Friday, 29 July 2016

Manston Airfreight Hub, Ramsgate Pleasurama a ramble and a Canterbury Watercolour Sketch and some Canterbury photos.

They say no news is good news, but strange news combined with no response from those involved is often worse.

Last Thursday I went to the Manston Airfreight Hub consultation at Canterbury, this wasn’t a busy event while I was there, so the RiverOak representatives had plenty of time for me.

Now my take is that any commercial/industrial development on the old Manston Airport site has to be a balance between the environmental costs and the economic benefits. I will qualify this by an example of what I mean, we started off – the human race that is – with pretty much no pollution apart from the naturally occurring pollution generated by volcanoes and the greenhouse gasses produced by animals. This was all fine and dandy and I guess we – the human race that is – were pretty much how the most extreme environmentalist or perhaps a 1960s hippy would like to see it. The down side of all this was that like expectancy was less than 30.

Now we have a well developed industrial society generating massive amounts of pollution with a life expectancy of over 80. Most of the things that give a higher life expectancy relate to our high standard of living generated by the industrialised society in which we live.

Now the pollution associated with the commercial/industrial development of Manston falls into two brackets, actual day to day pollution, water, air, light noise and potential pollution which is mostly spillage of contaminants into the Thanet drinking water supply as the result of some sort of accident.

Now at this consultation I started out chatting to one of the pollution experts there and having the normal type conversation that I have had at previous consultations, like the Infratil consultation about the airport getting an Environmental Permit or the Discovery Park one about Stone Hill Park mixed development.

Now at some point in my visit this normal activity descended into something like a promotional circus where the people who were supposed to be listening to my views on the development went down a rabbit hole. Like Alice I realised that I was falling a long way and my mind switched to considering things like, had I fallen as far as the centre of the earth and how far that was, see

In some sense or another, like Alice, after this sort of thing one comes to a series of doors and starts trying to open them. There were few silver keys on the glass table and the one I decided to try was the one to the DFT.

Up until now replies from the DFT have been prompt and informative and what concerned me was that I had met a lot of people wearing RiverOak badges but the majority of them didn’t seem to relate to them being part of a major investment company able to mount a significant national infrastructure project. In fact the only person I spoke to there who seemed to be in calibre told me he didn’t work for RiverOak but the company that RiverOak had employed as environmental consultants, and to be honest he seemed pretty much a sceptical as me about some of the environment aspects of the project.

So we have RiverOak in Connecticut with as senior management team of 5 although they don’t appear to be in the Connecticut company register, we have RiverOak with a senior management team of 7 also in Connecticut. Are they the same company?

This brings us around to Pleasurama, now this was to be built by SFP Ventures Partners Ltd, after about a year of asking the council this tuned out to be a company registered in the British Virgin Isles.

Back then this sort of offshore was pretty much unregulated and I think it was partly because of this that the Pleasurama saga has gone on so long.

Anyway last Friday after the business with Alice and the rabbit whole, I wrote to the DFT asking them for company details for RiverOak, now so far the DFT have replied to my enquiries within two or three days and minor questions like this by return.

To me it would seem pretty obvious that for a DCO to proceed the DFT would have to deal with a properly registered American company, list of shareholders, list of directors, published accounts and so on. Well so far no reply.

Then we to the latest on the Pleasurama saga, from what I have been able to unscramble, last week one of the developer’s subsidiary companies Cardy somethingoranother paid the council the millions of pounds balance for the freehold of the Pleasurama site. Then this week the parent company Cardy Construction has started down the going bust road. Administration bankruptcy, that type of kidney.

Where we go from here I think is, providing the money the council received passed the strict regulations that govern money transferred to bits of government. Summed up it must be properly and legitimately sourced and provided the company Cardy somethingoranother is a subsidiary of Cardy Construction then the insolvency administrator is obliged to get as much at he or she can for the Pleasurama site.

Lets just hope that both the DFT and TDC have made sure they are dealing with properly registered companies, because if say either companies Cardy somethingoranother or RiverOak are actually registered in a tax haven somewhere and no one can even find out who the shareholders or directors are and published accounts are in a machine full of butter with the DFT and TDC saying. “But it was the best butter.” We may have issues.

Anyway I also phoned TDC and asked them for an update on Pleasurama, this was on Tuesday I think and they said they would be issuing a statement in a couple of days and would send me a copy. Nothing has arrived from them either.

I notice Chris Wells the leader of the Council has put this on one Facebook. "Labour commitment to sell was supposed to extract us from that situation, and what we had seen elsewhere around the names associated with SFP. The Council will provide certain information as it becomes available. Until then constant speculation only hinders things for everyone. You all now know that the deal which Labour committed us to in March 2015 has been completed."

No RiverOak in Canterbury this Thursday, but some pictures.


  1. There appears to have been some UK limited companies registered this month related to Riveroak. Three companies have been registered all with the same three directors

  2. Michael, So you persist in implying that River Oak are a dodgy company. Fortunately for you that RO do not take you seriously. Your Alice In Wonderland reference is apt. Which character are you, I wonder. Never mind, your post has scored you two hits so far and if BJ gets wound up, especially about SFP, then you will get a couple more.

  3. John, not so much dodgy as not properly registered. Unless that is you can tell me where they are registered and what the company details are.

    For instance which is the right list of senior management, the list on the UK website or the list on the US website?

    My take was that they had to be properly registered for the DFT to let them start on the DCO ladder as the DFT would have to be able to accept money from them for the cpo and I assumed that the DFT would send me the RiverOak company details, perhaps they will.

    However TDC seemed keen to mount a cpo but in the end they said RiverOak could't meet their criteria

  4. Michael, If DFT are satisfied with RO's credentials then presumably all is well, and the DCO will proceed. I do not know why DFT has failed to keep you informed. Perhaps, they are busy, change of Govt, Brexit and all that.

    You are trying to balance the capabilities of the Civil Servants at DFT who are well versed on aviation matters with those of the Officers at TDC who are not.

  5. John I guess I am concerned that we don’t go down the another Thanet failure road with Manston. I don’t like the parallels with Manston and Pleasurama, back in 2003 we had two companies that wanted to build on the site, in that case it was council owned. One company was a UK company with the local track record that they had built the Westcliff Park Estate in Ramsgate, the other company transpired to be registered in a tax haven and here in Ramsgate we have suffered 20 years of economic blight because of this.

    Now I have no problem with an American company located in Delaware that is properly registered in Delaware, the problem for me is that RiverOak don’t appear on the Delaware state register of companies. I only looked into this because they had a different list of directors on their US website to their UK, if any UK company was to do this they would be prosecuted, I asked the RiverOak rep at the consultation about this and he told me that RiverOak is a private investment company, I’m afraid that set the alarm bells ringing.

    Now my assumption is that for the DFT to proceed with any company it has to be a transparent process, the company has to be transparent in terms of management structure, properly published and audited annual accounts.

    The DFT maintain that the whole DCO process is transparent and correspondence directed to them will be answered and published on their website, not my rules, their published ones.

    I can’t see RiverOak overcoming this by forming a new company as in most cases it would be a minimum of three years published accounts, transparency being paramount in this instance, mainly because of the human rites issues in the cpo aspect of the DCO.

    All correspondence asking a question to the DFT is automatically registered under the foi act and if I don’t get an answer by Friday becomes eligible for pursual by the information commissioner. (20 working days for an information (document) request but 10 working days for an ordinary question)

    My assumption is that the lack of response from the DFT is deliberate and they expect me to contact the ico in the shortest possible timeframe.

  6. Michael, Your final paragraph: Have you contacted the ICO, if not will you and quickly?

  7. Michael, Your final paragraph: Have you contacted the ICO, if not will you and quickly?

  8. John I would like to get to the bottom of this issue as soon as I can and the ico timeframes are fairly long winded. So I will give it until Friday and then have another go at the DFT. If that fails then probably the ico.

    I suppose that in terms of priorities for me this doesn’t come at the top of my list as the dft haven’t published anything on the RiverOak proposals for two months now and RiverOak haven’t published a single consultation response, I don’t think anything is moving very quickly.

    My guess is that most of the people involved are on holiday.


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