Sunday 31 March 2013

Happy Easter, photos of the official opening of the newly restored Ramsgate Shelters and a mild ramble.

 The newly restored shelters are a Ramsgate Society project, here is there website the restoration project was financed by donations and a Heritage Lottery Fund grant.
 My thanks to Ben for the pictures.
 From my point of view publishing contemporary photographs that I didn’t take myself is interesting, latterly I just haven’t taken as many as I used to, I think to me that seemed a bit samey.
 However being at work and not being able to get to this event it certainly hammers home to me the importance of publishing pictures of our local events for those who can’t get to them.
 All I can say on this subject is I will try and do better in the future.
 At the moment I am in a sort of sea of chocolate eggs and children, however I will endeavour to add a bit more later.

As promised some photos of nothing much, just today’s walk in the park, this link should take you to the ones taken with my phone and this link the ones taken with my camera

Saturday 30 March 2013

The Hovelling Boat Inn reopens in Ramsgate

 After being closed for 104 years The Hovelling Boat Inn, 12 York St, Ramsgate has reopened as an Ale and Cider House with no music, TVs or games machines.
 Ale and Cider straight from the barrel in a relaxed and friendly setting wine and soft drinks are also available but no spirits.

picture of The Hovelling Boat from Ramsgate Remembered website

Friday 29 March 2013

The Royal Sands Development on the Pleasurama Site in Ramsgate and the Freedom of Information Act, an update of sorts.

After a series of communications between me the council’s chief executive and the council’s senior legal officer, I have achieved a situation where a bit more of the documentation is in the public domain. This is what they sent me:

This one is called by the council “Pleasurama Unredacted Information”   

And this one “Pleasurama Redacted Information”   

My request to the council was for them to send me a list of all the documents the council hold on The Royal Sands Development on the Pleasurama Site in Ramsgate, that they wouldn’t send me and for them to send me everything they hold that they were now prepared to release under foi legislation.

What I actually got was the pdf files, links above and the following email.

“Ref No: 48746 / 2328573

Dear Mr. Child

Thank you for your information request received on 25 February 2013 where you requested information held by the Council concerning the former Pleasurama site in Ramsgate.

I confirm that the Council holds information relevant to your request. However it declines to provide all of that information to you for the following reasons:

1.      Section 21 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 authorises the Council to withhold information that is available to the requestor by other means. For example, the Planning application files relating to the Pleasurama site are public documents that may be inspected at the Gateway in Margate during normal Council office opening hours. However, I have nevertheless included a partial transcript of the Council meeting of 5 December 2002 together with some other information relating to a presentation given by the developer to the Council, all of which I recovered from the Planning file. In addition, all the open reports since 2003 concerning the Pleasurama site are available on the Council's web site via the Modern Gov Committee System.

2.       Section 41 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 - Some information has         either been redacted from the information now disclosed or withheld in its       entirety as the Council remains under an enforceable duty of confidence in       respect of it. This is an absolute exemption, meaning that the Council is not    required to consider the public interest in deciding whether or not to withhold  the information.

3        Section 42 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 - A sub-paragraph in an  exempt report that I have concluded can now enter the public domain has been redacted due to legal  professional privilege. However, Section 42 is a qualified exemption subject to a public interest test. In this regard, it is my decision that the public interest lies in witholding this information. This is because the courts have recognised that there is a substantial public interest in the maintenance of legal professional privilege which I consider outweights any competing public interest in disclosure.

4.      Finally, I have not enclosed copies of the Development Agreement as these        have already been disclosed to you.

Subject to these exceptions, the information that the Council is able to disclose is attached to this e-mail in electronic form.

If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the right to ask for an internal review. Internal review requests should be submitted within two months of the date of receipt of the response to your original letter and should be addressed to: Information Request Assessor, Thanet District Council, P O Box 9 Cecil Street, Margate Kent CT9 1XZ, or send an email to

Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF

Yours sincerely,

Corporate & Regulatory Services Manager”

This leaves me with. Yes. A bit more information, but also leaves me with the problem I had before, which is that I have quite a lot of documentary information about this development that I haven’t published because I assume it is information that the council hold on their restricted list and that publishing it would contravene their rules.

An example of this is the pdf file the council call “Pleasurama Redacted Information” now anyone looking at this for the first time would assume that the bits the council won’t let you read, are the bits they have blacked out and these are the only bits missing, however I have the original document and it may surprise readers to hear that apart from the blacked out bits about half the pages are also missing.

This raises some interesting questions like. Did the council leave these pages out deliberately? Do the council hold a lot of information that not only do they not wish to release, but they don’t even want to tell members of the public they hold?     

This type of communication with the council is bizarre enough anyway, because they get 20 working days to fulfil foi requests, which in practice means a month. If you ask them what is going on before the month is up, if they reply at all it is to tell you that they still have more time. If you ask them after the month is up, at best you get a reply saying they are sorry the documents are late….. I have the whole sorry correspondence and will forbear publishing it.    

I guess most people will realise that communicating with someone where it takes a month to get any sort of useful reply is a bit of a dispiriting business.

I will endeavour to add a bit to this post, when I have had a chance to have a proper look at the documents they have sent me.       

Starting with the first document (unredacted) the presentation on the Pleasurama development begins on page 8 and key to this is it being a Whitbread development, so looking at documents the council may or may not hold that I do, I have redacted this one myself.   

Another key aspect of this presentation is that it is funded by a Swiss bank SFP, see page 10, it says that SFP Ventures Partners limited is part of SFP Swiss Bank.

SFP was a Swiss private investment firm which when it gained a banking licence in 2003 became SBP Swiss private Bank.

I have redacted another document I hold which says something rather different.

The relevant bit being:

“-          Where officers deem it necessary to exclude the press and public due to the content of a report, the report that recommends the exclusion of the press and public will, in future, state what the public interest test is, to explain the rational for the exclusion, and what is meant by commercially sensitive, where applicable.
-          The exclusion report will also state that in the case where the public interest test is finely balanced, that the presumption will be in favour of publishing.
-                    The annual review of contract standing orders and the tight controls over tender opening, which already exist.”

So would think it likely I may get a bit more of an explanation about both what they have withheld and why.
I have now got down to page 87 where the council’s protection is discussed, the key elements there being the £5.6m bond, the retention of the freehold and that the council can repossess the site if the developer doesn’t conform to the timescale

Wednesday 27 March 2013

Midweek ramble, Thanet’s beaches do well in the good beach guide and Arlington Tesco is in the Royal Courts of Justice today and the Manston Choppers.

The link to the good beach guide is I guess the map says it all, the site is understandably running very slowly making it a bit difficult to extract the information, however it seemed that all Thanet’s beaches scored top marks apart from; Ramsgate Western Undercliffe, Viking Bay in Broadstairs, Joss Bay in Broadstairs and Walpole Bay in Margate, which scored a mandatory i.e. the met the minimum acceptable bathing quality standards.

Louise Oldfield is at the royal courts of justice and I guess will be tweeting about the Arlington Tesco case, here is the link

Next is the news that Bristow Helicopters are going to be basing recue helicopters at Manston in about 2015, I got a bit confuse over this being presented by the news as some sort of incursion by an American company, I didn’t think you could get much more British than a Bristow.   

There is a bit of a rumour here that this story was put to the Labour group with the suggestion that they should release it a local good news press release, this didn’t seem to happen.        

Not sure what happened here as Clive Hart tweeted the story and put it on facebook, certainly having air/sea rescue will be handy for anyone local making a navigational error, I have had a few close shaves on that front although fortunately to date they haven’t involved a helicopter, just a red face.         

I gather we are now in the pre election purdah period for the Kent county elections, I believe this mostly effects election candidates, however I think all local politicians are supposed to careful not to say anything that would effect the election results.

Strangely enough the problem here in Thanet is much more one of trying to discover who is standing for elections, what they stand for and what apart from collecting their allowances they actually intend to do for Thanet.

Certainly KCC is perceived as being centred on the west of the county, the only big project in Thanet that doesn’t seem to be something they have to do anyway being the Turner Contemporary, as I said I will revisit contacting our existing KCC councillors over problems there.      

Oh yes and the council has had to pay the live animal export companies £80,000 towards their legal fees, I guess this could have been worse as they were asking for £125,000.

Oh yes onwards and upwards, my bookshop has quietened down now so I will carry on here.

Cllr David Green, mayor of Ramsgate and TDC cabinet member has removed his new Ramsgate Matters blog which was at

Once Dave Green’s Eastcliff Matters blog was one of the leading Thanet blogs, then we had a period of time when he hardly ever posted and then about three months ago he replaced it with the new blog and started on the difficult path of endeavouring to communicate, well now he seems to have deleted his blog.

This does raise the obvious question, did he jump or was he pushed?  

I will probably ramble on here

Monday 25 March 2013

Monday Ramble

The picture is from a year ago this week, I have to admit to being sick of this late winter weather.

It has been a day if mixed messages first this press release the part that interested me the most was.

“Where officers deem it necessary to exclude the press and public due to the content of a report, the report that recommends the exclusion of the press and public will, in future, state what the public interest test is, to explain the rational for the exclusion, and what is meant by commercially sensitive, where applicable.”

I had a long chat about this with one of the council’s senior officers recently, the point I made was that all council documents should by default be in the public domain and that in most cases if a company wishing to deal with the council wanted documents kept out of the public domain they should have to pay a fee for this service. What I suggested was £500 to keep a document out of the public domain for five years after which it would be released.

Obviously there are problems associated with this sort of approach, but I think it helped to get my point across.

I think there is a feeling among some of the council officers that the writing is on the wall for TDC the possibility of a unitary authority is being openly discussed.

I guess the main weakness the council has is that it is supposed to be run for local people, it isn’t supposed to be a party political jousting field, nor is supposed to be a fiefdom run for the benefit and convenience of senior officers and senior members of the ruling group that happens to be in power.

I will ramble on here if I get a chance.   

Sunday 24 March 2013

Ellington Park Ramsgate pictures.

Many thanks to bob for sharing these photos of Ellington Park.