If you live in Ramsgate you probably know some of the good and bad points about this development and I would imagine for most of us the worst of the thing is how long Ramsgate has been stuck with a dreadful unusable mess behind the main sands.
There are various schools of thought on whether it will ever get built and a whole stack of political stuff related to the site value, whether it has actually been sold and contracts exchanged with the latest developer Cardy Construction of Canterbury.
There are pages and pages of optimistic announcements and not so optimistic announcements on the council’s website at https://www.thanet.gov.uk/search/?q=royal+sands
A council document search for Pleasurama http://democracy.thanet.gov.uk/ieSearchResults2.aspx?SS=pleasurama&DT=3&ADV=0&CA=false&SB=true&CX=11536540&PG=1& and Royal Sands http://democracy.thanet.gov.uk/ieSearchResults2.aspx?SS=royal%20sands&DT=3&ADV=0&CA=false&SB=true&CX=11536543&PG=1& comes up with even more stuff.
However the point I am making here is that wolf has been cried rather a lot in terms of this development.
If the development ever gets built to the plans that have been approved, then I think the worst of it, in terms of what it will look like, will be the view from the cliff top opposite Wellington Crescent. From what I have been able to put together, most of this will be about an acre of flat black corrugated rubber roof, roughly the same height of the cliff top and extending about 100 feet away from the cliff top. Looking across the rubber, which wont have access to it so rubbish and seagull droppings will stay on it, you should just about be able to see the horizon. Between the rubber roof at a height of about eight feet below the cliff top footpath will be the external patios for the flats, looking over the top of these you should just about be able to see the low tide mark.
I don’t think the development will look too bad from the bottom looking up at it, it is a bit dated in terms of design, partly because the plans were drawn up in 2003 and partly because it was a bit dated then.
In terms of day-to-day functioning the worst aspect seems to be the road layout and parking, partly because there is only one space for each flat, hotel room and shop unit and partly because as the architect measured the height of the build wrongly to benign with very unfortunate compromises have had to be made with the road from one end to the other of the building.
When I first started, what? My outrage about the thing or perhaps it would be kinder to say interest in it, it was the height issue I concentrated on, this was because the plans showed it as mostly being much taller that the cliff top, meaning that if you stood on the cliff top you wouldn’t be able to see the sea over the top of it.
Now the council and the architect say that the height has been reduced so that you mostly will, probably, although I honestly don’t think anyone is exactly certain as to how it will stack up against the cliff.
One way or another while the height business was going on, perhaps the realisation that the architect wasn’t too handy at measuring had something to do with it, I looked into other aspects of the development. In the end I discounted all of the aspects of the development apart from the ones relating to safety and ongoing financial liability to the council.
These issues really boil down to; will the cliff fall on the development unless the council spends and continues to spend loads of money on the cliff wall and will the development’s foundations get washed away unless the council spends loads of money on a new sea defence?
The cliff behind the development is an unsupported chalk cliff which has what is called a weathering façade made out of concrete, breeze blocks stone and bricks – to you and me the cliff wall.
What this does is stop the rain, ice and heat from the sun from making the chalk go crumbly so that bits fall off, what it doesn’t do is prevent major cliff falls.
Over the last hundred years there have been several major (thousands of tons) cliff falls chalk, cliff wall and all along this part of the cliff. There is a considerable degree of uncertainty about what caused them, the last one in 1957, recently enough for fairy advanced civil engineering, collapsed again half way through the rebuild, see article above.
Building on or under an unsupported chalk cliff has its risks, but then life in general has its risks, the trick is to properly assess the risk.
The flood risk is a bit different because I got some degree of support from the Environment Agency who strongly recommended that the council assessed the risk.
Anyway enough of my preamble, back in December I wrote to the council to see if the had done anything to assess either of these risks, the sea washing the development away or the cliff falling on it, this is since I asked about eight years ago, just before Cardy Construction built the now abandoned foundations. At this time the cliff wall had just been painted and Cardys were about to start building, which is pretty roughly what they and the council say is the situation now.
Here is my response from the council, my questions in italic type, their answers in bold type
Ref No: 84703/3211812
Dear Mr Child,
Thank you for your communication received on 15th December 2015 where you requested information about the Royal Sands Development and Wellington Crescent Cliff Facade Wall.
For ease of reference I have summarised your questions with a response in each case below:
Can you kindly give me an update on the Pleasurama aka Royal Sands development on Ramsgate seafront?
An update has been provided on the Council’s website but for ease of reference I have provided the text below:
Work to the cliff façade on the Royal Sands site has taken place as planned, however unfortunately weather has delayed the final paint finish.
Due to the weather conditions expected this winter a decision has been made to delay this work until the early spring. This final painting is estimated to only take a few weeks after which the Development can commence.
If there is an officer coordinating the project can you please provide contact details? If not, please consider putting someone in charge of coordinating the whole project.
The project to deliver the new Royal Sands development is the responsibility of Cardy Construction. Chris Rolle the Interim Head of Economic Development & Asset Management at Thanet District Council is the appropriate officer to contact for any questions relating to the site itself prior to sale.
Last week various rumours which were apparently supported by some TDC councillors, appeared on the internet, saying that the wrong paint had been used to coat the façade. This was followed by the council issuing a statement, saying that the paint job wasn’t finished when the scaffolding was up, and a further coat of paint still needs to be applied. Does this mean that the scaffolding will need to be re-erected? Or does this mean that the council intends some other method of applying the paint and if it does what method will be used?
The paint used does meet the required specification however the coating to some of the blockwork panels will need to be repeated due to poor weather conditions at the time of the initial application at the end of the contract period. It is better to leave this until the warmer weather in the spring. Arrangements have been made for the contractor to return to complete the work. The method of access is still to be confirmed but it is possible that this will be via a hydraulic platform which will avoid the need to re-erect scaffolding.
Since the initial planning application was approved in 2003, the Environment Agency have designated the site a “Flood Zone 3a (High Probability)”
Have the council either conducted a flood risk assessment or produced any report detailing why one isn’t necessary?
You have previously requested information on the subject of a flood risk assessment for the site. This was responded to in an email from Doug Brown on 18th November 2009.
Does the whole liability of maintaining flood protection for the new development rest with the council or has any of it been mitigated either to the developer or the EA?
Flood defences are provided and maintained by Local Authorities under permissive powers, they are not duties. However the existing sea wall at Ramsgate is likely to continue to be maintained by the Council in accordance with the ‘Hold the Line’ policy indicated in the Isle of Grain to South Foreland Shoreline Management Plan.
In 2005 the council commissioned Jacobs Baptie to examine the cliff façade, the conclusion of their report states that the structure has a short serviceable life. Since the report the council have had the façade pointed and recoated twice.
Do the council envisage this happening every five years for the life of the development and do the council envisage funding this?
The structure is the subject of regular inspection and the observations from these inspections inform the maintenance regime. The 2005 inspection report predates the maintenance work undertaken in 2008 and 2015 which has improved the condition of the structure and extended its service life. It is not possible to confirm the frequency of future maintenance work but the cliff facade will remain a TDC owned and maintained structure.
To facilitate the ongoing cliff maintenance do the council have any report stating the distance required between the development and the cliff façade, needed to maintain it economically? With the structure having a short serviceable life, do the council have any plan for replacing the cliff façade with the new development in place?
The Council has not commissioned a report which identifies the most appropriate distance between the building and the façade to facilitate economic inspection and maintenance. There are no plans to replace the façade with a new structure.
Do the council hold any engineers report stating that it is safe to build a residential development in front of the cliff façade?
The Council has not commissioned and does not hold a report on this specific subject.
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, PO Box 9, Cecil Street, Margate, Kent CT9 1XZ, or email to email@example.com
Please 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
Technical Services Manager
The tunnelling for HMS Fervent.
A bit of a postamble here about collapsing chalk cliffs, in their natural sate they mostly collapse due to the sea at the bottom undermining them. With this one I think the reasons for the various collapses has been a mixture of things:-
Bad surface maintenance meaning that acid rainwater has been concentrated along the surface cracks cutting down thought he chalk like a cheese slicer.
Leaking pipes behind the cliff face.
Cracks caused by the ships guns mounted on the cliff during both world wars.