Monday, February 04, 2008

Cracks Beginning To Show

The demolition... oops, sorry, 'conservation' of our listed Marina Restaurant here in Ramsgate has caused a right royal rumpus. Now it transpires that our council's own Heritage Development Advisor has written to English Heritage asking for their support, and inviting them to make a site visit in the 'near future'.

The council officer's email, which has been leaked to me by one of my, um, deep throats, is clearly the source of Councillor Green's Post earlier today, but I make no apology for reprinting it in full here. Well, fuller actually, as there were a couple of important bits he missed out.

Dear Alan (Alan Byrne, English Heritage),

Your assistance is required. No 1 Granville Marina is part of JT Wimperis' 1877 development of a beach resort for Edward Pugin's Granville Hotel. As originally devised, the development consisted of shops, houses, shell grottos, tea rooms and a 'wintergardens'. No 1 was built as a photographer's studio. Numbers 1-4 were listed Grade II on 21/12/2004.

Last year Thanet Council became increasingly concerned about the condition of the building. Its last used was as a restaurant, a use that ended some years ago. It was, however, still owned by the catering company who - despite several offers - refused to sell it. A change in the management of the company saw it being sold to a firm of Ramsgate developers in the middle of last year.

I had a meeting with the new owners in August last year at which it was clear that it was their desire to demolish and redevelop. It was pointed out to them that this not an option since the building was listed. Being concerned that they were not going to take any action, we served an Urgent Works Notice on the owners on 15th August 2007 - with a compliance period of three weeks. The Notice required the sea facing elevation to be shored up and the structure made secure and watertight.

The developers appointed a structural engineer who designed shoring for the defective elevation. As the autumn progressed it became clear that the developers were not going to carry out the works and it transpired that they had dispensed with the services of the structural engineer. We therefore engaged the same engineer, had the structural works priced and appointed contractors to carry out works in default. The contractors started work on 28/1/2008.

On the morning they started the owners turned up saying they were sorry and that they would carry out the works immediately. We withdrew our contractors. On Thursday 31st January there was a considerable south-westerly gale and a considerable crack opened up in the south west corner - the left hand side of the sea facing elevation. By Friday morning it was clear that the sea elevation was becoming too 'live' to prop anymore and would have to be demolished. Our structural engineer was in attendance - together with our Building Control section. Once the front was down it became clear that the lateral walls were being forced apart by the roof and two thirds of the building ended up being demolished - see attached photographs.

The remaining third is, at the time of writing, being stabilised using a Notice under the Building Acts. Any loose historic material from the demolished parts is to be collected and put in to storage. It is the Authority's intention to serve a Section 48 Repairs Notice requiring the owner to re-instate, on a like for like basis, the demolished parts. I am of the opinion that the Ramsgate THI scheme could underwrite a compulsory purchase notice. English Heritage's support in this matter would be greatly appreciated.

Would it be possible for you to make a site visit in the near future?

Nick Dermott BA (Hons) Dip Arch RIBA IHBC
Heritage Development Advisor
Major Developments Team
Thanet District Council
PO Box 9
3rd Floor
Cecil Street
Kent CT9 1XZ

Does anyone remember the demolition of the famous Firestone factory in London 30 years ago? I think I'm getting déja vu!


Anonymous said...

For someone who admits to being only 29 I'm surprised that you remember things that happened in London 30 years ago!!

Eastcliff Richard said...

Maybe remember was the wrong word.

Anyway, you only have to be a regular reader of Private Eye to know about the Firestone demolition b*lls-up.

That's a point, I wonder if my gnome-like chum Ian would be interested in this little cock-up and bullsh*t story?

Anonymous said...

Basics of demolition,knock down walls-roof collapses.
Oh please!
This appears to be a bloody-minded disregard of instructions by the developer,what happens next is anyone's guess,at least there are plenty of pics to guide the rebuild.

Anonymous said...

Are the bricks still there I could use some Victorian bricks for my rebuild. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction.

Margate Architecture said...

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! This is exactly the kind of chain of events that I was afraid of when I pursued the listing of the Tea Rooms at Cliff Terrace, Cliftonville. If the developer is made to re-build, it will need to be ensured that it really be a like for like rebuild and not a pastiche-period-lookie-likie. I somehow doubt it. The owners should be prosecuted. Such a shame the council didn't step in earlier and issue a CPO. Such a high calibre of developer we have on the Isle. Makes you proud.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't it convenient to have such an interesting windy day last Thursday of all days. Could some-one check met records and see how last Thursday in E Kent compared to bigger blows earlier in January and in December. This whole matter stinks. Correct shoring and support would not have allowed 'cracks' to develop. It wouldn't require too much assistance to have created a crack! This whole business verges on the criminal. How resilient will TDC be?

jolyon said...

Nephew to GH Barker here again!

I should say that my comments here are my own and in no way necessarily represent the views of any other member of the Barker family.

The Heritage Advisor writes: "On Thursday 31st January there was a considerable south-westerly gale and a considerable crack opened up in the south west corner - the left hand side of the sea facing elevation. By Friday morning it was clear that the sea elevation was becoming too 'live' to prop anymore and would have to be demolished."

I can tell you that my cousin confirmed that the crack on the south west turret had been there for years and had not got any worse through many storms. They had had a number of inspections and surveys of the same. That's not to say it didn't suddenly get much worse at this coincidental point in time (overnight between council contractors turning up and the developers saying they would do the work) of course. That is feasible at least.

Given the countless winters that had brought the sea into the restaurant and had battered the front elevation, its hard to believe it finally chose the evening of 31st January to give up the ghost, but again, most fortunate that it did so at a time when so many experts were at hand to make the appropriate decisions to save the building, I suppose.

Its also hard to believe that people with so many letters after their name couldn't have perceived that removing one side of a load bearing structure carrying the weight of a steeply pitched roof above it, might not have an effect upon the other unsupported sides to the structure. My 3 year old keeps discovering this with his lego set on a regular basis, but once he becomes old enough to really study physics, he will discover that normal rules do not apply in the real world, no doubt!

Anyway - it would be great if it got rebuilt. I hope this letter from the Heritage Advisor is a genuine attempt to successfully secure the same.

My Uncle loved that building and had a long relationship with Ramsgate going back to World War II. He extensively researched grants available to renovate and there were some (with conditions attached of course) but also requiring a sizeable financial input from my Uncle and at his great old age, it was not an investment it was sensible for him to make. He continued trying to investigate how to finance the renovation until his final days and had many meetings about the development of the sea front with TDC. He always told me that if he could get a clear indication from TDC about what would happen at the front and when (in terms of development), he would take the plunge and play his part in the improvement process. When he passed away, the way became clear to sell, though the reason for refusing several (very low) offers was my cousin was keen to sell to someone who gave firm assurances that they would restore the building to its former glory.

My cousin - like his father was - is a man of his word and believes that there are still others in business like him.

The successful purchaser, of course, gave such assurances - even inviting my cousin to come back to have a look when it was all done. Sale completion took place February 2007 I think so this was just 6 months before the meeting at which the developer says he wanted to knock the building down and build apartments.

Opinions aren't necessarily eternal!

By the way, in the first floor north-east turret (still standing) at the back third of the building, I wrote a poem at the age of 14, whilst looking at the moon on the sea and listening to the sound of the voices on their way to Nero's 2000 and the sea lapping against the sea wall.

That poem won a national poetry competition which I credit entirely to the special ambience created that evening by the Marina Restaurant, the sea, the feel of Ramsgate, the moonlight and the people passing by.


Anonymous said...

I wonder how the local rag will report this ?

jolyon said...

I should add, in the name of balance and fairness that my cousin has always held and does hold Nick Dermott (Heritage Advisor) in high regard and believes him to be a man of his word. Therefore, like many of you, I hope that TDC will be successful in ensuring the rebuild of the Marina to its original and beautiful specification.

Good night, Jolyon.

Anonymous said...

Can we see you poem please Jolyon??

Eastcliff Richard said...

Thank you for that eloquent exposition of this building's recent history, Mr Barker. It must be very sad for you personally to see what has become of it, and I think most decent people in these parts would concur that it is a tragic event for the town of Ramsgate too.

With regard to wind speeds, there is an excellent, albeit amateur, local weather station here which shows that the average wind speed on the night of last Thursday/Friday peaked at 14.2mph, the third highest speed (after 16.8mph and 15.3mph) in January.

Of course average wind speeds are just that - averages, and it could have gusted a lot higher. However if I was a cynic (heaven forbid!) I would be tempted to say that the wind excuse is a lot of, er, wind.

Eastcliff Richard said...

I would also like to say that Nick Dermott is indeed highly regarded in these parts, I believe he is also chair of the Pugin Society?

I would stress that, from what I have seen, he has done his best to prevent the developers from ruining this building, and is even now doing his utmost to make sure it gets put back the way it was.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't Ian Hislop live in Kent?

Eastcliff Richard said...


jolyon said...

from nephew barker

re: the poem:

not sure we should blight this well written blog with the splurged mutterings of a melancholic 14 year old. its available in the link below, complete with melodramatic punctuation.

sorry for the crazy url, i'm very new to this (ie: learnt 'how to' this morning).


Eastcliff Richard said...

Thanks JB. I don't think the URL you put up was complete, but anyhow I found it and people can click here if they want to see it.

Anonymous said...

I notice your link to Cllr Greens comments has become null and void.

Michael Child said...

One of my customers has just come into the shop and sad they have stated to demolish, silly me there I go again, continue heritage conservation work on the rest of the building.

Mitch said...

Yes Michael, that was me. Go to my blog where I've published some photos of the latest efforts at 'restoration' and there is a magnificent pile of rubble in front. If the person who wanted Victorian bricks cares to sort through the'pile' I'm sure he/she can be accomodated!

Millicent said...

Jolyon - that was beautiful - thank you for sharing something so personal - I'm sure that all Ramsgatonians who regularly walk by the sea will appreciate the sentiments expressed there even if they can't share your pain. I hope you will be a regular on ECR's blog now you've found us!

Eastcliff Richard said...

Councillor Green has removed the relevant post from his blog. I do hope I haven't got him into trouble. He seems very heavily policed over there, whether by TDC or the Labour group who knows.

It seems a shame that somebody who seems to have Ramsgate's and Thanet's interests very much at heart gets regularly stamped on, whereas Dr Biggles' Tory Life carries on with ne'er a care in the world. Even when he allows comments about 'Gippos'.

Anonymous said...

Another example of TDC destroying what is left of our Isle. One Presumes the new buildings will bring in more rates etc and more money for our council, and where is this money raised being spent?? not on museums, a new libary in Margate, or an empty M&S store in Margate..or susisiding the increased parking fees proposed for their employees.

Anonymous said...

Another fine building gone that did have an ecomomic use. It's shame that someone did not have the imagination or the purpose to achieve this. Surely the council could have done more.

Anonymous said...

I lived in Ramsgate for 33 years and to watch this destruction is so sad. It seems that the powers that be just want to ruin the seaside towns and elevate WC as the pinnacle of success. I find WC very bland and boring. Our heritage deserves better than this.
I suppose it's money again.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone see how the Thanet Times reported this yesterday. They made the developers out to be practically heroes. "The owner of the building was worried that the building was unstable and took emergency action to save the rest of the premises. The ditinctive towers at the top of the front of the building were apparently at particular risk of falling down and injuring someone."

They promise more in Fridays Gazette let's hope they have done their homework by then.

Anonymous said...

Can we expect a dawn raid by the police to arrest these vandals?
At least some of the graffiti is colourful & artistic.

Michael Child said...

This is by way of an update on the situation, Thanet District Council have put an order on the building making further demolition illegal they have also instructed the structural engineer that they appointed not to order or sanction any further demolition.
I have published my correspondence with TDC about this matter in the internet, you can click here to read it

Eastcliff Richard said...

Thanks Michael. Interesting reading.

Anonymous said...

Usually, like the cliff top a fence is erected around the unstable structure, and futher measures to stabalise the structure and it should be saved. In this case it looks like vandalism of our heritage and TDC just lets it happen. TDC conucil seems to be more interested in getting more rate revenue in with new dense developments,at the expense of conservation of our existing heritage.

jolyon said...

Jolyon Barker:

Just read your correspondence Michael. You and I have talked on the telephone a couple of years back. You are an absolute vanguard to the town of Ramsgate and there is clearly a mutual respect between you and Heritage Advisor you correspond with.

Very useful information shared and clearly some other buildings to keep an eye on.

I feel that Ramsgate is very lucky to have citizens who care so deeply and who are as thorough as those who are writing in this blog.

It is becoming clearer, is it not, that this is indeed a very sorry state of affairs, may be motivated by greed and selfishness? It makes one feel like venturing that the 'brown envelope' is alive and well in Britain today. I wonder what can be done? The compromise you suggest Michael may well be the way forward - but I guess nothing will happen quickly.

My brothers painted the outside of the Marina Restaurant in that white paint in the summer of 1977. Now aged 49 and 50, they are both heart broken at the pictures.

My Aunty, 88 years old, who was joint owner until February 2007, has not been informed. It would upset her too much and quite simply make her ill.

To Millicent: thank you for the kind words regarding the poem.