Friday 30 November 2012

A few pictures of Ramsgate Christmas lights a sketch in a The Belgian café, and some reflection on local media.

 Once again apologies for the picture quality, I used my mobile phone which doesn’t work so well in the dark.

 The town council seem to have excelled themselves this year

 The lifeboat station is also treed up
 The moon however
 is difficult competition
 even for the larger decorative balls

 sorry about my rather unsteady hand
 The Belgian Cafe doesn't look much like the sketch, spot Andy.

but the it doesn't look much like the photo either.

I had a bit of an uphill struggle today trying to explain to local journos why they should engage in some investigative journalism. I spent a long time listening to the equivalent of a vegetarian expounding the moral reasons why they won't eat road kill, obviously just saying they don't like the flavour of meat wasn't on the menu.

Thursday 29 November 2012

Belle Vue Tavern Pegwell Bay, lunch pictures and possible ramble about painting.

My day off today and frankly we felt like a lazy one, I looked at the comment on the Pleasurama post, couldn’t face saying the same things I have been saying for the last 10 years, so went for a lazy lunch.

Today we sat by the round window, frankly the view is difficult to sketch with watercolour.
Here is a photo looking through the window, the problem both for me and the camera is all the light is coming through the window, it think, something like that.

The trouble is with this sort of view is you can’t really capture it, of course you can paint a more realistic sea with oil or acrylic paint, partly because you can put light colours on top of dark ones which you can’t easily do with watercolour, because it is transparent paint.

I think though it is more of a time thing for me, I think an A4 watercolour sketch like this take about a quarter to half an hour, which means I look at the view properly. 

I think taking photos, going home with them and painting a picture with them just wouldn’t work for me, although I guess the picture would be better to look at for other people.

I don’t mean I don’t cheat, in this instance I drew it with a pencil first.

Painted the picture, so.

And then rubbed out the pencil when it was dry, I use a B grade pencil if I do this, the softer ones smudge when things get wet and the harder ones don’t rub out well. I use an ordinary rubber, not an artists putty rubber, I had one run in with one of these, it turned into something like chewing gum in my pocket.  

Watercolour paint is the stuff of children’s paint boxes, although I use the artist’s quality version, which is more concentrated.  

Our lunch was excellent steak panini for the two of us coke and pot of tea about £16 good quality and value.

I did go outside and take a few more pictures, here they are.

Photos will expand if clicked on, sorry if the post wasn’t that exciting, I honestly never know whether to post this sort of thing, the webstats seem to say as many people read this type of stuff and look at the pictures as look at the more topical posts that attract a lot of comment.

Wednesday 28 November 2012

Midweek ramble

I haven’t been out much this week due to the weather, so not many pictures.

As you see the covers have come off much of The Alexandra and it looks like a very good job think this building is about 100 years old, so it was probably a makeover.

The building on the front of Harbour Street is also having a new shopfront.

On the local history front, have now the mother of all printers and am just about able to print large format maps and local pictures.

I am starting with the 1849 coloured map of Ramsgate and hope to be selling it on Friday, it comes out between A1 and A0 size and will sell for £9.99, I think it should make a reasonable Christmas present.

Production isn’t guaranteed as this is a new process for me, with new equipment.

I will ramble on here if I think of anything else to say.

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Royal Sands Development on the Pleasurama Site Ramsgate update.

First an update from Cllr Ian Driver who has sent me a copy of an email he sent to the council’s chief executive today.

Dear Ms Mcgonigal

Thank you for meeting with me last week.

I neglected to mention in my summary of the meeting that Mr Patterson agreed that he would check with Eversheds as to what records they hold on original due diligence of SFP and any other relevant information.

I also forgot to ask at the meeting if I could be provided with a copy of the confidential report on the Pleasurama Development which  went to Cabinet on 16 June 2009. I understand that the constitution allows me to have a copy of this document.

In the meantime I have had the opportunity to see extracts from this report which give me cause for concern.

On page 18 of the report there is a letter which appears to be from Nat West Bank. The letterhead does not appear to me to  be the usual Nat West corporate style letterhead. It differs markedly from the the letter from Nat West on page  21 of the report in realtion to Cardy's.  As the author of the report could you tell me if checks have ever been made with Nat West bank to ascertain if the letter on page 18 of the report is genuine. 

I am also very concerned by the letters from SBP Banque on pages 17 and 22 of the report. The letterhead of the letter on  page 17 does not appear to me to be professional orauthoritative and is not what I would expect to see in correspondence relating to financial due diligence from a major Swiss bank.

I was also very surprised that the letter on p21 of the report is headed "draft letter from SBP Banque to TDC". Once again this letter does not give me the impression of a professional and  authoritative communication from a Swiss Bank. As the author of the report could you tell me if checks have ever been made with SBP Bank  to ascertain if the letters on pages 17 and 21 of the report are genuine.

If these documents have never been verified for their authenticity then I would respectfully request that you take action to ensure that they are checked, even though time has elapsed since they were written.

Speaking hypothetically, I assume that if Cabinet and Council approved an agreement on the basis of misleading or falsified information then this agreement would have no basis in law.

I apologise for taking up you time with this issue. However I do belevie that the Pleasurama Development is an extremely important matter and the Council should take all reasonable measures to ensure that the the public interest is being served.

I look forward to hearing from you on this matter.

Yours sincerely

Councillor Ian Driver
Chair OSP

I guess with Ian Driver running the council’s overview and scrutiny we all have to consider the implications of this type of openness and transparency.

Next is the original proposal that was presented to the council, this link takes you to the whole document

This link takes you to a series of pages showing the planning drawings that the council actually approved

It was these plans that caused consternation among Ramsgate residents, mainly because of the height of the proposed development, which when measured suggested the new development would be as much a 3 metres higher than the cliff top.

Despite all of the alterations I genuinely don’t think anyone really knows exactly how high the thing would be if built. Nor do I think anyone really knows what the impact of an acre of ribbed rubber roof at an unknown height adjacent to Wellington gardens would be. 

My own feelings here is that if the present Labour administration impose this development on Ramsgate, without any transparency or consultation and the end result is anything like the planning drawings suggest it will be then they will make themselves universally unpopular.

Something I find very concerning is the total absence of comment from Ramsgate’s ward councillors.   

Alternatively if they go down the road of selling the freehold to obtain short term funding and make no mistake here the long term liability to council taxes of maintaining the cliff to a standard suitable for its proximity to this development is likely to be considerable.

£1m of council taxpayers money has already been spent on it and there has recently been another survey requiring another and considerable amount of cliff works.

While the developer doesn’t achieve anything much apart from the hideous mess that has blighted the main leisure site in the town, this wont be universally popular either.      

The Guardian has an article on British Virgin Isles companies today which may interest some readers 

I am adding an a further update here, first another email From Cllr Driver to the chief executive:

Dear Ms McGonigal

Further to my previous e-mail I have now had the opportunity to study further information which was submitted to Cabinet in June 2009.

On p19 of the report there is a letter from SFP Ventures (UK) Ltd which states that a company called  Wetmore Investments will be the funding the hotel development to the tune of £5million.  This is confirmed on p22 of the report in the "draft letter from SBP Banque to TDC" which I have already expressed my concern about.

I have spent several hours researching Wetmore investments. It would appear that Wetmore Investments have never been registered at Companies House. I have been unable to trace any references to this organisation apart from an estate  agent in the USA. As the report author could I ask you what checks were were made to establish the bona-fides of Wetmore Investments in 2009 especially in light of the fact that documents in the report to Cabinet suggest that it is was to be one of the  major funders of the Pleasurama Development.

At our meeting last week you asked me to let you know if I had any suggestions for the forthcoming Pleasurama due diligence process. After having seen the June 2009 report to Cabinet, I would like to suggest that it would be sensible if the Council conducted thorough checks to ensure that documents from banks and  funders are bona fide and that these organisations actually exist.

Yours sincerely

Councillor Ian Driver 

Monday 26 November 2012

Royal Sands Development on the Pleasurama Site in Ramsgate, is this the beginning of the end?

A bit more information on the development, Cllr Driver intends to put the following motion to council:

“Motion to Council 6th December

Royal sands

This Council expresses it's concern about the worrying lack of progress of SFP Ventures
(UK) Ltd in developing the Royal Sands construction project.

Council notes that SFP Ventures (UK) Ltd have been in negotiations with the Council to change the current development agreement.

Council understands that this new agreement is ready for approval once SFP Ventures (UK) Ltd has demonstrated that

A) it has finance in place to complete the project and

B) that it has an agreement in place with a hotel management company to run the hotel which forms part of the development agreement with the Council.

Council notes that more than 4 months have elapsed since it requested SFP Ventures (UK) Ltd to provide the information in A) & B) above.

Council recommends to Cabinet that if SFP Ventures (UK) Ltd are unable to provide the information requested by the Council in A) and B) above by 31 January 2013 that

Cabinet refuses to agree any new terms with this company and will robustly enforce the existing agreement including taking back the leasehold of the Royal Sands development if necessary.

Moved by Councillor Ian Driver”

My take on this is that it is likely that we are coming to the end with this one, something that struck me about the previous post was that although there was a fair amount of comment, there was no comment, even anonymous supporting continuing with SFP Ventures. 

Saturday 24 November 2012

Saturday ramble

Customers are managing to get to my bookshop today despite the rain, frankly apart from shopping in the multiples, which probably means browsing books there and buying them online from a large company that avoids UK taxes the options are very limited.

The former Alexandra Hotel’s scaffolding has come off sorry about the picture mobile phone in the dark, if it ever stops raining I will go and take a better one.

I managed to get out and get an Isle of Thanet Gazette it seems Cllr Shirley Tomlinson is standing down from her role as cabinet member and offering to stand aside from the Conservative group while she faces her drinking and driving charge.

The Conservative group don’t seem to have found a new shadow cabinet member and appear to be carrying on one down for the time being.

The ongoing Royal Sands on the Pleasurama site is rumbling in the letters, I guess it is looking increasingly unlikely it will ever get over the cliff top. I always thought it would be the safety aspects, particularly building on a high risk flood zone that would do for it. Now it is looking much more likely to be the credentials of SFP the company behind it.

Here is Cllr Driver’s letter from the previous week’s Gazette:

Dear Editor
I read with interest (Thanet Gazette 2 November) Terence Painter’s claim that the developer of the former Pleasurama site at Ramsgate Royal Sands, SFP Ventures UK Ltd, “has a strong track record of (managing) similar developments in Portugal”. I understand that SFP Ventures UK Ltd  also claims   to have managed  large developments in Ipswich and Lowestoft.
I spent several hours Googling to substantiate these claims.  I found no evidence to prove that SFP Ventures UK Ltd  have managed developments in Ipswich, Lowestoft, Portugal or anywhere else for that matter. I also understand that Thanet Council has never been provided with independent, corroborative evidence which demonstrates that the company have managed any building development projects.  
I checked SFP Ventures UK Ltd  vital statistics on the Companies House website. According to it’s latest accounts it had a turnover of £1.9million in 2011. After paying its creditors the company made an operating loss of £859.
These are not the type of accounts  I would reasonably expect to see  from a company which Mr Painter describes as having a “strong track record” of managing large building developments in Portugal. 
SFP’s  lacklustre financial performance, coupled with its  long record of inactivity at the Pleasurama site,   leads me to wonder whether this company is the right partner to work with Thanet  Council to  deliver  this major £36 million regeneration project.
I also discovered on the Companies House website that  SFP Ventures UK Ltd  recently appointed  a second director who is a 23 year old student. Not wanting to sound ageist,  I doubt whether the vast majority of  23 year olds would have the experience, skill or  knowledge to be a Director of a  company which according to Mr Painter has a “strong track record”  of managing large multi £million building projects in Portugal and elsewhere.
SFP Ventures UK Ltd the current developer, its predecessor company SFP Venture Partners Ltd and it’s parent company SFP Services Ltd  (both of whom are off-shore companies which have never been registered at Companies House)  have been involved in the development of the Pleasrurama site for more than 10 years. In that time precious little work  has taken place, apart from turning a large piece of publically owned and valuable real estate into a disgraceful eyesore.
I note Mr Painter’s suggestion in his capacity as SFP’s official spokesman and sales agent, that to overcome the decade of delays your readers “should be shouting at Councillors” to encourage them to reach a new agreement  which includes the Council handing over the freehold of an extremely valuable plot of prime site public land to his clients for the princely sum of £3 million.
I totally agree with Mr Painter about the shouting!  However, I suggest that your readers should actually be shouting at Councillors to encourage them to carefully review how the blot on our landscape we fondly call the Pleasurama development  came about, and  give thoughtful consideration as to whether  Mr Painter’s client is actually the most suitable organisation to continue the development of this site.
Failure to take  a long hard look at the proposed new agreement with SFP might, despite the £3 million, cost the Council and the people of Thanet dear.
 Cllr Ian Driver

I think this is the first time that a Councillor has publicly gone as far as to say the company behind the venture doesn’t appear to exist in any real sense.

I guess this really does leave the onus on those supporting the development to show us some evidence of the other developments this company is responsible for.

Another taxi office opening in Ramsgate town centre, that’s two in two weeks.

Last nights sketch in The Belgian Café didn’t go that well, my excuse being that people kept moving 

I will probably ramble on here

Thursday 22 November 2012

Westgate Bay Café a few pictures and is Westgate bent day orf ramble

Day off today, bright and windy, we went to look at some books on the north side of The Isle of Thanet, stopping for lunch and a sketch at The Westgate Bay Café, it’s as well to remember that this is open in the winter, and that you can park for nothing on the cliff road next to it.

 a quick sketch of Westgate Bay Café

photo in situ, apologia to any victims.

picture of my lunch I think this cost about a fiver including a pot of tea that lasted all though lunch and the watercolour and pencil sketch.

The view from the cafe is very good too.

I rather lazily sat in the car and sketched Westgate-on-Sea shopping centre, while shopping occurred, something a bit strange with the vanishing point here, as I would have though the line of the line of the top of shelter in front of the shops would be continuous. I also took the photo below, I usually do this when I sketch something, so I can work out where I went wrong later.

 Looking at the photo it would seem that Westgate is in fact bent or something, so I will have to have another look.

Manston Airport not the end, but perhaps the beginning of the end.

 Looking at the various pro and anti airport, night flights and so on comments that always abound when I post about the airport, I wonder if the message the asking price for Manston, now in the £7m is now very close to the price of agricultural land is hitting home.
 Infratil the airports owners have now said they are considering funding alternative uses for Manston, see
 With the old Hoverport at Pegwell set to turn into a hovercraft museum, see perhaps some sort aircraft museum is the way to go.
We certainly have plenty of aviation history in the area and it is increasingly looking as though Thanet’s economy is moving towards a day out and short break tourism based economy, particularly in the realms of art. 
The airport today covers about 700 acres this is about £70,000 per acre compared with the average price of farmland in the southeast of about £50,000 per acre, with Manston losing about £2,000,000 the sums are not that difficult.