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My attempts learn about the Pleasurama project have lead me into a dialogue with Thanet District Council about their website and the way they pass on correspondence to councillors. Click on the links above to read the correspondence.

Simon Moores Thanet life


Simon Moores asked me to write a bit about the plans on his Thanet life website If you wish to comment on this matter, and don't want to do so by contacting me, its quite a good place to do so. I was amazed how easy it is to paste a comment in his site no nasty forms to fill in and I didn't have to reveal my identity or email address nor did I have to generate a username and password.

A Pleasurama Problem?
Our local history expert, Michael Child of 'Michael's Bookshop', writes in with some concerns over the future of Pleasurama site in Ramsgate:

"Due to the fire that destroyed Pleasurama there is urgent need for a new development below the cliff where it was. This is a very challenging and difficult project for an architect, not only do the surroundings mean he has a lot to live up to but the site has two problems not often encountered in building projects. One being that the building is viewed from above meaning it will have to look attractive from an unusual direction and will be a target to any vandal who throws an object from the cliff top. The other is the flood line, as well as the probable effects of global warming, because Ramsgate it situated where two tidal systems converge, that of the English Channel and that of the North Sea. A combination of spring sides and high winds occasionally causes exceptionally high tides, if there is a storm as well, flooding can happen very quickly indeed. The last time this happened was about 20 years ago, fortunately it was a calm day and only a few carpets were damaged.

A very famous architect Stanley Davenport Adshead who also designed Ramsgate Library made a serious mistake when he designed The Royal Victoria Pavilion the floor is well below the flood line, the resulting kafuffle makes interesting reading. One of the ex councillors of the old Ramsgate Town Council told me it has flooded on numerous occasions. He also said that the deepest he had personally seen the sea water in the old Pleasurama building was about a foot.

Taking all these factors into consideration the plans were anticipated with great interest.

If you look on the government planning website (the application number is F/TH/03/1200) you may be surprised to find that there are three sets of plans. (Ed. they seem to have gone missing but here they are as a copy!)

In the first set of plans you will notice that the new building was to have been 250 meters long about a sixth of a mile, for those of us who can only visualise dimensions this way. Concrete with PVC windows and a zinc roof which is gull winged, arguably of some architectural merit in the right surroundings, from below the gull winged roof would have looked quite majestic and gave it a 1930s look. Unfortunately when viewed from above it would have looked like a lot of old tin sheds, very large tin sheds too. However far more seriously the roof of the new building would have been higher than the cliff top behind, in some places by as much as 3 meters. If you look at the planning and design statement on the government planning website it is abundantly clear that the architectís remit was to design a building that was a lot lower than the cliff behind it.

There then followed a series of communications between various Ramsgate residents and the council, the result of which was that the council promised not to sell the site to the developer unless they produced plans for a building that were lower than the cliff top, these mistakes happen and there is no great loss of face, Stanley Davenport Adsheadís portrait hangs in the National Portrait Gallery or is at least in the store there.

At this time the proper course of action should have been to design a new building that even if it lacked much architectural merit, that at least fitted in the space available, between the cliff top and the flood line.

If you look at the second set of plans you will see that the architect decided his building was going there whatever happened. Like an ugly sister, trying to get on Cinderellaís shoe, in the not so politically correct original version, she even failed to do this after cutting off her toes.

Looking at the second set of plans you will notice that height reduction of about 2.5 meters has been achieved in two ways: the gull wings have been removed and with them any architectural merit the building possessed; the floor level of the ground floor (car park, shops, hotel, restaurants, fitness centre, children's play area etc.) has been lowered by 1.5 meters, this is 1.5 metres below the high tide flood level. Further examination of the plans will show you that the inside of the new building would have been 1 meter taller than the outside.

After a few mild comments about the Tardis like nature of the building a third set of plans appeared. In this last set of plans it has lost its final remaining interesting feature, that of being bigger inside than out although it still sits in a five-foot deep lake of seawater, when weather conditions dictate.

There are many other fundamental faults with the plans, the professionals in architecture and construction I have discussed them with have not had a very high opinion of them. However the comments I found most poignant were made by a senior academic in the field, who said. It would be an interesting experiment to build a house below the flood line in a caisson (big pot) and see what happened. One of the most peculiar aspect of the plans are the parking arrangements (the building of the development will remove the main beach car park) included in the development is a 180 space secure private car park 1 space for each of the 107 flats and one for each of the 60 bedrooms in the hotel leaving 13 for staff. There are no spaces for the shops, hotel, restaurants, fitness centre, children's play area, visitors to residents, conference centre or anyone wishing to use the beach.

The really sad thing though, is that this failure to abide by the laws of nature, if not the wishes of the townsfolk, has done so much to spoil an otherwise beautiful town for the last eight years.

I have heard that, the planning stage is completed and that construction work will begin in the next few weeks.

You may think this sort of thing is new in Ramsgate, John Smeaton was called in at various times to sort out the mess when the architects and developers combined to produce a series of problems. At this time the building of harbours and bridges was about equivalent to rocket science today, so most of their excuses were fairly valid. When the harbour was first built it filled up with so much sand that it pretty much dried out at low tide, it was in fact completely unfit for purpose. The cure for this made the water in it so rough that once again it was in fact completely unfit for purpose. When the dry dock was built although Smeaton had been consulted the builder decided to change Smeatonís design and materials so that when it was emptied the water forced up the bottom and the side cracked open. Reading his account over 200 years later full of unfortunatelys' and unforeseens' as it is. It is a wonderfully polite account to government of the doings of an incompetent developer."

2/01/2007 09:44:00 AM

2 comments
What a lovely tale of bumbling stupidity. It would be bad enough if such silly planning on a Thanet 'key' site was confined to Eastcliff Richard's patch but haven't we seen similar madness on the North-side? £7 million lost before those responsible eventually realised what everyone was telling them about putting the TC in the oggin on the weather side of Margate Harbour! Despite warnings aired last year about the inadvisibility of shifting TC to its new site( still weather and tide prone), the powers that be, according to this week's KM, are to have to spend another £2.4 million because of the amazing 'discovery' "that the site could be vulnerable to sea-flooding" What a surprise. So now we need to take bets on when the new TC will be knocked on the head. £12 million , became £15 million and now £17.4 million. Add the £7 million wasted and a weather/flood prone building is to cost tax-payers £24.4 million by the time it is built. Wise old Thanetonians were ignored when the unsuitability of the 'new' site was raised by them.
Posted by Anonymous | 6:13 PM


I have given the matter as to how these situations occur some thought, as I particularly donít want this to turn into an excuse for slinging mud at our local councillors, who give up their valuable time working for the local community. I think what happens is that living by the sea, and therefore being aware of its tremendous destructive power, we are inclined to forget that the experts we consult (architects and civil engineers) often live miles inland. A flood line to them probably equates to that of a river where the water says flat. None of us islanders need telling what happens to the sea above the flood line in a bad storm with a force nine gale blowing. Those of us who have an interest in local history, will have seen the old photographs Ramsgate harbour wall smashed up like a childís toy after a storm. However there can be few of us who havenít underestimated the force of our sea, even if this only meant that they were showered with water. I have recently reprinted most of the important Victorian books about this areas lifeboatmen, foyboatmen and others of more dubious intent, who had to go to sea in our costal waters during bad weather in open boats. I donít think it would be possible to find a group of people with a better understanding of the dangers of the sea in this area, yet I read numerous accounts of them underestimating this power nature, often with the cost being their lives. I myself who learnt to sail as a teenager out of Ramsgate harbour in an 11foot pram dingy so old and frail, that people laughed at it (Heron number 19 when most of the others of the Heron class of dingy were numbered in the tens of thousands, for those of you who remember it) have underestimated the power of the sea here.

Just one further thought I was amazed how easy it is to paste a comment in this site no nasty forms to fill in and I didnít have to reveal my identity or email address nor did I have to generate a username and password.
Posted by Michael Child | 12:30 PM
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