into just a parking area for expensive and somewhat similar boats, not really much of an attraction.