Tuesday, 16 April 2013

TDC withdraws freehold offer to the developer of The Royal Sands Development on the Pleasurama site in Ramsgate

This photo, after the San Clue fire in 1928 but before the massive cliff collapse of 1937 that caused the arch faced concrete cliff wall to be built behind the funfair part of what is now known as Pleasurama.

Initial information goes something like this; the council while still wanting to proceed with the development have withdrawn the offer to sell the developer the site freehold prior to the completion of the development.

I think this photo between 1937 when the arched faced cliff façade and 1940 as the sands were pretty much closed for WW2 and the part of the Granville that was destroyed by a bomb in WW2 is still there.

This is from, Friends of Ramsgate Seafront.

Kandy, Terry, and Janet asked for a meeting with Sue McGonigal, Clive Hart, Mark Seed, Alan Poole and Harvey Patterson. to discuss the Pleasurama site.

We are happy to report they agreed!

We went to see them yesterdays, the headlines are that although they confirm they're key objective remains in getting this proposal built and they still believe there is no alternative.

The good news is that there seems to be movement on the issue of selling the freehold, where TDC now accept that there would not be enough protection against land-banking.
this is REALLY good news, they estimate the costs of requiring the leaseholders as around £5 million in buying back the leasehold and accumulated legal costs.

This photo was after 1947 because of the advertising board for the Granville Theatre that was built then.  

I sent that information to the cabinet member in charge Alan Poole; asking him what it meant and here is his reply.  

Hi Michael,

Yes, we had a meeting yeasterday. The trio asked various questions regarding the Royal Sands development.........I'm not sure they agreed with all the answers provided but we did our best!

We are now looking at retaining the 'freehold' until the development is completed.

We explained that SFP are not currently in breach of the development agreement and to regain possession of the site via the courts would be a very expensive operation.

We still believe that completing the development is the best way forward.



My guess at dating this photo is that it was just post war, I think the donkey called PG 49 is a reference to the WW escape at PG 49 Fontanellato an I reckon the hairstyles look about right for around 1950.

I phoned the council for clarification this morning, but all of the officers concerned are in a meeting and I am told that one of them will phone me this afternoon, I also phoned Terrance Painter, he unfortunately was out but I have a promise that he will phone me back when he gets in, I also phoned Cardy Construction and was tols someone will phone me back tomorrow.

My hope was to get a bit more clarification before publishing this information and if or when I get any I will add it below.  

I have now discussed the issue with one of the senior council officers and have confirmation that the above is substantively correct.

The council now intends to stick with the terms of the variation to the development agreement made in 2009.

This document can be found at http://michaelsbookshop.com/pda/id17.htm when you get to this page you will find links at the top of it to the associated documents, original agreement and associated leases.  

This means that the council are no longer considering offering to sell the freehold to the developer prior to completion of the development, which is what the developer asked for about a year ago.

The council has no plans to start litigation to regain the leasehold interest at this stage.      

Update Terrance Painter was kind enough to phone me up this morning and give me an update from the developer’s point of view.

The essential gist of it being, that it is very difficult to raise development finance outside of the M25 loop at the moment, but they are doing their best and hope to have put something viable together soon, so that work on the development can restart.

I did put to him that the general level of dereliction in the area, The Pleasurama site, The Pavillion and now The Godden Amusement Arcade, had a detrimental effect on the area and I asked him about getting some temporary use there while negotiations were ongoing.

He said he would look into the issue, but wasn’t very hopeful, both because of health and safety issues and because of piles of earth on the site being needed in a later stage of the construction.

I also put to him that SFP needed to publish a website, both to explain aspects of the development to local people and to keep people up to date on any progress.

He said he would see what discuss this with the directors of SFP.

The recent site history goes something like this, back in January 2004 I first heard about this development, looked at the plans, realised that the proposed development was higher than the distance between the top of the sea wall and the top of the cliff.

I tried to object to the planning application on the grounds that the development didn’t fit in the space available, but the council said it was too late to object and passed the plans on the 28th January 2004.

Over the initial period after the plans were passed I realised that there were serious problems related to the developer’s lack of experience, most notably he hadn’t taken into account the fundamental constrains of the site; the unsupported chalk cliff on one side and the sea on the other.

As no cliff condition assessment or flood risk assessment had been done or was planned as part of the preliminary work for building on this site I endeavoured to get these to occur. I also questioned the psv access to the development via the Marina Road viaduct.

None of these issues have really been satisfactorily resolved, at the moment the cliff needs substantial works, the EA have recommended a fra which hasn’t occurred http://michaelsbookshop.com/ea/id2.htm

The council entered into a development agreement with the developer in 2006 but no work started on site, in 2009 the developer came to the council asking for a time extension and relaxed financial guarantees, which the council granted them.

After this some work did occur on the site, this involving three men and digger on site pouring ready mixed concrete foundations for about nine months and not the pile boring that was anticipated.

About a year ago the developer came back to the council asking the council to release the freehold to them so that the developer could use it to guarantee the construction loan, the council agreed to this in principle, on the understanding that the loan had to be available.

Now it looks as though the developer hasn’t managed to find anyone who will provide a construction loan and the council have called time.      


  1. I think I can follow the gist of what happened but, honestly, some phrases within that post are hard to follow.

    "they estimate the costs of requiring the leaseholders as around £5 million in buying back the leasehold and accumulated legal costs"

    acquiriing the leasehold?
    reacquiring the leasehold?
    requiring the leaseholders to do something?

    1. Surely when initially granting the lease TDC must have included some performance requirements or is that expecting too much of our leaders. Why would you grant a lease on a major site in a town dependent on its tourist industry to someone who is simply going to turn it into a building site and then abandon it for years. This all seems a bit of a nothing answer to me and takes us no further forward.

    2. Whilst we let overpaid civil servants and wealthy speculators tie us all up in knots, I am struck by Michael's photographs which depict ordinary street traders making a living from our natural resource.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. Tom,

      I have always thought that the Pleasurama debacle was caused by incompetence rather than corruption.

      As a client I lost my virginity to a building contractor who shall remain anonymous, it was Costain. This was during the refurbishment of the FCO on the Downing St façade. We had scaffolding facing Number 10. Maggie was receiving a couple of foreign visitors and wanted two flags displayed on the scaffolding. During the works the site legally belonged to Costain and so I asked the chap in charge if he could knock me up a couple of flag poles and fix them to his scaffolding, as a favour. "Of course, John. Don't worry about it. That's what I'm here for." Good to his word, he had a couple of poles cut to size, painted white, tied to the scaffold and hung out over Downing St. I thanked him and he told me not to worry, and that it was a pleasure to help. A few weeks later I learned just how much of a pleasure when I got a bill for £1,800. Some favour.


    5. I agree with 11:10 am, Michael, Can you please clarify what you are saying about the leasehold.

    6. Solo Gays 11:31 am,

      Where are all these overpaid Civil Servants of which you speak? I was a Civil Servant for over 30 years and I cannot recall any of us being overpaid. Though I do recall highly paid visiting UK businessmen siting in my flat knocking back my booze while telling me how their taxes paid my wages. But there you are, I was obviously in the wrong branch.

    7. I suppose John I was refering to the well publicised renumeration packages of senior management team at TDC. I guess Simon Moores hit the nail on the head in one of his posts:

      "be careful what you ask for because this is a democracy"

      So if people see development on public land (or even farmland) as a way of securing jobs and prosperity, then I guess more of these jobs will have to be maintained? I much prefer to see short to medium term leases issued because it gives smaller businesses the chance to grow.

    8. I will do my best to respond here:

      11.10 I have added some clarification to the post since you commented and I hope I have made the situation clearer.

      Tom it appears not, when I made my foi for documents related to the development I particularly asked for those related to the initial granting of the leases, TDC say they haven’t any record of due diligence being done at that time.

      One does have to remember that this happened in the middle of an administration with a leader who turned out to be a crook who was happy to engage in a property deal that has now put him behind bars.

      I felt during this time that the council’s imperative to go ahead with this property deal without listening to concerns about aspects of it was bordering on the unreasonable.

      John I am unhappy that the developer posed as the development arm of a Swiss Bank financing a development headed by Whitbread’s in the documentation to gain the initial tender and that when it was proved that this wasn’t the case, the bank wrote saying that SFP wasn’t part of the bank and Whitbread said they had pulled out, the council didn’t review the whole project.

      John all of the senior officers named in the post have remuneration in the region of £2,000 per week, perhaps you could define overpaid.

    9. Michael,

      I cannot recall any senior officers in the FCO who were paid the then equivalent of £2,000 a week and this included senior ambassadors. Tom will know, but I do not believe that even senior military officers earn that much. However, I suppose that local government requires higher educated and more skilful officers - yeah, right.

    10. Surely, Michael, even when the original planning consent was given it would not have been unreasonable to put some time lines on that rather than an open ended, seemingly, whenever you feel so inclined approach. I know you love to keep bringing in the leader in 2009 being a crook, but this saga well pre-dates that, and even your so called crook was relative small fry measured against what appears to be a multi-million pound cock up.

    11. Tom we found out about the changes to the planning drawings seven days before the planning decision, the planning and design statement said the same as the Whitbread development i.e. that the top of the building was well below the cliff.

      The planning officers told me and various others including my ward councillor David Green that it was too late to object. I later learned that this timing cut-off is purely discretionary, but in the instance of this building there was some unusual imperative to push it through.

      Later when the gull winged roof was removed in an effort to reduce the height, I was told later by a tdc planning officer that this constituted “material change” and should have triggered a new planning application.

      Just on the planning law front these are two occasions where it appears the council may have used a superior knowledge of the planning laws to favour the development.

      I guess with Pleasurama it’s not so much one thing, but a combination of things that make me suspicious that there may have, or even still may be an element an element within the council that stands to benefit from whatever is going on there.

      I am yet to be persuaded that the work on the site is a genuine start on the development and not just a delaying tactic.

      In this instance I won’t put on my engineering had, but will don the possibly dirty habit of the retired Anglican Religious and quote The King James Bible; Mat. 7.26.

      “And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand”

  2. In 2009 there were 3 leases sold to SFP Ventures (UK) this was after planning permission was granted 28/1/2004 to SFP Venture Partners ltd to build. In 2009 a performance bond of £5.6M asked for in 2006 was reduced to a £1M deposit and this was duly paid to TDC via SFP Ventures (UK) ltd. The £5m figure is what TDC think they may have to pay to SFP Ventures (UK) ltd should they wish to take back (compulsory Prchase Order CPO) the leases sold to SFP for a figure of £550,000, there is also the deposit £1M, the £100,000 towards the cliff repairs and an amout paid by someone towards the road improvements and the storm drain. Whether this equates to £5M is open to conjecture!!

  3. Following my post above. This naïve episode was down to me and not to my boss who was in overall charge of the refurbishment, which totalled 60 million pounds.

    David was superb. The Treasury conducted a thorough review of his work in supervising the refurbishment. They heaped David with praise and stated that his work was an example of how all government building projects should be handled.

    The lesson is that David had no previous building experience. He was like most of us a generalist FCO Officer. But he used his brain and common sense. He picked a good team and taught himself about the building industry. Most of all he cared, really cared. He was astute and a born leader. No one pulled the wool over David's eyes.

    Now if TDC can find their David.........

    1. Barry the £1m deposit isn’t available for the council to use, it forms an insurance guarantee to help the council sort out the project if the developer fails to comply with the development agreement variation.

      The bottom line being that if the developer doesn’t complete the development by 2017 then the leases become forfeit and the money becomes the council’s.

      There may be some sort of litigation at this time and if there is I don’t think SFP would stand much chance of anything but a large bill for costs.

  4. I think Michael, without any insider knowledge, I should sound a note of caution for your analysis and assumptions above. In the first instance, if the council responded to the developers request for earlier (please remember that even the 2009 agreement gives over the freehold in the end), and then set out a timescale and conditions, then presumably the developer has now gone out to find finance based upon this offer. If the council has now unilaterally withdrawn the offer, before the time allowed is up, there may well be estoppel consequences for that action.

    This looks remarkably like the recent live animal exports episode, where it seems this administration went out on a limb to ensure popular suport for an unwise position. The timing of this 'announcement' by Cllr Poole, prior to facing difficult questions from the public in two days time may be far more important than it having any substance. Remember please that the labour cabinet played the 'I would like to do this but they wont let me' card over animal exports, Dreamland/Arlington, and Manston airport, so they have previous for this sort of behaviour.

    Even assuming what is inferred here is under discussion, to let it slip out in this way is calculated to create joyful responses on the ground from opponents to the scheme, but not bind one to any particular course of action - note Poole's use of the word 'looking' to retain the freehold til later in the deal, providing an escape route, probably to be deployed after the meeting on Thursday evening.

    Happy to apologise to any and all after being proved wrong, but my instincts tell me to look carefully at the words of a cabinet member under extreme pressure not to upset the popularity in Ramsgate for labour prior to the county election. Tread warily mes enfants, and carry a big magnifying glass!

  5. maybe the attendance at TDC headquarters on thursday 18th April 2013 at 7pm by enquiring members of the public will be enhanced.

    1. I guess Chris that is one of main reasons why I phoned up TDC and spoke to a senior officer and got some confirmation of the situation.

      It is axiomatic that in these instances the officers are the professionals while members are amateurs, I made it very clear when I spoke to TDC both my first contact officer the senior officer, that I was seeking advice in order to ensure that I didn’t write anything prejudicial to TDC in terms of any impending litigation. I was assured that there was no planned litigation, perhaps they didn’t realise that there could be unplanned litigation.

      In a general sense I guess that the years of trying to conceal information relating to this development has meant that any egress of information is likely to be beneficial.

      But anyway if you think any of the information or conclusions in this post are inaccurate please let me know and I will make any appropriate corrections.

    2. Michael if you put your business up for sale or even a property and then changed your mind before contracts are exchaned there is nothing the buyer can do but curse. Even if the buyer had spent hundreds on surveys, legal fees or loads of time getting a mortgage then that is the chance they take. Ask any estate agents it happens all the time.

  6. Great news. This sends a clear signal to SFP. However a note of caution we are only going back to the 2009 situation. The Council are not seeking recovery of the lease and there are no signs that SFP are any nearer completing the work. I fear we will continue to have an eyesore until 2017

  7. Estoppel Chris. Now that would be interesting.

  8. We had a long pub lunch. Ending at anout 18.30 hours. Medical advice had told me to avoid beer so I complied and tried cider. It occurs to me to make a quip that Holyer flagged up difficulties for himself. Then I thought about looking up "Considerations" vis a vis Chris Wells contribution. Then my eye alighted on my decanter of whisky. Good night.

  9. Quite, Palmer, but that gag was flogged to death at the time.

  10. Just remember this. It is clowns like these who expect us to vote on May 2nd. If there was an award for incompetent and corrupt local authorities it seems Thanet would be a front runner.

  11. Thanet would have a life membership by now

  12. How boring a bunch of old photos that we have all seen a million times before, post something interesting for gods sake!


Please note comments that may be libellous, comments that may be construed as offensive, anonymous derogatory comments about real people, comments baiting internet trolls, comments saying that an anonymous comment was made by a named real person, boring comments and spam comments, comments in CAPs will be deleted. Playground stuff like calling real people by their time stamp or surname alone, referring to groups as gangs, old duffers and so on will result in deletion. Comment that may be construed as offensive to minority groups is not allowed here either, so think before you write it, remember that the internet is a public place, that it is very difficult to be truly anonymous and that everyone who uses it leaves a trail of some sort. Also note the facility to leave anonymous comment will be turned of during periods when I am unable to monitor comment, this will not affect people commenting who are signed on to their blogger accounts. When things are particularly difficult on the commercial spam front I may turn comment moderation on for periods.

If you feel that someone has left a comment that is offensive and directed at you personally please email me (link on the sidebar) asking to have it removed, you will need to tell which post and the date and timestamp of the offending comment. Please do not reply to the offending comment as I will assume you continuing the dialogue as meaning that you want the comments left there.