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.
This is Allan’s response to an open letter from see http://thanetonline.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/royal-sands-development-on-pleasurama_23.html
Here his response in red.
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.
The pictures of the council doing the work are at http://thanetonline.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/council-weed-pleasurama-cliff-facade.html
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 http://www.thanetonline.com/cliff/id2.htm 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 http://www.thanetonline.com/cliff/index.htm 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 http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/ea/id2.htm 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