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Thanet District Council freedom of information act requests   |   Freedom of information request 14.10.2009   |   Second freedom of information request 14.10.2009   |   Freedom of information act request 23.10.2009   |   Rsponse to myFreedom of information act request 23.10.2009   |   Complaint 2.11.2009   |   from blog   |   Council spending on this project   |   My complaint response reply 16.11.2009   |   FOI request 17.11.2009   |   Complaint 17.11.2009   |   Upper Marina esplanade incline.   |   Complaint 17.11.2009 response   |   From Blog 17.11.2009   |   Title 16   |   Review of the decision of the Council made on 20 November 2009   |   FOI ref; 11594 logged by TDC on 16.10.2009   |   my official response to your withholding the Pleasurama development agreement

Title 16
In a message dated 22/12/2009 16:19:55 GMT Standard Time, **** writes:

Dear Mr Child

Customer Feedback Reference Number:12458

Please find attached my letter to you of today's date.

A hard copy has been put in the post to you.



Mr M Child
72 King Street
Kent  CT11 8NY

Our ref:          BJW.PD
Your ref:     

22 December 2009

Dear Mr Child

CUSTOMER FEEDBACK:  12458/1148467

Further to your correspondence with my colleague, Geoff ****, I have now been asked to look at your questions.

We have discussed the general subject of Shoreline Management before.  I trust that the recent restoration of railing and copings along the Victoria Parade, not so very far from your home, gives you reassurance in this regard.  In fact further along the Victoria Parade, we currently have cordoned off an area of cliff top coping and railings because substantial repair is scheduled to commence early in 2010.  

I believe both Mike **** and Geoff ****have previously explained to you that the regular inspection and maintenance of our coastal structures are an important area of work for the Council.  In an ideal world there would be more funding to invest in repairs and improvements.  But the Council is doing its best possible job at the moment.

A major scheme is pending now for central Margate, including the Margate Harbour Arm.  Though not in Ramsgate, I think you probably will take an interest in engineering of the scale envisaged.  At the moment the proposals are at feasibility stage.  But announcements will be made early in 2010.  Mike *** has led this work for the Council and I think we will both agree that he has done a good job.

Regarding the former Pleasurama site, the new work commissioned by the Council after tendering, and in anticipation of the new development was satisfactorily completed with no defects to the scheme itself reported. There has subsequently been identified the need to replace a non structural infill panel, which will be completed in the new year.

- 2 -

Finally, the subject of the Marina Esplanade Incline the question of structural survey, and whether or not temporary weight limit be applied is a matter for the Highway Authority, Kent County Council.

I trust this is satisfactory for the time being.

If you are not happy with our response, you may write to us  with your reasons within the next ten working days, requesting a further review.  

In order for us to respond as efficiently as possible, please ensure that you quote the above reference number and address your communication to *** - Customer Feedback Co-ordinator, Regeneration Services.

Yours sincerely

 Brian ***
 Director of Regeneration

Hi Brian, you seem to be in some confusion here over my complaint 12458/1148467 as you seem to be partially responding to it, partly to my Freedom of information act request 23.10.2009 and partly responding to various other issues some raised by me at various times and some not.

First let me remind you that my complaint 12458/1148467 was:

“Hi I wish to make a formal complaint about the condition of Marina Esplanade incline in Ramsgate.

This is about the part of the incline between the top of Augusta Stairs to and including above the remains of The Marina Restaurant.
I would like to support this complaint with illustrations, something I don't believe I can send via this form, please could you advise me how to do this.

The substance of my complaint here is that the cliff here has a history of collapses and that a long crack has appeared in the surface topside along most of the length of this area of the incline.

As this road forms the main PSV access to the main sands i.e. coaches full of people travel along it, could you kindly act with some haste on this issue.   

Please think of the environment and respond by email and not on paper.”

The upshot of this was that TDCIT didn't seem to have a method of sending illustrated complaints so I published the illustrations on the internet at

As you can see there is some movement and signs of subsiding of this area, which I believe is TDC controlled.

Geoff concurred that there was a problem and that it would be investigated and repaired.

My main concern here is that no temporary weight limit has been instigated here until the work has been done and for that reason I wish you to pass this on for further review.

As part of my response to Geoff I asked him to send me a copy of the inspection made of this area under the foi act and still haven received it, as this request was made on the 27.11.2009 and I have had no response could you kindly add this aspect to the handling of the matter.

Can you please clarify the following point for me? Are you saying it is incumbent on me and not you to inform KCC Highways that there is problem with a TDC maintained structure supporting a road and that they should consider applying a weight limit to it?   

I note your comments on the other matters and have been keeping a watchful eye on the work at Victoria Parade, which appears to be being carried out in a proper and professional matter with due regard for safety.

With respect to Margate Harbour arm I believe I have the plans for the existing structure somewhere and will look them out for you if you need them.

We now come to my main area of concern the Wellington Crescent cliff façade, although this is not covered by 12458/1148467 but other foi requests and complaints.

Firstly before I go into my concerns I would like you to note that the principle condition report on the cliff façade says both that the façade doesn't support the cliff and the cliff isn't strong enough to support heavy weights.

It therefore follows that no work that has been done to the cliff façade makes the cliff more able to support heavy weights.

As you are probably aware there is nothing in terms of bollards or signage to prevent anything from driving topside next to the edge of the cliff there and indeed the other day I saw a fire appliance weighing about 20tonnes up there while there were men working down below.

I find this a totally unacceptable state of affairs and will pursue this matter most strongly, I discussed this with one of the consulting engineers , senior engineers who concurred with me on this and I have subsequently been requested by TDC's chief executive not to discuss this matter with the consulting engineers , as they are the consulting engineers I find this rather bizarre.

Now I come to the business of the cliff façade repairs and inspection and the series of events that occurred.

Back in early 2008 when the work first started I noticed that the initial clearance of the end of the base of the cliff near the lift, for the scaffolding, revealed an apparent absence of foundations for the façade.

I duly notified both TDC and the consulting engineers, TDC didn't respond but one of Jacobs senior engineers responded to the effect that the whole façade was sitting on a 2metre thick concrete foundation which in tern was sitting on solid chalk.

I then visited the site and discussed the situation with the site foreman who suggested that putting a flowerbed at the bottom of the cliff to cover up the defects would be a probable solution.

I also photographed the exposed absence of foundations and sent the photographs to  the consulting engineers senior engineer, who replied that this was a localised problem at that end of the façade that didn't effect the rest of the façade and that it would be repaired with concrete, this didn't happen.

We then come to my recent communications with Geoff and Mike these stem from a Freedom of information act request on 23.10.2009

“As you may be aware I have an interest in the Pleasurama development and wonder if you could answer a few questions about it and the cliff façade adjacent to the development.
Sorry to have to make it an FOI request but I have a limited amount of time available on this one and would appreciate the information as soon as possible.
1 Can you provide me with a CDM assessment for the site?
2 Can you provide me with an inspection and maintenance schedule for the cliff façade?
3 Can you provide me with details of any proposed weight limits for maintenance and emergency vehicles using the surfaced pedestrian walkway, topside adjacent to the cliff façade?
4 Can you provide me with a distance from the façade that is deemed a suitable building line for any development below and in front of the façade, both from a safety point of view and to allow maintenance?
5 The inspection report on the façade, April 2005 INSP/101726/1277 describes the façade as having a short serviceable life, can you give me an estimate of what that life is expected to be?
6 Can you provide me with details of how the exposed base of the façade and evident lack of foundations is to be addressed? (Note related to this question; by way of example, the design drawings for the arches show concrete foundations extending over 1 metre in front of the base of the arches these foundations do not in fact exist, I can provide photographs showing this should you need them.)”

This resulted in a request for photographs of the lack of foundations and a series of unsatisfactory replies, the most concerning of which was:

"There is no formal inspection and maintenance schedule for the cliff facade.  The works were inspected when the defects correction period for phase 1 expired in July. Biannual inspections of the facade will commence in 2011.  The upper promenade and railings are inspected twice a year as part of the coastal zone asset inspections."

At this point I felt I had no choice but to go on site, inspect and photograph the defects and send the results to them.
The three main problems that I discovered and the outcomes are listed below with further observations.

1 The filling of the cracks in the façade and the repointing of the blockwork had either been done to a poor standard or not done at all so that vegetation was already growing from numerous places on the façade.

The vegetation has now mostly been removed but no repointing or filling has yet been done. Can you tell me if this will be done or if it is the intention to leave the cracks open?

2 I discovered a considerable bulge in the blockwork with a vertical crack that had split the concrete blocks at one of the block infills.

What most worried me here is that although this bulge and crack hadn't been there when the condition report survey was carried out, both were obviously present when the cliff façade repair work was done, evidenced by an unsatisfactory attempt to fill the crack.

It would appear that a state of denial came into existence about problems discovered since the initial inspection of the cliff façade in 2005, in this instance the contractor, consulting engineers and the council completely ignored the existence of the bulge and all continued to adhere to the contract based on the 2005 condition of the cliff.
Pretty much immediately after I sent the pictures of the bulge to TDC and  the consulting engineers the cliff was inspected and work started on the bulge.

My area of greatest concern here is that this was a small area of fairly low blockwork and when it was demolished considerably more room was needed to demolish it safely than the 4 metres that is shown on the latest set of plans for the new development, to allow for cliff maintenance.

3 The lack of foundations under main supporting pillars of the façade. At the moment the main argument that I have been getting from Geoff, Mike and  the consulting engineers is that it hasn't collapsed yet, therefore it has foundations.

When I inspected the façade I took **** with me who I know knows *** who is a senior TDC planning officer and will confirm that whatever foundations exist for the façade they are not those on the original construction plans, nor are they the 2 metre thick ones that the consulting engineers said are there.

He watched me poking a stick underneath the façade where the foundations should be, how anyone can reconcile that I really don't know.

He can also confirm that there has been a most unusual attempt to cover up some of the worst defects by loosely and unevenly spreading concrete on the topsoil at the bottom of some of the pillars.

You presumably have seen the pictures that I took and published at in some you can see the reinforcing rods from the pillars that should be embedded in the foundations just poking out of the topsoil among the weeds and in others the bottom of pillars sitting directly on the chalk, that has now been exposed and is weathering. In fact it would seem likely that either leaving the chalk or made ground at the base of the facade exposed, or worst still covering it up badly so it continues to deteriorate where it is concealed, means that much of the work done to the cliff façade has actually made the situation in the medium to long term worse rather than better.

I think we are back again here to this state of denial, in this case as the defective foundations weren't exposed when the original survey was done, the approach was to carry on regardless with the contract work as though they were in fact not defective.

Well now we have a situation where you, Mike, Geoff, the consulting engineers have photographs of the defective foundations, taken by me and witnessed by a well known and respected local businessman, do you have any response to this?

This was a contract that eventually cost the taxpayer £1,000,000 and as far as I can see when I pointed out to TDC that it had obviously not been carried out to a satisfactory standard, their response was to get the same firm that had supervised it to report on their own work, even when they confirmed the existence of some of the faults I had pointed out, still no independent inspection was carried out.   

What however is of even greater concern is the continued failure to address the problem of the proper development of the whole eastern undercliff area with respect to The Royal Sands Development, which is that the issues relating to the flood risk, cliff safety and incline access road have to be resolved to produce a reasonably safe environment for the expected life of the development.

At the moment we have an absentee developer with planning permission that on the surface appears to offer him the potential for considerable profit from the development, we have the council that theoretically stands to derive considerable income from the sale of the site. However as successive contractors are engaged to actually build the thing it becomes obvious to them that the approved plans are for a building that is impossible to build within the constraints imposed by the site, while the council tries to resolve the issue by spending huge amounts that it can ill afford, with at the best dubious results.

The effects on Ramsgate of having its main leisure site in a continuous state of overly optimistic limbo are appalling, so no I am not at all happy with this response and would like you to forward it for further review.

Finally a major aspect of my complaint has been about the lack of public consultation and information relating to this whole issue, from the inception of the intention to develop the site the people of Ramsgate have been assured that they would be kept informed of the progress with public drop-in sessions, as far as I know there has only been on such session that related to a set of plans long since superseded. Even the information on the council's planning website is dated, with all of the mock up pictures relating to the first set of plans, can you please rectify this situation?        

Best regards Michael