Monday, 15 September 2014

Pleasurama cliff façade report.

I have been in communication with Cardy Construction and Thanet district Council about the condition of the cliff façade. My take being that whatever happens over the Pleasurama issue the doubts of the cliff there have to be resolved.

It is my intention to report both the cliff façade and the sea defence as safety issues and below is a first draft, of the cliff façade part of this report, any help improving this would be appreciated.

In the first instance plans for The Royal Sands development were submitted and approved without investigating the civil engineering problems peculiar to the site.

About half of the planning sheets relating to the development are on Application No:            F/TH/03/1200, it should be noted here that pages on this site do not retain the same web address so it isn’t possible to bookmark them or send links to them by email.

The plans were changed on several occasions due to concerns about the height of the development, the issue being that the height of the development, for which plans had been approved, was greater than the distance between the baseline of the building (the existing promenade) and the height of the cliff (public footpath gardens and bandstand in the cliff top).

This is mostly relevant here because the reduction in height was partly achieved by lowering the ground floor ceiling of the proposed development, this meant the two-way access road through the development (residents cars and HGVs delivering to the hotel and retail units and removing refuse) was moved into the 4 metre gap between the back of the development and the cliff façade. There are potential problems here with lorries trying to manoeuvre past other vehicles catching the cliff façade support columns and the columns supporting the building.

After the planning consent was approved the intention was to build the development using the driven pile method of construction, as the concrete cliff façade appeared to be in poor condition (visible cracks with vegetation growing out of them) I raised concerns with the council about its condition.  

In 2005 the cliff façade was inspected, see this inspection was a visual inspection of the exposed parts of the façade and didn’t include any investigation of the façade foundations or the brick part of the façade at the north-eastern end of the site which was constructed in 1860.

Please note 6.34 Conclusion “Marina Esplanade façade is in a condition that would be defined as of short serviceable life.”

Work on the façade maintenance regime occurred during 2009 this mostly consisted of filling the cracks, coating the façade and resurfacing the cliff top footpath above the façade to mitigate surface water ingress behind the façade. There was also extra work using soil nails to increase the structural integrity of the area where the upper barrier had moved horizontally, see Appendix D.

Scaffolding was erected for the work and this involved some levelling of the ground adjacent to the cliff façade it was at this point that I first noticed that aspects of the cliff façade foundations seemed inconsistent with the rather limited foundation designs published in the reports.
I can send you copies of the emails about this between me and Jacobs if you require confirmation of this. 

After the façade maintenance work was finished at the end of 2009 I was concerned that part of the façade appeared to be bulging and that there should be some sort of inspection of the façade foundations so I contacted the council.

At the end of 2009 beginning of 2010 the council arranged for the bulging part of the façade to be hacked out and rebuilt, but didn’t appear to address the issues relating to the façade foundations.

Around this time the developer SFP appointed the third main contractor as the main construction firm for the new development, Cardy Construction.

I discussed the issues relating to the cliff faced with their MD ***** ***** on several occasions both by email and by telephone. I think a fair summery of the various communications is that he wasn’t happy about the façade foundations, the overall condition of the façade or the quality of the work on the repair to the bulging part.

Early in 2010 Cardy Construction made a limited investigation of the south-western, portal part of the façade, see most of this façade consists of a line of square cross section concrete pillars, forming oblong portals, cast against the inclined chalk cliff face. Above these is a solid concrete cliff wall, or apron, cast onto the chalk cliff face which has had dovetail horizontal grooves cut into the chalk to it to give additional support to the apron.

My understanding is that the upper, apron part of the façade was built first and originally sat on top of the bare chalk cliff which stepped out at the level of the bottom of the apron, the portals being erected at different times as the chalk beneath the apron deteriorated.

The largest and most substantial looking of the pillars is in the form of a buttress which 2010 Cardy Construction’s investigation says has inadequate foundations and the short term remedial underpinning they recommended in 2010 has never occurred.

It also begs the question: if one pillar foundation in the portal part of the façade was investigated and found to be inadequate, why weren’t the other foundations there investigated?

During 2011 more cracks, another bulge and significant amounts of vegetation appeared on the façade and once again I contacted the council and asked them to inspect the façade.

This inspection occurred in 2011 or very early in 2012 as the draft report was dated 2/3/2012, see firstly I should point out that the remedial work recommended then hasn’t occurred.

The most concerning aspect of this inspection report concerning the façade foundations are 6.1 which says that the foundations and subsoil was exposed by the construction work which occurred in 2010.

I should point out here that the pillars of the portal section are not supported by the chalk cliff being stepped, as they are in the arched section. This means that the entire load of the concrete pillar plus any additional load from supporting the apron appears to be sitting chalk subsoil which has been exposed now for around four years and will have been subject to weathering.

Such design drawings as are available show concrete load spreading pads in the form of an inverted T however in many cases the profile of the façade pillar continues below the concrete in chalk. It wouldn’t seem possible that an inverted T could have been dug in the chalk and the concrete poured into it, so it would seem unlikely that there is any load spreading provision for these concrete pillars.  

Either the profile of the pillar has been dug down below the exposed level and what is visible is the chalk adhering to the concrete, or the concrete pillar is sitting an exposed chalk pillar. This is a problem that needs investigation.

The other part of the cliff façade needing serious investigation is the 1860 brick structure at the north-eastern end of the site. The rest of this structure, steps and tunnel portal collapsed with no warning in the 1960s, the cliff was surveyed and during the rebuild there was a further large chalk fall there which demolished much of the reconstruction work.

It isn’t possible to see the foundations of the two large brick pillars as they have not been exposed during construction work. The foundations of the brick buttress wall between them has been and still is exposed and isn’t sitting on solid chalk but on some sort of made ground which appears to contain a proportion of topsoil, chalk pieces and brick rubble.    

From the point of view of the development restarting to the approved planning application F/TH/03/1200 the significant issues are:

Is the cliff façade safe enough for work to commence on the development and if not what are the costs involved in making it so?

What is the expected life of the cliff façade?

Is it possible to adequately and economically maintain the cliff façade in the 3 metre gap between the cliff façade and the development?  

The big question though is will there be proper economic and civil engineering provisions made to ensure the cliff façade is and remains safe for people to live under it for the life of the development?

My own opinion is that trying to patch up a cliff façade “of short serviceable life” is unlikely to be the best solution both economically and in terms of public safety.


  1. Michael
    I don't know why this building has attracted so much negativity from some cleaver and well read people? I wonder if it's the time it's taken to build or weather it's just the look of the building. In my view it is stunning far better than the usual c**p box like structure you would expect to find. You would have thought that all you mention above would have come up in the planning stage. In my view the sea defences are set at a mean hight and all coastal buildings are prone to a bit of flooding as seas can do weird things. As I saw in a pic after the sea had swamped the old swimming pool on Ramsgate seafront.
    As for the foundations why do you think they let them put pad foundations if the sub soil was not up to the task?
    Now the wall, all vertical thrust is displayed at a 45% angle on what ever is below. If the foundations of the wall sits on chalk (bed rock) then you would expect to stand up very well and not have much movement at all. In my view, I cant see what the problem is if it ever needs fixing? Unless your thinking of demolishing it all in one go? other than that it would be taken down bit by bit. I can never see this happening as I believe it's only the block work in between the main arches that has some problems, I still don't think its that bad but I maybe wrong. The only thing to do, if your that concerned is to let TDC and Cardy know witch you have done.
    But lets be frank if we don't have that building or something else of that magnitude and end up with another public space (just think of how many public spaces we have going all along the seafront) then I fear Ramsgate will not for fill its true potential.
    If Ramsgate's people oppose this building then we will all regret it.

  2. andy your opinion is as valid as the next man's however please think. there will be, if built, roughly a 13 foot gap at the back of the building. As had happened before (Cardy refused in December 2009 to stop work as they deemed a section of wall to be dangerous) the chalk from the cliff crumbles and collects in the void putting a horizontal stress on the blockwork. Now when you have a cliff 65ft high potentially falling into a road bed only 13ft wide then it will cause damage to the rear of the building. All surveys have indicated that the cliff face has "a short serviceable life" and therefore is unlikely to last 100 years (the potential life of the apartments which could be much longer than 100 years).
    Do you understand now the point Michael is making?

    1. Barry I do understand but if that's what's happening then it wont take that much to take down the block work in between the arches remove the offending chalk and rebuild the block work in a thicker form, looking at the pic above it seems to be only stretcher bond nowhere near good enough for that sort of retaining purpose. Please don't get me wrong I'm not saying build it if its dangerous but I would expect the brick arches to be very strong and last for a good while yet and are very easy to tell if they are not

    2. I guess it was a long time ago that I put away the issue of whether or not the eventual development was going to be a good one on some sort of scale of good and bad developments.

      In terms of the look of the thing, my main worry is and always has been the huge corrugated roofs roughly level with the cliff top by the Wellington Crescent bandstand, my take being that if you have to have a roof there which will obscure the beach and harbour then it has to have some sort of special treatment.

      The thing about roofs is that you mostly look up at them, sometimes you look down or across at them, either from a window or because you are up a hill, but what you hardly ever have is a very roof about 13 feet away from you at foot level that extends away from you for about 100 feet.

      Frankly though the point with the civil engineering issues both the cliff and the sea defence is not one of me saying that the cliff is so dangerous that it will collapse on the building or me saying that if we have a big storm then the foundations will be washed away.

      What this is about is me saying that we may be near the beginning of a development project that is likely to cost in the region of £30m if it goes ahead, my guess is that about £1.5m has already been spent on the project and about £1m on the cliff. Now several people have raised questions about the cliff façade foundations, mostly me and Cardy. However no proper survey of these foundations has occurred and I say that it should happen before the rest of the money is spent. It’s the same with the sea defence the environment agency and me are saying there should be a flood risk assessment before any development occurs on the site.

    3. ask yourself how long will the facia last and under what conditions will it fail. Are prepared to spend an enormous sum of money on something that might never get sold and that insurers premiums are such they become uninsurable. I'm glad its not me spending

    4. That's just scaremongering this issue is being raised on FORS and on here, where non building minded public are being worried. There has been many professional reports and all have deemed it safe for the time being. If it needs maintenance in the future then it can be addressed. Now I'm beginning to think that some people don't want the proposed building and will say anything, just to scare the uninformed masses into getting their Cllr's into voting against this project and making it into a public park that will have drunks and vandals in, as it is we cant protect the park above that site, that is surrounded by private dwellings neither can we stop drunks from using the pavilion, making the place look even worst than it already is.
      When will people understand that TDC does not have the money to regenerate Ramsgate if Cardy don't build this then what? I would love to know where the money is going to come from to buy out the lease holder and then get something built, How long is that going to take?????? How long will Ramsgate/Thanet have to suffer from the public forcing TDC into stupid decisions like the airport's CPO or putting a park when the whole area is surrounded by public areas. In Ramsgate we have more parks than there are volunteers to look after them.

    5. where are these reports Andy? "There has been many professional reports and all have deemed it safe for the time being" point me to one please.
      Andy how much overage will be paid? how much will it cost to maintain the cliff. The last bill was £1M

    6. This situation is similar to the proposed Arlington Tesco in Margate in that it will help regenerate the area without costing US a penny, yet there's a handful of people who try to find any little excuse to stop it. Of course there's pros and cons in everything, but Tesco should be built - and so should the buildings on the former Pleasurama site.

    7. Barry its a case of how long is a piece of string. As it stands its the responsibility of TDC if they can pass it on to Cardy then all the better but if its a deal breaker then TDC should back down for the sake of Ramsgate

    8. Om I am not trying to be condescending here but it really would be much easier to discuss this with you if you had read the documents I have linked to in the post.

      Barry the last bill was actually £20k and was a result of me pointing out the crack and bulge immediately after the £1m repairs.

    9. and the one before £900K was just adding them together

    10. Andy please point to one report that says this cliff is safe for the lifetime of the proposed development

    11. It seems to me that it is a disaster waiting to happen.. It would seem that any maintenance work has been make do and mend. The whole façade needs to come down and replaced with new sturdy supports. This should happen before any building work commences. I'm sure we all remember Burling Gap. That was unsupported cliffs falling due to water ingress and natural/unnatural weathering. What is lurking behind the current façade at Ramsgate? I most certainly would not like to live in any building constructed there unless the façade is repaired to a high standard.

      If the façade is made safe and the scheme goes ahead then surely the upper floors of the complex will be visible from the cliff top, and one assumes that windows will be overlooked, reducing the privacy of the occupants.

      Anon @ September 17, 2014 8:41 pm. I agree that Tesco should go ahead. As far as I am aware there is no technical reason why a building should not be erected on the proposed site. We are just waiting to hear what the High Court has to say about the appeal from one Margate resident, whose litigation is holding up progress. I fear that the Royal Sands/Pleasurama saga will run and run, and having read briefly the reports mentioned above I am not happy about any construction until proper remedial work is carried out. Interesting to note that the report by Cardy is only 8 pages long while the Jacobs report runs to 40 pages plus appendices and photographs, or am I missing something?

      Purple Om, a piece of string is twice as long as the distance between the middle and one end.

    12. Barry you keep putting words in my mouth I have never said that.
      "There has been many professional reports and all have deemed it safe for the time being. If it needs maintenance in the future then it can be addressed."
      Michael has all the reports to date and has put a link on FORS
      Michael I have read your post and I have answered all the points. If there is anything I have missed then please let me know.

    13. If it was so unsafe then the whole area would be closed to the public, as we all know. So it must be deemed safe for the time being.

    14. Andy it is closed to the public. Have you not visited the site it is surrounded by a big white wooden fence

    15. Purple Om,

      Do you ever actually think before you write?

    16. Barry and 2;47
      What you don't think they would stop people walking on the top if it were about to fall. Get real!!!!!

    17. Purple Om. I suspect that the boarding is there to stop public access to what is in effect a building site, and therefore unsafe by definition. The state of the cliff façade is incidental. The façade may be safe for the time being, your words not mine, but any building needs the façade to be secure for at least the life of the building, at least 50/100 years. I don't think residents of the proposed hotel, flats etc. would want repair work being carried out to the facade two or three months after moving in. Better to make it safe before anything else is done.

    18. Oh you mean walking up on the Prom. you did read the reports Michael posted the links for? The bit that explained the actual fault then? you know the bit where it explained just what Cardy fixed for £20K in 2010 and the perennial issue with the facade.
      I thought so.
      BTW you need to explain just what you are saying and stop getting excited when the fault lies with the words you use.

    19. Barry the £20k repair wasn’t done by Cardy, it was done by one of the council’s contractors after I reported that there was a big crack and a bulge in the cliff façade just after the £900k repair had finished. Cardy’s 2010 report was after the £20k repair and relates to more work that needs doing and hasn’t been done.

    20. Michael are we talking a repair early 2010 just after Cardy were on site and repaired by hacking out the facade, removing chalk and then reinstatement of the facade?

    21. Yes Barry, I don't think Cardy have ever done any cliff repairs, I would think there would be liability issues if they did and there was a collapse.

  3. The design of the building is shoddy and mired in corruption and tax havens. TDC have some explaining to do as to why it was approved and who was involved. Cardy's involvement so far is equally shoddy. The whole lot needs cancelling, the site cleared and a start-gain consultation. Since February this year TDC or some of the civil servants seem to have been having patchwork conversations and delays to cobble something together. The site and project ended in February and our feeble councillors need to end it completely - as they can do - and start again. What if the fascia collapses this winter?


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