Thursday, December 10, 2009

Strange Customs (House Development)

Word has reached the old Eastcliff shell-likes that the scaffolding's up on the big red building down on Ramsgate front that's been sold to a developer to become some kind of business centre (or the Customs House in old money).

A closer inspection reveals this:

No, I'm not talking about the ubiquitous, bullet-headed Fannit builder in the foreground, but the banner that's been erected behind the Heras temporary fencing. Apparently the 'conservation works' have been 'grant aided through the Ramsgate Seafront Townscape Heritage Initiative Scheme 2007-2010'.

If you recall, I've been querying the whereabouts of the £1.5m Heritage Lottery funding that the Ms' P was granted back in 2007 for tarting up the front. At the time we had a German apparatchik in charge of doling out the dosh, but he resigned in a fit of Teutonic pique, noting that it would probably take ten times the money to restore Ramsgate's coastscape to Aryan standards of perfection, and that most building practices on our septic isle were substandard.

He was subsequently proved somewhat correct, when this happened 676 days ago (according to the 'Did You Know?' ticker in my sidebar on the right)...

...the rather, er, overzealous redevelopment of the Grade II listed Marina Restaurant further along the front by Auclair Properties. The Thanet Reich is currently in the process of compulsorily purchasing what's left of the Marina Restaurant after rejecting rebuilding plans presented by Auclair which included what HRH the POW might well have described as a 'monstrous carbuncle' of modern flats slapped on the side.

Curious, then, that Ramsgate THI Scheme grants of up to 75% now appear to have been given to the new owners of the Customs House, Neath Properties, who bought the place for £410,000 off Frank Thorley back in September, when they seem to share the same registered office in the same Douglas, Isle of Man building as Auclair, and even share, or have shared in the past five years at least, the same director, a Mr Roger Bennett!

Click here to visit Ramsgate THI Scheme on Thanet Reich website
Click here to read what the outgoing Ramsgate THI Scheme admin said
Click here to read about the Marina Restaurant debacle
Click here for Roger Bennett's directorships
Click here for blog about Isle of Man as a tax haven


Anonymous said...

That cash would have gone a long way to saving the IOTA gallery (ramsgate) venture, which is what it was originally supposed to do!

Elizabeth said...

That's odd as the grant scheme is administered by the same conservation office at TDC as went ballistic about the Marina Restaurant???

Anonymous said...

Great work at exposing yet more corruption in Thanet .
And the Tories wonder why they lose local seats , hopefully more to follow.

Has Jimmy Godden paid for his fencing around the scenic railway yet? or have they failed to enforce that as well. There seems to be lot of cheap timber frame flats being built at the top of the site edging there way down to the area where the heritage theme park will be

Anonymous said...

Those fowl boxes, or Borg cubes, that are edging into the Dreamland site are con to stop the proposed road that was going to go round the back, thus paving the way for a pedestrianized seafront, not anymore!

Anonymous said...

I thought TDC gave the Customs House to Thorley in a peppercorn rent ?

Anonymous said...

Time ECR, to contact Channel 4, who are currently asking for help about who is connected to who in the 'rich and powerful'.
In Thanet, the connections and in-house favours abound with Ezekiel declaring he has holidayed with Thorley in Portugal; reports that he socialises with him and some other well known thnaet characters etc.

Anonymous said...

It should be renamed the Funny Business Centre as that is the only kind of business that goes on in Thanet.
If you want anything done in Thanet for your business do one of the following,
A) Join the North Foreland Golf club
B) Become a local councillor
C) Become a Mason
D) Do all three

Anonymous said...

6.47, of course he hasn't and Waterbridge haven't repaired it after fire as required by TDC who threatened compulsory purchase.

Get real, Thanetonians, and start looking at who is connected to who in your little corner of England and then see who gets tax-payer's money funded their way via their contacts; who gets planning consents waived through; contracts; tenders; you are in to the 21st century equivalent of T. Dan Smith!

Anonymous said...

History Lesson:

The Custom (no 'S') House was owned by the Board of Trade, then sold to Ramsgate Borough Council in the 1930s. It was leased for about 50 years to C&E who eventually sold it(for circa 80K) to a certain entertainment entrepreneur,after TDC (who probably actually owned the building as heirs to RBC)spent circa 150K on grant aiding HMG to put a new copper dome on the top and couldn't be bothered to research their ownership claim. AFAIAA, HM C&E were unable to prove title but in the abscence of any counter claim...

FT purchased it from said amusement magnate - both were open market deals.

Richard Eastcliff said...

Yes, it does say 'Custom House' (no 'S') on the Land Registry document. But it appears to be local custom to say 'Customs'.

I think I ought to emphasise that just because Auclair and Neath Properties are registered at the same Isle of Man office, it doesn't necessarily point to a connection. There are probably thousands of companies registered there for the same (presumably tax) reasons. And Roger Bennett may just be the happy chap who runs this particularly convenient arrangement and puts his 'X' on the forms.

Still, it does all look a bit rum.

What with this, an offshore company developing the Pleasurama site, and a company which only appears to have a council flat as a head office attempting to introduce a fast ferry service, it makes you wonder quite what kind of Millionaires' Playground we're running here in Ramsgate, donit?!!

Eric (The Thanet Shadow) said...

You could argue that T Dan Smith (the mouth of the Tyne) although embroiled with Poulson had a noble vision, perhaps misguided but a vision no less. Has our 'T Dan Smith' got any vision beyond back-handers?

Anonymous said...

Looking at this from afar its been agreed by us (the Pirates) that Piracy is rife on an offshore Island.

This is contrary to the ISP set up centuries ago to sort this type of thing out.

Us Pirates will not accept this behaviour and have contacted channel 4 or is that the Channel 4...anyway our information and photos of council officials drinking with some err influence developers will go down nicely like the Krug 1690 last night.


The Pirates

Ripping off TDC and encouraging Piracy in Thanet since 12BC

Anonymous said...

Unlike Thorleys to be selling rather than buying? Recessionary times on the pub front?

Anonymous said...

It was in a prime position and left to rot for years. Thorleys are more a property co than a pub co these days if you ask me.

Anonymous said...

Sure. But then in that case selling is odder. If you are a property company with a prime location venue you surely redevelop - that's what you do and there may have been grants available as suggested in this piece.

Dave at D'Njili said...

It is a Custom House like any Custom House in the UK (no 'S'). The copper dome was replaced in or around 1988 as I worked there as an Assistant Officer HMC&E back then and the Crown Agents replaced that and spent a huge amount of money making the building good for open market sale. I was told at the time by the Custom House Surveyor (that was a rank not profession) that it was going on the market and would I think of buying it. As I was on £7K p.a. back then I said i thought it was a bit beyond my pocket....damn, as I'd buy it now being on a six figure salary (no longer in the department!) The building was built as a Custom House so I am unsure where the Board of Trade fits in on this. The room upstairs was called the Long Room like in any Custom House and had a counter its entire length. As a young AO I saw diaries stored there going back to at least the 30s written by the Senior Duty Officers detailing coastal patrols and ships lading. HMC&E carried out agency work for the Board of Trade and Trinity House, i.e. Ships Registry, Receiver of Wreck and collection of Light Dues (to maintain lighthouses and lightships). There were often cannon balls laying around which had been bought in as wreckage and these were often used to prop doors open. Ledgers going back to the 19th century written in copperplate detailed ships registry entries and my Executive Officer carried on that tradition until that agency work ended around the end of the 1980s. I was told at the time the Custom House had been sold to the Harbour Board before going to Frank, though I cannot verify that.

Anonymous said...

I am searching my memory now and getting nil result. I am trying to recall who it was who said he had stuck in an offer for the Custom House and was told its sale rights were protected by a peppercorn rent.

I know I didn't understand it at the time either. But I think for a token rent of a few pennies a beenficial right in the property is acquired/preserved.

If I can recall who it was stuck in the offer (and I thought he made the offer to TDC) I'll post again

Richard Eastcliff said...

Fascinating stuff, D@D'N!

As a matter of interest, it would appear that you've done pretty well in the last 20 years. Did you achieve that by staying on the Ile de Thanet? Or did you have to scarper to make your fortune?

Anonymous said...

I understood TDC were offered it for £100K in 1995, but said the windows needed replacing so they didn't purchase it { obviously knowing they would be spending £750K replacing perfectly good windows in the Margate offices in the future.} There was talk then of moving the Mayor's parlour from Albion house to the Long Room, so they could then sell Albion house.

Anonymous said...

What is the point of turning it into a 'business centre'? Surely the best use in that position would be for a bar, cafe or restaurant?

Anonymous said...

3.22 you are obviously new to Thanet as you bring too much logic to the end use.

Get the grant money do it up then sell it to another local crony having milked the public purse .

The thought of getting any business advice from anyone nominated by TDC is an amusing though.

Anonymous said...

The bottom bit is for a Tea room and upstairs offices.

It appears that TDC fast tracked everything through - if you take into account its purchase date.

Now if you and I was to ask TDC for help!!!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the usual brown envelope, lunch in the Lanthorn, roll up your trouser legs arrangement.

Millicent said...

The Ramsgate Seafront Townscape Heritage Initiative Scheme!! Who on earth thought that one up? What it probably means is that nothing much will happen for another ten years or so - I look forward to seeing some before and after photos of the seafront in 2019 don't you? By then most people will probably go abroad for their holidays again and Ramsgate will have missed the boat. We need the visitors NOW!!

Dave in N'Djili said...

In answer to your question ECR (1:50 pm) I left Thanet in 1991 to work at London Airports, moved back in 2004 and worked in Dover and resigned in 2009 to work abroad in Africa on a customs reform project in the private sector. Its been a hard slog but financially very good and not bad for a boy with only 5 O-Levels, usually you need a masters degree to get where I have got to. My family remain in Westgate as my girls are doing very well at High School (Hartsdown & King Ethelberts, good schools.)Thanks.

Richard Eastcliff said...

Good stuff, Dave in N'Djili!

It just goes to show that the lazy blighters who bleat about jobs round here are lacking gumption and initiative. They just need to get on their bikes and go and find work!

Bloody hell! I'm beginning to sound like Norman Tebbit!

Louise Oldfield said...

Nice info on the Ramsgate Seafront Townscape Heritage Initiative:


It includes a picture of 12A and 12B King Street in Margate's Old Town. The two lovely little cottages bought up by Sandy Ezekiel that got him into bother.