Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Update from Cllr Ian Driver on the correspondence relating to the Royal Sands Development on the Pleasurama site in Ramsgate.

Ed. Apart from deleting email addresses so as not to encourage the spammers I have published this as is, so pretty much read from the bottom up. And illustrated the post with four different postcard variations of the same photo.    

Hi Michael

Please see below

I find it hard to believe that a meeting to discuss a very controversial £multi million project was not minuted. I am also amazed that officers ask me to apologise for reminding them of the code conduct when i must regularly chase them for replies

Please feel free to publish this


----- Forwarded Message -----
From: Ian Driver <
To: Mark Seed ; Sue McGonigal
Sent: Wednesday, 16 January 2013, 8:16
Subject: Re: Urgent Your Meeting with SFP Ventures UK Ltd


Thank you for your e-mail.

I am astounded that no minutes were taken.

This was an official  meeting with an organisation that has a long history of poor performance.  There is also a high level of public and member interest in the Pleasurama development and the role of SFP. Furthermore there  may also be future legal action about the Council's agreement with SFP. Not to take minutes  of the meeting was, in my opinion,  incompetent and wrong and does not serve the interests of the Council.

I can see no reason for apologising for my comments about the officer code of conduct. Unfortunately, on several occasions,  I have found it necessary to  remind the CE to reply to my e-mails. I am sure you will agree that not to reply promptly to member enquiries and for members to have to regularly chase officers  for replies is entirely unacceptable and potentially breaches the the office code of conduct.

Finally you did not address my request to have copies  of documents submitted to the meeting by SFP.

In particular, press reports suggested that SFP would be providing letters to the Council from hotel developers indicating their support for the Pleasurama project. Could you please confirm that copies of these letters were provided to the Council and discussed at the meeting. Could you please let me have copies of these letters as is my constituional right. If by any chance the Council does not have  copies of these letters I would like to have a briefing before the Cabinet meeting on 22nd January about  what was discussed regarding the hotel situation.

I would be grateful if you could contact  me as quickly as possible to deal with this issue as my schedule is tight and time for meetings is limited.

Ian Driver

From: Mark Seed
To: Victoria Williams ianddriver
Sent: Tuesday, 15 January 2013, 17:25
Subject: RE: Your Meeting with SFP Ventures UK Ltd

In Sue's absence Vicki forwarded on the various emails since Christmas to me as you requested, as well as resending Sue's email from 9th January. However, as indicated in Sue's email below there are no minutes or other documents from this meeting.

Essentially the developer was updating officers and relevant Cabinet members on the progress that had been made in meeting the requirements of the exempt Cabinet report from July last year. This was primarily in relation to achieving the requirements you have set out in your notice of motion to Council in December that is being considered by Cabinet next week. As Sue indicates, no firm proposals were articulated by the developer at this meeting that would currently meet these requirements.

I really cannot provide anything further on this meeting than has been set out in Sue's email from 9th January, and clearly there is nothing to be collected prior to the Cabinet meeting tomorrow.

Bearing in mind that Sue had actually already provided a response on 9th January several days prior to your email to her today, and the documents you requested did not actually exist, I assume you are going to withdraw your statement that Sue could be seen as breaching the officer code of conduct. Personally I think an apology to Sue on this would also not go amiss.


From: Victoria Williams
Sent: 15 January 2013 16:06
To: Mark Seed
Subject: FW: Your Meeting with SFP Ventures UK Ltd

From: Sue McGonigal
Sent: 15 January 2013 15:50
To: Ian Driver
Subject: FW: Your Meeting with SFP Ventures UK Ltd

Dear Councillor Driver,

I understand that you have been experiencing problems with your TDC e-mail account and may not have had sight of Sue's response to you of 9 January, I have attached a further copy below for your information.  I would be grateful if you could confirm receipt of this e-mail and if you would like me to ask Democratic Services to investigate any problems you have been experiencing with your TDC e-mail account please let me know.

Kind regards

Vicki Williams
Executive Support Manager
Chief Executive & Leader's Office

Thanet District Council
PO Box 9
Cecil Street

From: Sue McGonigal
Sent: 09 January 2013 17:44
To: cllr-Ian Driver
Cc: cllr-Alan Poole; Mark Seed; Harvey Patterson
Subject: RE: Your Meeting with SFP Ventures UK Ltd

Dear Cllr Driver,
Apologies for the delay in coming back to you, my diary after Christmas has been somewhat full of  meetings.

There were no minutes taken of the meeting with SFP Ventures as this was part of a commercial negotiations, where the developer provided an update on their efforts to secure funding, and wished to better understand the Council’s requirements in order to agree revisions to the development agreement. No firm proposal was made, and therefore at this stage there is nothing further to report on. I would anticipate that Cabinet will wish for the negotiations to resume early into the New Year, to keep the momentum going.



From: Ian Driver
Sent: 02 January 2013 10:29
To: Sue McGonigal; Harvey Patterson
Subject: Your Meeting with SFP Ventures UK Ltd

Dear Ms McGonigal

Further to our previous correspondence I understand that yourself, Cllr Poole and several Council officers met with SFP Ventures UK Ltd to discuss the Royal Sands Development just before the Xmas break.

I would be grateful if you could provide me with a copy of the minutes of this meeting.

Yours sincerely

Cllr Ian Driver
Chair OSP


  1. Astounding. Useless on lots of levels. Not least not simply realising how useless their actions appear to any poor innocent naively trusting tax-payer passing by. I think an email to Private Eye might be in order.

  2. Looks like cllr Driver's use of your wide read blog has forced the officers of the council to repond and its highlighted their very unprofessional approach to this matter. It may have been acceptable in the past but did the officers not realise that they were under scrutiney and need to cover their backs? If past chairmen of the OSP had been doing their job maybe we would not be in this situation that has seen a major tourist attraction looking like a bomb site for 10 years and with the possibility it could cost the council millions to get out of it. No minutes wont look good is a court case ensues.
    Yes cllr Driver may be seeking publicity and treading a thin line to hang on to his post but he has achieved more for the public interest and transparency in a few months than was done without him.

  3. Ian Driver is doing a fine job. He has a trenchant argument. In response to which TDC Officers are palpably dissembling. This could be under instructions.

    Mark Seed's drafting skill is below the standard that I would expect from a public servant. Does this hint at general incompetence, maybe not.

    It is curious why some are criticising Ian driver for seeking publicity. But Publicity is the whole point. Publicity will shed a flood of light on the protracted debacle that is the Pleasurama Site.

    1. I think the criticism is not about the publicity of this particular problem but the self proclamation so often associated with Cllr Driver. In this instance he may just be serving public interest, but all too frequently he has an entirely self motivated political agenda.

    2. Tom,

      I agree. Ian Driver is not one to hide from the spotlight. But on this occasion it is not just about him; it is also about us. I do not share his politics. But I cheer him on in his endeavour to shed light on the Pleasurama debacle.

  4. self interest or not this has shown that someone or more have things to hide time for police inveastigation int this shambloic farce

    1. And what crime are the police supposed to investigate, 12:06? Unless there is due cause for them to suspect criminality they simply cannot, nor do they have the time, to go around investigating the activities of local councils. Perhaps you can formally make a complaint to them, backed with evidence, to kick thimngs off or is this, as I suspect, your usual call for someone else to do your work for you.

    2. I don't know if the police are the right people to start with but someone needs to try and get to the bottom of this. As I have said before, I suspect that the developers are trying to get their hands on a prime piece of real estate at a knock down price, so that they can hang on to it until land prices recover before selling it off (probably to TDC) at a huge profit.
      I don't share Ian's politics but by God I wish there were other councillors with the cojones to take on what is looking increasingly like a vested interest.

    3. Well said Tim: Driver being given the runaround by McGonigal and now Seed is a disgrace. A few salary and pesnion cuts are in order even with a Police investigation. The councillors seem to be led by the nose by these overpaid and incompetent clerks.

      Minutes of a council meeting is the basics - Driver should get Seed (£80k salaryand car and pension?) in for a bulllocking and start the dismissal process.

  5. I do wish the comments could stay on subject which is the Council's handling of this matter. At the moment Driver is a one man opposition to the current antics of Hart, Poole McGonigal and Seed. How dare they represent us at a secret meeting and produce no minutes, and why don't they want a record of the meeting. Also, why are the Conservatives not banging a very load opposition drum on this one. Too cosy with McGonigal and Seed probably

  6. Anonymous 12:25,

    I can make a guess at why TDC does not wish to publish a record of the meeting.

  7. So can we all John. Someone needs to expose not only the subject matter but the way TDC do business. Currently Driver is the only one out of all of them who is prepared to put his money where his mouth is. I wish he would join the conservatives and take the leadership unless there are skeletons in their cupboard too. We might get somewhere then.

  8. Maybe the use of the term 'minutes' gives those present some leeway as this suggests something formal. Although minutes might reasonably be expected to be available for scrutiny by councillors and more importantly the taxpayers perhaps those present for TDC could be asked whether they made notes (either formal or informal). These could then be made available if taken. Surely it would be astonishing to find that nobody from TDC made any notes especially if there is even the slightest possibility of some sort of future legal action.

    I don't agree with Councillor Driver's politics but he seems to be doing a great job on this one so please keep on going - you might actually get something worthwhile happening on the site through your persistance.

    Not providing or providing sparse details of what is going on with Pleasurama is only going to fuel the conspiracy theories (although some of the theories may prove to be correct!).

  9. I hope this isn't one of the purportedly interested hotel companies

    The lack of information is lamentable. Luckily I have a plan.

    We will park up some caravans and erect our Dale Farm banner. Then wait to see who goes to Court to evict us. Our counsel can seek disclosure through the courts of all documents pertaining to ownership, overlordship or occupancy rights of the applicant.

    Or will we see a new company "Site Security Kent", registered in Billericay, gaining a TDC contract to guard the site ?

  10. If our elected councillors were doing their jobs they would be joining with Mr. Driver to root out those responsible for this appalling incompetence and ensuring that the taxpayer's money is being properly spent. Tory and Labour councillors should hang their heads in shame. This is happening now and its happening on their watch.

    1. Why don't you run for office and show them how it is done, 10:01?

  11. Why is Ian Driver not the Leader of the Independent Councillors?

    1. For the same reason Dopey was not leader of the Seven Dwarfs perhaps.

  12. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Lots of naming and shaming Gypsy Jack (alias Rick) without a shred of real evidence. Be careful you do not get Michael sued by one of the several people you have named.

    2. Difficult to tell Tom, from my position – doing the shopping on my day off – and trying to work out what all that was about, reading glasses phone screen and poor signal.

      I guess there are quite a few people who would like to see this blog close and I can see no other motive for comment like that.

      Anyway many thanks for pointing it out, with all of the spam comment at the moment it is only really feasible for me to read the notification emails from commentators like yourself, who are signed on to blogge,r so their blogger name appears in the email subject; all the rest appearing as anonymous.

    3. Michael, over several years on the Thanet blogging scene a persistent contributor has regularly, under various guises, psuedonyms or even anonymously, accused a certain councillor of perjury and underhand dealing. It seems very much like a personal grudge and he even posted the perjury accusation on BigNews Margate the day after said councillor had lost his wife. How's that for nasty.

      I think you and I both know the source (think Deal bombing if you don't), but you have to wonder what generates such ongoing spite. Yes, we all get a bit cross at times and maybe briefly hacked off with another's argument, but persistent hate must surely ultimately eat away at the accuser.

  13. As an aside to the general issue, I'd like to comment that I'm a council tax payer in Ramsgate but my main residence is in Windsor.

    The Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead have realised that they can run extremely efficiently without having a chief executive. The heads of their four main operational divisions form a board of directors and one of them is designated MD. It saves us about £200K p.a. Perhaps Thanet could learn from this, but I doubt it.

    1. Anonymous 8:55PM,

      This sounds sensible to me. But I doubt if TDC would like the idea.

    2. But Thanet also have a combined chief exec and finance officer also saving money but I wonder sometimes if this is a false economy and will only work with the right calbre of staff. Over at Gravesham and Tonbridge & Malling councils they tried sharing a chief exec but within a year they have scrapped this idea.

  14. Just in case you haven't seen this Michael:

  15. At last, at last. This good news. I have always believed that civil protest is the best way to deal with our council over this shabby affair. In the immortal words of L/Cpl Jones, "They don't like it up 'em".

    Here is the article from 'This Is Kent'

    CAMPAIGNERS against the sale of the former Pleasurama site in Ramsgate will hold a candlelight vigil outside a council meeting on Tuesday.

    The Friends of Ramsgate Seafront plan to make the protest at Thanet council's Cecil Street headquarters in Margate to "mourn the derelict state of the Ramsgate seafront".

    The sale of the freehold to developers SFP Ventures is on the agenda for the meeting which starts at 6.15pm.

    SFP hope to transform the site into a hotel, flats, shops and restaurants but has yet to make significant building progress in the decade since signing an agreement with Thanet council which owns the site. A spokesman for The Friends of Ramsgate Seafront said "Thanet council needs to wake up to how fed up and angry residents are. We can hardly believe the council would sell this land to SFP developers when they have left the site derelict for over 10 years. We do not want the freehold sold. We want the leasehold back and a much better proposal for the site and we are going to keep protesting until that is what we get."


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