Friday 30 March 2012

Royal Sands Development on the Pleasurama Site Ramsgate Update.

The decision about development agreement by Thanet District Council Yesterday was deferred to an extraordinary cabinet meeting on 5th April, and I have received an email asking some questions about the development from Allan Poole who is the cabinet member handling this issue.

 Here his response in red.

Hi Michael,

I have spoken with our engineer about your concerns.

He says the points raised by you are not new and that many of the statements made are not an accurate account of actual events. He points out that you say you instigated the HSE intervention which resulted in emergency repairs and a safety cordon.  This is certainly not the case. The HSE viewed the cliff condition report and found no reason to take action or make recommendations.

He points out that there is no comparison between the Northern Sea Wall failure in 1953 and the sea wall at Ramsgate.  These are quite different types of construction and are subject to very different conditions, it is therefore not possible to make such a comparison or suggest that a similar failure would occur without any meaningful evidence to support the claim.  You are correct in that TDC do not hold drawings of the 1860 sea wall at Ramsgate but this is to be expected given the age of the structure.  There is however nothing to suggest that the wall is inadequately constructed.  It also enjoys the protection afforded by the wide sandy beach which stops it from being subjected to regular wave energy (which is the normal mechanism by which a sea wall's condition deteriorates).

Any design changes to the foundations for the development would have been checked by the company undertaking the building regulations work.  It would be surprising if the building is to be founded directly on sand, although this alone does not mean the foundations are inadequate.

You first started making enquiries about the cliff facade wall and site several years ago and claimed that the facade had inadequate foundations and had been undermined by excavation undertaken as part of the development work, these claims was investigated and found to be incorrect.

Yes the cliff facade is only a facing and not a retaining/supporting structure, but you have rather missed the point of a facing structure which is to protect the cliff from weathering to preserve its condition.

The need for a flood risk assessment was discussed with the Environment Agency at the time of the application.

I hope this clarifies most of your points.



I have done my best to answer the issues he has raised below my reply in blue.

Hi Allan many thanks for taking the trouble to look into this issue, my main concern was that because of the secrecy surrounding every aspect of this development there could be some disparity between the information available to cabinet members and real events.

As you are probably aware I have put the majority of my information about The Royal Sands or Pleasurama Development on the internet, so it has been in the public domain since events occurred, and so there has been plenty of opportunity to refute any of this information.

I think the best road to go down here is for me to give you my version and anything that doesn’t make sense to you I will provide the substantiating evidence, emails between me and the HSE, council officers, Jacobs, the various contractors, The Environment Agency and so on.

I will include some links to relevant information that I have published online, although in most cases I have removed the names of the individuals involved.

Starting with the cliff façade, image 1 makes this easier to understand.

Yellow portals I would guess this bit was built between 1940 and 1950

Green arches built I think in the 1930s

Purple brick built in the 1860s

Starting with the purple bit, this was built in 1860 as part of the tunnel entrance about half of it collapsed in the 1960s and the bit between the two pillars had the bottom exposed recently and the front bit which you could see doesn’t extend down to solid chalk, photo if you want.

This is half in and half out of the site and wasn’t surveyed or repaired when the rest of it was.

The sequence of events with this was; we had a lot of heavy rain in the autumn of 2010 and because the drain on top is blocked, the surface of the thing became very wet and some came lose so it was hanging partly over the public highway and partly over the people working on the site below.

I reported it to the council’s engineer who said it was safe.

I reported it to HSE who told me they had contacted the council’s engineer, who said it was safe.

The following weekend a lump weighing about 70 kilos fell off it from the height of about forty feet, it would certainly killed or injured anyone underneath.

After this the council removed the lose bits and the vegetation growing out of the façade and put a safety fence below the cliff on the public highway side.

Onto the green bit, the council sent me the HSE and Cardys the wrong plans for this, actually this whole part of the cliff façade is cast concrete has deep foundations and seems to me to be pretty sound, but the plans they sent showed a similar arched façade from a different part of the town, which had shallow foundations and concrete blocks between them.

When Cardys started digging away at the base of it I made a lot of fuss as I genuinely think had the façade been designed to the plans the council sent me, there would have been some sort of accident.

In the end I found the correct plans, there were a lot of emails and phone calls about this, including one from Cardys asking me for the plans.

Personally I think the HSE and the council should have taken the precautionary measure of closing the cliff top footpath while they worked out what was wrong, particularly as there was no dispute about the plan showing the shallow foundations and block infill being the right one at the time.

Anyway as soon as I discovered the error with the planning sheet I took the path of least resistance and apologised to everyone involved for making a fuss.

Next up the yellow bit, the correspondence about this area is extensive and goes back to when the scaffolding was erected for the major cliff façade repairs, which exposed the bottom of the cliff façade.

This showed that there was nothing underneath parts of it and so I contacted Jacobs geotechnical engineer who wrote the survey report he assured me that there was a continuous 2 metre thick concrete foundation under it. I went on site and poked a stick under it, he then conceded that part of it had no foundation. I have this exchange in writing if you want it. Since then I have been trying hard to get the council to survey the façade foundations as well as the façade that was exposed in 2005 that has already been surveyed.

Shortly after the main contract was completed I did point out a defect and the council eventually conceded that it was serious and spent £22,000 on rectifying it.

It is this part of the façade, the yellow bit on the picture that deteriorated rapidly after the £1,000,000 repair job, I would have to check the figures but I think SFP contributed 10% towards this and the rest was funded by TDC. I say this as obviously TDC officers and the TDC employed consultants supervised this work and should it prove defective it wouldn’t reflect well on them.

I discussed this part of the façade with Cardys and sent them the emails between me and Jacobs. So Cardys did what I assume was a preliminary examination of this part of the façade, see they examined some of the infills and dug out only one of the buttress foundations. Make no mistake here “Made up Ground” means a pile of muddy earth and chalk.

After this I asked them why they hadn’t continued and examined the other foundations and they said that the council had assured them that the façade was sound so they were working on the council’s assurance.

Next is the issue with the weight limit topside, the instruction for this comes from Jacobs and I have had promises that it will be instigated from the council’s engineer, so I don’t think there is any dispute that allowing heavy vehicles on the edge of the cliff is dangerous. Several incidences of this have occurred and the promises date back for years.

My understanding from the email I received from the HSE is that the program of regular cliff inspections was required by them as result of the concerns I raised.

That said I am not saying that the cliff is dangerous, all I am asking for is a thorough survey of the façade, including the foundations, that is independent of the people who supervised the £1m contract to stabilise it.

On now to the flood risk assessment.

The Environment Agency’s letter to the council about this is published at and at the time I thought “we would highly recommend that a full FRA is undertaken” was pretty clear.

However on discussing this with council officers inferences were made that the EA Technical Specialist was wrong in some way, had exaggerated the issue. Personally I concluded this was because the engineer involved was female, (at that time we hadn’t had the experience locally of a female engineer successfully demolishing a power station with high explosives) if you have any other idea as to why the council officers would ignore the recommendation of the EA’s technical specialist I would be interested to hear it.

Some time later I learned that Roger Gale and Laura Sandys were meeting with the most senior EA officers in the southeast, and so in view of this I asked them to check the EA’s position and get it again in writing, I think I best quote from Laura’s email, I don’t want to be responsible for any inter party misunderstandings:

“The Pleasurama development gained planning consent prior to the publication of the latest government guidance on development and flood risk, PPS25. When we were consulted in 2003 our floodplain maps did not show the site to be at risk and the design, at that stage, had clear evacuation routes to the the top of the cliff. But, having received revised plans for the development last year, we highlighted our concern over flood risk and recommended that a site-specific flood risk assessment be undertaken. This would inform appropriate mitigation measures such as recommended floor levels, flood resilient design and an evacuation plan to ensure that the development is made as safe as possible.”

On to the sea wall, this was built in 1860 as part of the railway extension from Herne Bay, aspects of the civil engineering related to this are the subject of historical record.

In the first instance several of the bridges were condemned by the governments inspector and lead to the opening of the railway being delayed.

There were several accidents at Ramsgate, some fatal, which were probably due to the incline being too close to the roundabout.

The Northern Sea Wall Failure in the 50s, which you mention.

The collapse of the tunnel entrance in the 60s.

The 1953 storm was associated with a northerly wind i.e. blowing the sea away from Ramsgate, the only recorded incidence I am aware of in that storm was that a ten ton crane that had been working on the beach was thrown by the sea into the middle of where the development will be.

Certainly there was no significant damage to the harbour, however a much less severe storm with a different wind direction in 1978 did damage the harbour wall, see image 2

Another mitigating feature is indeed the large sand beach, this doesn’t appear to caused by the lee of the harbour as all of the pre 1914 photographs show no build up of sand in front of the site. My understanding is that this large build up of sand was caused by the defences for both world wars.

The majority of this sand was used for infill when Port Ramsgate was built and since then the amount of sand there has been much less and of variable amount.

I don’t think there is any question that the foundations, already constructed, are entirely founded on the sand that forms part of the beach, plenty of emails about this between me and the contractor and plenty of photos of the construction.

As no plans of the 1860 sea wall exist it would be difficult for me to guess what its structural integrity would be or how it would fare in a large storm with the wind in a different direction. I am however certain from my correspondence with the contractor that there was no awareness that there was anything other that a solid modern sea defence in front of the development, when the shallow foundation on sand was designed. I have his email thanking me for drawing the uncertainties regarding the sea wall to his attention and promising to draw it to the attention of the designers of the foundations, this is dated after the foundations had been completed to the stage they are now.

Once again though I am not saying that this combined information means that the development is dangerous, what I am asking for is a survey of the sea wall and flood risk assessment.
Best regards Michael

Quality secondhand paperbacks, a booksellers tip.

Yesterday it being my day off I meanders around Thanet mostly buying books from the local charity shops for stock in my bookshop.

People are always asking me what sort of books I want to buy, because granny has died or they are downsizing and a great many of the books that people want to sell are ordinary sized paperbacks.

Now at the moment you can buy most paperbacks secondhand on the internet from Amazon and most of them are listed with prices starting at 1p this means that when you add on the Amazon postage they cost £2.81.

In order to balance this out and ensure that I have a good stock of books I tend to price the more common paperbacks at anything between 99p and £2.50 to ensure that I will be cheaper than my main competition.

The paperback titles that I never seem to gat enough of I generally price at £2.99 or £3.50 in the hope that a proportion of my customers will buy them cheaper online and I can maintain a reasonably good stock.

This inevitably means that I can pay more for these ones when people come to sell them, so I though a picture of the paperbacks that I selected from the thousands in the local charity shops would be helpful to give some idea of what I call a quality paperback.

Classics feature in this as do uncommon titles by authors that are normally very common, like Agatha Christie, anyway if you expand the picture of the paperbacks I bought yesterday which I paid about £60 for it should give you some idea of what I mean.        

I would guess that they will sell for about £200 over the course of about a year and the added costs will be my petrol, parking and of course most of day doing what I call work for want of a better name. 

Wednesday 28 March 2012

Ramsgate Maritime Museum progress

 The good news is that they are still hoping to get the museum open for Easter.
 The bad news is that the lease still hasn’t been agreed.
 I had heard that it was signed on Monday, but this information is incorrect.
 Sorry I put rather too many images in this post, perhaps someone could tell me which ones they would like removed in the comments.

Tuesday 27 March 2012

A few Ramsgate pictures and a bit of a ramble

I thought it was about time to have a bit of a diversion the ludicrous business over council secrecy regarding the rescheduling of a major development, as though this wasn’t an ongoing ten year disaster that is highly visible to everyone in Thanet, is just frankly depressing.

I have had the old digital slr camera problem of bits on the image sensor, some of these can be more akin to bugs on a windscreen than the odd bit of dust you would expect, anyway a new cleaning kit arrived this morning and I hope to sort the problem out, again.

I think the cabinet are supposed to be discussing something to do with getting Ramsgate Maritime Museum open for Easter as well, but there is nothing at all on the agenda about that.

I think part the problem at the council is that the Dreamland public enquiry is being handled by the same people who are supposed to sort out the problems with Royal Sands and maritime museum, so it is a case of everything happening at once.

I noticed from my webstats that Windows 7 has overtaken XP as the most popular computer operating system, do appreciate that if you are considering this option it is possible to download a trial version of 7 that lasts for 90 days before buying a licensed version.

My first experience with windows 7 was when I put the evaluation version on my netbook because I couldn’t get on with the Linux that it came with and it is an improvement on XP in some ways.

The thing I most miss on XP is the image resizer which allows you to resize all of the images in a folder with one click, there are versions of this that are supposed to work on 7 but I haven’t found one where all of the images will publish online without corruption difficulties.

The netbook has now got a newer version of Linux installed on it and for the first time I can honestly say I have a free operating system that is at least as good as Windows. Ubuntu - Linux for Human Beings!

You are using Ubuntu 10.04 LTS - the Lucid Lynx - released in April 2010 and supported until April 2013.

If you run a business like I do it is even more important to have all your software licensed and legal, so with numerous computers it is the cost as much as ability that restricts what I use.

With the android tablet and internet phone operating system I can see that there is likely to be a movement to free operating systems with low cost or free apps.

Windows 8 seems to mostly aimed at tablets and touch screen so it will be interesting to see where this all goes. 

Just heard the news about The Marlowe Academy which I posted about before, see it is an interesting reflection on the way news breaks, I first heard about this sometime towards the end of last year when one of the local teachers told me. I didn’t post it though as he asked me not to, the next I heard was in January when Guardian published the news, so I did the blog post and now the BBC and official publication of the figures have caught up. The same thing happened with the two recent airport stories and makes it a bit difficult to know what sort of level to take with this blog.

There were some men in suits examining the Pleasurama site yesterday morning, I asked them if there was any progress and they were just rude to me, which isn’t an encouraging sign. Perhaps they were prospective investors, perhaps they were bailiffs they wouldn’t say. 

Whatever they were I don’t think they were from the, promote the Royal Sands publicity department.

I also went and had another look at the Turner exhibition, but couldn’t quite seem to get the inspiration that visiting the gallery usually engenders.  

Funny thing art a bit of positive or negative criticism and very often the inspiration seems to go.

Sorry I am rambling on about the pictures here and I haven’t put the links to them up, I suppose I am a bit ashamed of all the bits on the camera sensor, here are the links. 

Well I managed to get the camera fairly clean, which is much a process of trial and error than anything else, so the next lot of pictures shouldn’t look like you are sitting in a car where the windscreen needs a wipe. 

I will ramble on here depending how the day goes and put up the pictures eventually I expect.   

Marlowe Academy put into special measures


Friday 23 March 2012

Royal Sands Development on the Pleasurama Site in Ramsgate, open letter

I have sent an open letter to all of the cabinet members about the Royal Sands development, I did something like this with the previous Conservative Cabinet when it came before them about three years ago, so it will be interesting to see how a Labour cabinet responds to this one.

It’s a bit long I’m afraid but then my excuse is I wrote it during a busy day in the shop, I guess this is the largest development and the most important one for Ramsgate, so any decision will be critical to the way the town rides the current economic problems.

Anyway here is the open letter: 

I am writing to you as a cabinet member as the development agreement is coming before cabinet once again.

As you are probably aware it came before cabinet about three years ago, with the officers recommendation being not to proceed with the development on the grounds that there were insufficient financial guarantees, but the then cabinet decided to proceed with the development with reduced financial protection for the council.

At the time I discussed this issue with the two main officers concerned, Doug *** who was then head of major projects and Brian *** who was then head of building control.

My concerns discussed with them at the time related to the safety issues of what is a very demanding construction site, on a high risk flood zone and adjacent to a an unsupported chalk cliff.

At that time they made assurances that the problems related to these issues would be handled by the council’s building control department at the building control stage, when they received detailed construction plans.

The flood risk aspect had already been highlighted by The Environment Agency, see their main concerns being related to wave overtopping and emergency escapes for the 1,000 or so people inside in the event of a tidal surge storm.

At this time the plan accepted by the council and Jacobs the council’s civil engineering advisors was to pile bore the building, in layman’s terms; screw it firmly to the chalk bedrock below the site, see

Due to several unforeseen events, both of these senior officers leaving the council and building control going to a private firm, changes were made to the foundation design that appear to have been the result of poor communication between all of the parties involved.

The fundamental problem is that despite this site being in a high risk flood zone the flood risk assessment strongly recommended by The Environment Agency has never occurred.

The geological structure of the site is solid chalk bedrock at about the level of a low tide extending from the bottom of the cliff to the sea, created before the construction of the harbour and caused by natural sea erosion of the cliff.

The construction of the harbour caused a sand beach to form below the cliff and in 1860 when this beach was converted into a railway station the chalk spoil from the railway tunnel was laid on the sand, bringing the whole site up to the level it is now.

On the seaward side of this pile of chalk flagstones were laid forming an inclined frontage to the promenade.

I have written to Mike **** the council’s engineer and he has confirmed that that council has no plans for any subsequent modern sea defence there, founded in the chalk bedrock below.

All of the rest of the promenade in Ramsgate is fronted on the seaward side by modern Environment Agency designed concrete sea defences set into the chalk bedrock.

In what I take to be a mixture of a lack of communication and the lack of a flood risk assessment the foundations for the new development, that have been partially completed, only extend down to the sand beach and are not attached to the chalk bedrock beneath.

The same railway company that built this structure in 1861 also built the sea defence between Reculver and The Isle of Thanet that failed in the 1953 storm, leading to the loss of about seven square miles of land and about four miles of railway track in one night. 

I guess as you are an intelligent person I don’t have to draw you a diagram of the potential public safety issues.

My understanding is that the promenade structure is entirely the responsibility of the council and that any improvements to achieve a structure suitable to protect a large residential structure with shallow foundations from the sea, would have to be paid for by the council.

I expect that you are already aware that the council has expended about £1m on repairs to the cliff façade, these repairs haven’t been entirely successful and further essential repairs to the repairs have already occurred.

In view of the large safety area needed for those repairs, the investigation of part of the cliff façade carried out by the development contractor Cardy Construction, see and various representations made by me that resulted in a hse investigation that instigated emergency repairs and a safety cordon, the council agreed to put in place a program of regular surveys and maintenance. The first of these surveys occurred at the end of last year and I am still waiting for the report relating to it.

It is important to understand that the cliff façade structure wasn’t designed as a cliff support structure, as the harbour arches or the Marina Esplanade arches were, so this is an unsupported chalk cliff.

The normal standard applied to unsupported chalk cliffs i.e. it is ok to walk in front of them but not to sit beneath them doesn’t apply in this case, as people will be living 4 metres in front of the cliff face.

Once again all of the maintenance liability appears to rest with the council.

Unfortunately all the cabinet discussion about this issue is subject to the exclusion of the public, so none of the related documentation is available to me, I obtained the development agreement and that variation to it, that relate to the previous cabinet meeting of 16th June 2009, via the foi and that is published here in a series of linked pages. This puts me in the difficult position of having to guess what the developer is asking for this time and what aspects would be require secrecy.

What the developer promised the cabinet in 2009 was.

June 2009 enabling works for piling and drainage.

January 2010 commencement of groundworks, piling, services and surface drainage pipe.

August 2010 completion of groundworks, piling, services and surface drainage pipe.

March 2011 commencement of structural frame transfer slab of the hotel and the first residential block. (the one next to the hotel at the lift end of the site) 

What actually happened was the surface drain pipe from the site to the harbour was put in, but no work started on the site until about a year ago, when a heath and safety licence for 200 workers was posted at the site gates. This was then followed by between two and four workers on site for most of the last year pouring the shallow concrete foundations.

Now the site has the look of being left hurriedly in the middle of work in progress, doors of one of the storage sheds left open, I have contacted the contractor about this but after about a week it remains open, part encased and unencased reinforcing rods for the transfer slab support pillars, looking rather bent and rusty.

There is no sense of one stage finished and another due to start, but very much a look of a project in progress that was suddenly abandoned possibly because the money ran out.  

So my guess is that the main forward investor the hotelier pulled out at some time and that the developer’s emphasis has moved away from the hotel. Indeed during such work as has been carried out over the last year the emphasis has been away from the hotel end of the site where no work has occurred at all, so one would assume that the hotel, which was to have been constructed first hasn’t been a priority since work started on site.

Because I am working largely in the dark here, but hope to get you to consider a way forward with this development that would be least damaging to Ramsgate’s economy, I have to consider a variety scenarios and outcomes. I also want you to understand that it is about ten years since the Whitbread project was first proposed and that economic damage to the town of having a building site on the town’s main leisure site has been considerable.

If the cabinet decides to continue with the project I would ask you to consider using any bargaining power available to ensure that the development is at least safe, perhaps insisting on a flood risk assessment if this is possible and an independent assessment of the cliff façade.

With a flood risk assessment any protective works could be negotiated now rather at the whim of some future storm.

An independent cliff façade assessment would mean that there was some understanding of the ongoing liability here, that wasn’t prepared by the same people who supervised the work that has already proved to be defective.

Alternatively if the cabinet decide that there is no way that the development can proceed then I am hoping that you will seek some way that the site can be cleared so that it can be used for leisure and parking.

In a general sense I am not happy about this major local development on a council owned site, being only subject to discussion in secret and feel that there should be some involvement of local people and some public information available about it. So I would further ask you to ensure that if the project continues you will insist on some public information scheme.

At the moment I can see why the documents for next week’s cabinet meeting related to the financial situation may need excluding from the public although as the development agreement leases and variation are already in the public domain even this seems to have very little benefit, however I fail to see why those related to the rescheduling of the development should be. 

I am sending this as an open letter to all of the cabinet members and will publish it online, please send me any thoughts or comment you may have for publication.

Best regards Michael. 

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Lunchtime walk ramble pictures in Ramsgate

The weather now being clement I meandered about with my camera at lunchtime, first up is the Pleasurama site, which on reflection doesn’t have the look of a stage finished, but of a hurried downing of tools.
The contractor said in yesterday’s post; “The structural columns which support the transition slab are all fully complete in readiness for the transition slab.” as you can see from the picture they are not finished.

The Cornish pasty people seem to have been a bit naughty too. 
Seems from the bits of paper on the windows that when the bailiffs turned up to remove the stuff there someone had beaten them to it.  
It is interesting times for the shops in town centres, the eatery almost net door to the previous one has reopened, but the underlying problem is the lack of real ordinary shops selling ordinary items. There is only so much eating and drinking out one can do and if shopping centres cease to be shopping centres then all of the things that opened because the shops were there, eateries, estate agents, banks, building societies become less viable.  
Not far from my bookshop another hairdresser is about to open in what was a shop selling things, probably made redundant by out of town shops and the internet.   

As you see from the picture we aren’t short of hairdressers here in King Street.  

Just around the corner from me another addition to the shopping centre, based on the compensation culture. 
I will ramble on. 

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Royal Sands Development on the Pleasurama site Ramsgate up for decision again.

As some of you may already know this comes before Thanet District Council’s cabinet again next week.

The exact wording as to why it is coming before council is: 

 “To make changes to the development agreement in relation to the provisions for third party funders, the timing of parts of the development, the guarantees supporting the agreement and the agreed project milestones.”

However what it actually says on the council’s website is:

·                 View item 13. as HTML 19 KB
Royal Sands - Development Agreement
Report to follow

In other words members of the public can’t even read what the issue is about, which isn’t so good in terms of open government.

I have tried today, really quite hard to find out from the council why all the information has been excluded, obviously I can understand why they would want to exclude the financial information, but the information about the timing of the development, after ten years of delays to engage in secrecy about the timing seems absurd.

My main concern as always are the safety issues, the cliff which I am once again awaiting the results of a survey for and the flood and storm situation where the changes to the foundation design mean that the development literally sits on the sand beach, with no sea defence between it and the sea.

My take on the situation is that I would like to see the development completed as soon as possible if the finances are there, but not at any price when it comes to safety.

The previous design was for the foundations to be pile bored into the bedrock below the sand and I am hoping that the cabinet will insist on a proper flood risk assessment to ascertain what needs to be done to make the building safe if the sand shifts in a storm.

I have a considerable amount of correspondence about this which essentially proves my points and am happy to make any of it available should people want to read it.

Here is an example of the most recent, this week.

Me to the contractor

Hi Michael

I don’t dispute that the load spreading foundations are adequate for sand, what I am asking you again, is the position now that we have the information that there is no proper sea defence between the sand and the sea.

For clarity:

Do you intend to continue without further investigation of the structural integrity any sea defence?

Do you still intend to build without a site specific flood risk assessment?

Obviously if you have independently verified and proven material confirming that the issue of basing the foundations on what is effectively a beach without a sea defence, is something that I am mistaken about, you only have to send it to me and will be off your back.  

Don’t get me wrong here I am as keen to get the development phase over as quickly as possible and would far rather sort this out with you, than going through the building inspectorate and HSE which would be likely to cause further delays.

I will ask TDC once again for the results of the cliff face inspection.

Any reason why you are not starting on the transition slab? I ask this as I can’t visualise any way that there could be structural support brickwork at this stage, so your answer here does sound a bit like continuing the three or four men on site, rather than significant numbers and progress you mentioned being imminent about a year ago?

The information that the variation to the variation of the development agreement is coming before cabinet towards the end of the month is now on the council’s website, any chance you could let me know what is being asked for this time around?

I would very much welcome a chat, I will try and give you a ring in a mo. 

Best regards Michael

His reply

Dear Michael

Thank you for your email. I can confirm that all parties including our Civil Engineers and Geotechnical Specialists are fully satisfied with the designs that have been selected. The foundations have also been fully validated by the Building Inspectorate. We have also received approval and sign off from a third party independent Engineering Consultant appointed to the scheme. We are therefore fully satisfied with the current status.  

The structural columns which support the transition slab are all fully complete in readiness for the transition slab. Ahead of this the bricklayers will be progressing the masonry to the stair cores and the retails areas. This will help limit risk of ‘overhead’ construction activities to the site.

We are not privy to the TDC meeting agenda but we are very enthused and grateful that the Development Co. has retained its commitment  to having the project completed to the original 2014 completion.

Very good news for all.

Kind Regards


Monday 19 March 2012

Just a Walk in the Park

A few pictures here from yesterday’s walk in King George VI Park Ramsgate, nothing very exciting, this park was once the gardens for Eastcliff Lodge, pictured in the painting by Turner above.

As the home of Moses Montefiore I would guess that it had potential as a heritage site, but of course it was long ago knocked down by the council, the coach house, gatehouse and Italianate greenhouse are still there.    

Here is the link to the pictures     

Still loosely on the subject of Turner the Turner Contemporary has put a camera on the gallery roof to record the skies over Margate below the two videos they have made. 

Friday 16 March 2012

Thanet District Council stop Minnis Bay windsurfing championship and thoughts on the local media.

 Having read the bulk of today’s Isle of Thanet Gazette online, see although this is a pretty wafty website the bulk of the paper’s news articles are there, I went out and bought a copy.

The lead article is about another parking, pr and leisure disaster for the council, the geniuses at Cecil Square have found a bylaw that prevents the competitors sleeping in their campervans, in the council car park there, so the event and the associated tourist money has gone to Herne Bay.
 The pictures in this post are all from the book I publish about Herne Bay, see and I guess if you are a tourist you would probably be better off going there than coming to Thanet.

Herne Bay is in the Canterbury area when it comes to local government, something which does beg the question, do the TDC officers who found the red tape to stop the windsurfing event live in Canterbury district or Thanet district? Perhaps they have friends and relations with jobs and businesses there. 
 Frankly I had hoped that the Labour administration in Thanet would be able to curb the officer’s zeal when it came to leisure.

Note the Canterbury Council leisure website whereas Thanet has Three council run what’s on sites, including and I would particularly like to draw your attention this month’s Thanet and Easter events on both sites and the way we in Thanet are cashing in on the Easter holidays this year.
 I guess when one looks at this sort of thing, in the end one comes to suspect a motive, it seems difficult to imagine that this sort of nonsense could be due to a series of unhappy accidents.

Perhaps all of the councillors in the Minnis Bay area are Conservative and this is an act of spite by the Labour administration, we certainly lost pretty much everything in Ramsgate where the majority of Councillors are Labour, during the last eight years of Conservative administration.

One can just imagine all the council owned seafront property in Herne Bay derelict abandoned and empty because the councillors in Canterbury were of a different political persuasion, can’t we?  

Anyway here is an open question to any councillors of whatever political persuasion, you all have one thing in common and that is that you live in Thanet, how about dropping the pointless arguments, petty infighting and doing what you are supposed to be doing, which is making the officers act in a way that benefits Thanet district and not Canterbury or Dover district?

I suppose so much of the problem with our councillors and council can be can be summed up with the parking issue, where the fight is on between the cost of parking in Westgate Compared to parking in Birchington.

Twenty years  ago I used to take my children to beach in Ramsgate and park next to I also used to do this in Herne Bay, today with my younger children I still do the same in Herne Bay.

 In Ramsgate however the road behind the beach leads to the ten year, mostly deserted building site and nothing much else, the council has taken advantage of this deserted road to produce parking facilities that are the envy of traffic wardens across the land.

I would say that where our councillors have got the parking issue wrong is to think of this as an issue of competition between parking availability and cost within Thanet.

What they ought to be engaging in is competing with parking in Dover, Deal, Herne Bay and Canterbury. I guess anyone who has tried to visit The Turner Contemporary knows where I am coming from here. 

At the moment the only nearby car park available to handle the visitor numbers at the gallery is the Dreamland one, however nearly every new visitor's car first arrives among the pedestrians on what appears to be the pavement outside the gallery.  
Anyway sorry it was a bit of a rant, busy day in the bookshop today and the bits of the blog post went inbetween things, so I doubt it was that coherent either. 

Thursday 15 March 2012

Day off ramble watercolour of café at Westgate some photos and stuff about art.

I suppose that one of the trickiest things I do at the moment is painting in public, anyway here is today’s offering, granted not very good. The white chairs completely defeated me, with watercolour you can’t paint over the top with white paint so all the white bits are bare paper. You can use some special fluid or a wax crayon to make areas that repel the paint, but it tends to make the picture look funny.
 I could have gone home and painted the thing from a photograph, but my sketchbook is for me, so there wouldn’t be any point, I guess I could have traced the photo to get everything just right.

I could have drawn the scene first with a pencil, painted it and then rubbed the pencil out, this would have made it a lot easier. I hope you see where I am coming from here.
I was looking at art books about Renoir and Picasso last night and have bought a very cheap A3 sketchbook, the paper is too thin to take watercolour so the coloured bits are chalk.

Inevitably there were a few pictures on the camera card after having the day off, they are going on the web here

and here

What I am getting at here I think is something like, what would you prefer hanging on you wall, given that you can’t have an original Picasso, Renoir or whatever.

A photograph?

A painting of a photograph?

A print of a painting?

A painting from real life that wasn’t that good but you could afford?

A painting that was an exact copy of a great painting, done by a good copyist
This picture inserted to respond to comment.

Oh and one of today’s photos which I have rotated and flipped, it should get bigger if you click on it. Makes one wonder what shape the line between reflection and reality is.  
I may ramble on here.   

Wednesday 14 March 2012

A few pictures of Ramsgate and possible ramble

I thought it an interesting reflection on Ramsgate that a sexy underwear shop only survived for a few months, I have admit that this isn’t an area of engineering that I know much about.

I forgot to put the links to the pictures that I used a few of for yesterdays post, in yesterdays post, a senior moment perhaps, here they are:

I did try to something artistic with the camera when I went for my walk today, I haven’t bothered to delete the offending pictures, so you may want to have a drink before viewing them at:

I am hoping the new shoe shop will do better and last longer, at least everyone appears to wear shoes, anyone who has children will be familiar of the business of going to Westwood Cross, getting their feet measured in the Clarkes shoe shop and then going home and buying the shoes online for a third of the price.  

Just changing computers to I will ramble on in a mo. 

Tuesday 13 March 2012

Gimme Shelter a ramble a about charity, shops, shelters and the stuff of local news.

The Ramsgate shelters project is taking shape with several almost restored to their former glory, lets hope the survive, metal thieves, vandals, caught shorts and so on.
Work has started on the new development at Granville Marina, the one on the bend near where Nero’s was.
The bank of earth at the front of Quex Park has been removed considerably enlarging the car park for Quex Barn farm shop and Restaurant.    
Pleasurama still seems to have ground to a halt, cliff problems, flood risk problems, financing problems, development agreement problems? Who knows? 
Can a charity shop go bankrupt?

This one apparently has, do the bailiffs come in and take away the donations?

This shop in Queen Street has closed for the second time in about three months. 

Jimmy Godden’s arcade had been refitted and reopened. 

Jimmy Godden’s other arcade has closed and rumour has it that Terry Painter will be taking it over as an estate agents concentrating on selling The Royal Sands.

Yesterday, beside the fair,
I sold flat that wasn’t there
It wasn’t there again today

Oh yes and I bought a new pencil, much more difficult than you would think, the new one is an American Venus the old one nearly down to the stub is an English Venus, the American ones have thicker leads.

I have just been trying it, pencil sketches don’t photograph well for me, but you get the idea.

I may ramble on, as there is loads more where that lot came from if I get the time.