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3rd March 2008

Breaking News:

Ramsgate's Royal Victoria Pavilion (RVP) lease is up for sale at £650,000.

The present rent for the site is, hold on to your hat, a mere £12,500 per annum rising to £15,000 pa in 2019.
The original rentals were set in 1969 when the 75 year lease was drawn up and signed: £10k for the first 25 years, £12.5k for the second and £15k for the final period.
£10,000 in 1969 is the equivalent of between £100k and £150k in today’s money – an inflation of between 1000 and 1500%. Ouch!
The comparable rent, therefore, for an equivalent site, in a desirable location and of an iconic and outstanding building such as the RVP would be at least £100 to £150k p.a.
Rank has paid a total of £185,000 in rent over the past 15 years to Thanet District Council. Allowing for inflation this represents a windfall to Rank of at least £1,315,000 and possibly as much as £2,315,000.
There is scant evidence that Rank, the ‘successor in title’, and the previous lessees Pleasurama and Pleasurama Casinos, have maintained the structure of the building as required by the terms of the lease. According to the original document the outside should have been painted ‘every three years’ and the interior ‘every seven years’, using good quality paint and to a high standard of workmanship. The structure etc should have been kept “in good and substantial repair and condition throughout the term.”
According to the schedule of dilapidation undertaken by Pearson Gore in 2006, much of the state of the building internally is unknown. What their surveyor could see would require a minimum of £150,000 to put right. It is clear from the report that the structure itself may require a good deal more, perhaps as much as £1 or 2 million. Who will end up paying if Rank will not?
We don’t wish to quote the old saw that a stitch in time saves nine - we have anyway - but it is clear to anyone who has been inside the building that it has been severely neglected. Clearly Rank has not been a good tenant. If a local council house tenant had allowed their property to get into such a state of disrepair TDC would have thrown them out as being undesirable.
It could be reasonably argued that Rank has not honoured the tenancy agreement. They cannot plead ignorance or poverty. They have enjoyed windfall profits of between £1.3 to £2.3 million over the past 15 years. Presumably that has gone to the directors and shareholders instead of being used in whole or part to bring the building up to the standard at which it was originally let. Many people in this town, including myself, can testify to the good repair of that building in 1969.
We shall be writing to all the TDC councillors urging that this matter be placed before the Scrutiny committee, and also to the Audit Commission.
You may like to have your say.
Remember, this is your building; it is a beautiful structure and one of Ramsgate’s most iconic buildings. Thanet District Council have a duty of care, as landlords, to ensure the building is properly maintained and must now take the matter into careful consideration. Should Rank be allowed to keep and sell the building? Should TDC consider ‘forfeiture’ proceedings?
Let us know what you think?