Sunday, November 03, 2013

Councillor's Pants On Fire?

Us millionaires are accustomed to things burning down on our lovely front. So it's no surprise that the current political conflagration over whether Ramsgate's listed Royal Victoria Pavilion should be a Wetherspoons or community-space-cum-market appears to be shedding more heat than light.

But from the emails I've seen bouncing back and forth this weekend, one thing does seem clear. Yet again Thanet Council, and one councillor in particular, have proved themselves either incompetent, past their sell-by date, or they really do believe that us simple Fannit folk are easily hoodwinked by smoke and mirrors.

Step forward Labour Deputy Leader Alan Poole. We've all seen Cllr Poole sniggering at the great unwashed at public meetings, and treating the people who vote for him and pay his expenses like chumps. He's been instrumental in fending off the justifiably gigantic public concern over the Pleasurama eyesore, and at times has seemed like Swiss Tony and his mysterious backers' only ally.

Now he's doing it again with the Pavilion.

The phrase he uses in an email he composed yesterday, from Queensland in Australia (where he is presumably fiddling on his iPad while Ramsgate burns), is particularly redolent of the, er, old way of doing things here on our septic isle. It includes the phrase: 'Wetherspoons... are the only game in town.' This, you will recall, is exactly the approach that TDC were severely reprimanded for by the District Auditor way back in 2002, when they fell for the old Whitbread trick vis-a-vis the Pleasurama site. You can read my report of the auditor's report here.

There's more.

Last month TDC issued this press release, stating: 'In June 2013, Cabinet members... agreed to extend the term of the lease of the building in order to generate the level of investment needed to get the building back into use. Cabinet agreed to open up the marketing of the site in order to offer an extended lease of over 100 years to a new potential leaseholder, with the council retaining the freehold of the property.'

Trouble is, there's been no 'marketing of the site'. There's diddly squat on CBRE's website (they're the people whose sign has been on the building for the best part of five years). Rank, who currently own the lease and whose gift it's therefore in, appear to have gone straight back to Wetherspoons with the 100 year promise, without passing 'go'. Yet Cllr Poole asserts in his email: 'We did advertise and Rank have advertised the vacancy but there were no takers with any money.'

There's even more.

It transpired on Friday, following a conversation between an interested party and Rank's Property Director Tony Robinson, that Rank offered to hand the lease back to TDC 'some time ago', thus releasing them (Rank) from any risk associated with assigning the lease to a third party. So TDC could have had full control of the building, and could have therefore held a public consultation over its future.

What makes this whole can of worms smell worse than a bad day in Margate Harbour is that there is now, it would seem, a viable alternative to Wetherspoons, but Poole and his cronies are spending our money on the last chance saloon without so much as a 'by your leave', or even troubling us with the facts.

If JDW get their 100 year lease, and the biggest pub in Britain turns out to be a non-starter or dead loss, we'll all be ashes long before anything can be done to reverse the decision. Talk about a bonfire of the insanities!!!


Anonymous said...

Rank did indeed offer to kick back the lease to TDC some time ago but the offer was rejected because Rank didn't want to do the repairs. Rank apparently told TDC to sod off because TDC had never been round to check the premises during Rank's tenancy so TDC had not a leg to stand on.

This raises any number of questions: -

1. Why have so many of us wasted hours, unpaid, at Town Task Force meetings discussing how we might get Rank to kick back the lease so that The Pavilion could be developed as an asset for the town when all along Rank were happy to kick the lease back?

2. Were the TDC officers who attended those meetings (Madeline Homer, Mark Seed) aware that Rank had offered to surrender the lease and if they were, why did they not inform the Town Task Force meetings? David Green kept stressing at the meetings that the issue needed sorting as a matter of urgency and all the local groups backed him up. The Ramsgate Society are furious because they have been hassling about this since 2004.

3. If the officers were not aware of Rank's offer, why not? The Town Task Force made it perfectly clear that the state of The Pavilion was a major issue for Ramsgate and was asking the officers for solutions and were told that there were none. Until that is Wetherspoon's appears.

4. Why has TDC agreed to extend the lease to Wetherspoon's? Apparently the extension is under the limit that necessitates a look see from Scrutiny Cttee.

5. Why has the property not been marketed openly and transparently?

6. The Wetherspoon's solution is not the sort of development recommended in the Destination Management Plan. What was the point of creating and adopting a Thanet Destination Management Plan if it is being undermined before it gets started?

Anonymous said...

I thought any lease over 25 years constituted a disposal under TDC's asset management policy - thus needs to go to public consultation?

Anonymous said...

If Rank expressed a wish to surrender the lease, this presumably was when the Council served notice requiring the necessary works to be completed. The fact that TDC hadn't carried out regular inspections is not helpful but not fatal to an action for the serious breaches of lease conditions. No reason has ever been provided by TDC as to why they did not pursue the notice and schedule of delapidations served in 2008. If they had done what they should have and foreclosed and sought payment for the delapidations, they would then have control of a building in good condition and the choice of who to let it to. Instead of which we are left with a wreck requiring £3M spending on it and having to deal with the Ranks. This situation has been caused by TDC incompetence yet again.

Anonymous said...

Poole. Hart. Bayford. Wise. Johnson. Fenner. They should all resign for the good of Thanet. It's getting beyond a joke now. Direct action is coming unless things change soon.

Anonymous said...

This really is shaping up into a nice little council corruption documantary..Thanet In-Action

Anonymous said...

Wetherspoon should be in Ramsgate. This would benefit the town and put Ramsgate on the map again.
Thorley taverns would have to drop their funny prices...

Anonymous said...

Who cares, I live in Margate!

Ian Driver said...

Dear Mr E is an e-mail I sent to Council Chief Executive Sue McG on Saturday about the same issue

Dear Ms McGonigal
On June 20th 2013, Cabinet agreed that officers would support the current leaseholders of the Victoria Pavilion in "commercially marketing on the open market of the lease for the Royal Victoria Pavilion". The report to the Cabinet also stated that the marketing process would be "open and transparent, whilst ensuring best value and probity for the Authority". I recall that I spoke at that meeting and strongly supported the open and transparent management of the marketing exercise as a way of ensuring fairness for organisations wishing to express an interest in taking on the lease of this important building and ensuring that the Council achieves best value in the broadest socio-economic sense.

I am now led to believe that the marketing process which followed this decision might not have been as open and transparent as Cabinet and the Council agreed. From information I have received I do not believe that any serious efforts have been made to market the lease and I do not believe that the Council's insistence upon an open and transparent marketing exercise has been adhered to.

I therefore request that the Council as the freeholder does not agree the assignation of any new lease until a full investigation has been carried out into its marketing.

In the meantime under the Freedom of Information Act please provide me the following

1. Full details of the commercial marketing exercise of the lease of the Victoria Pavilion including copies of adverts placed the dates of placement and the media in which the adverts were placed.

2. Copies of notes of meetings between Council officers, the current leaseholders and/ or their agents regarding the commercial advertising of the lease.

3. Copies of any other notes or reports, or e-mails in possession of the Council about the marketing of the Pavilion in the past 12 months.

It would be a very serious matter if the current leaseholder is unable to demonstrate that it fully complied with the wishes of the Cabinet in relation to the disposal of the lease. it would be highly improper if the current leasholder has manipulated the disposal of the lease so as eliminate competition and prevent the Council from being able to review a range of options which might maximise best value.

I look forward to hearing from you on this matter

Yours sincerely

Councillor Ian Driver

Anonymous said...

Have I got this right ?

Rank wants to give the lease away for nothing. TDC wants them to sell it.

If Rank spent £3 million on repairs how much would the lease then be worth ?

Terry Painter could market the Pleasurama exclusive dwellings as conveniently close to a potential Wetherspoons and rely on that sales pitch to get would be buyers queuing round the block.

I have a plan. When TEF pay up the 3.4 million they owe, ring fence it to repair the Pavilion. Sorted.

Anonymous said...

ECR isn't this story similar to that of the Steam Tug Cervia ?

In that case a few million was required to make repairs.

Another party wanted use of a Ramsgate seafront building.

The other party got the use of the building. And TDC cllrs (who were trustees of EKMT) didn't get pursued for their liability for the Cervia repair costs.

Anonymous said...

Loved the bit about Direct action is coming. Just who do these clowns think they are and what exactly are they going to do. This is not 1917 and the peasants are no longer revolting.

Anonymous said...

How do you manage to put up with the smell 3.46?

Anonymous said...

Just to add some fuel to the fire, I'm going to put in a suggestion for use that will cost less than £3mm, requires no onward investment, and restores Ramsgates seaside back to happer times. Grind the Pav into sand and turn it back into beach.

Joe Turner said...

I hear this afternoon that Rank are relinquishing their remaining years of the existing lease. Which, if true, seems to contradict everything TDC said last week.

Anonymous said...

9:57 and 10:32 have summarised it well.

TDC and Harvey and Rank are playing games with the Pav.

Various offers have been made to protect and restore it in line with the new Localism Act.

Porkies rule at TDC.

Anonymous said...

When people don't tell the truth, I always find it useful to examine their motivation.

Ben Irvine said...

The plain fact is that if TDC had agreed to take back the lease from Rank they could have advertised the building and taken the lease back when they found a suitable tenant with the financial clout to protect us council tax payers from any future burden of maintaining the building.

I have received a copy of the schedule of delapidations and there is no way the costs are anywhere near £3m. This figure has been made up to create fear and validate the councils total inaction and more recently rash decision to offload it with no consideration to the financial versus social benefits as asked and agreed to do so in the June 20th Report to the Cabinet.

The council are not receiving best value and in the future will have no way of illustrating any attempt at doing so.

This will most definitely turn in to the next SFP/Pleasurama debacle. There is no guarantee JDW will do this work within any time frame. However with 7,000sq ft of space to let (£100k per year rental income) they are about to make a no brainer investment which no one else in the country even knew existed as it was never on the open market.

This cannot happen Thanet!

Anonymous said...

How about renaming it the 'Manston Pavillion'? How about the 'Manston Sands' as well? Manston Ferry?

That way we can file all of the shite together, making it easier when we need to look at our records for all the bad done to this fair isle.

Anonymous said...

Most of the bad done to this fair isle is by the likes of James, Driver, Turner, Oldfield, Tongue, Thomas, Watkins and Smithson in their abject negativity towards any attempt at improvement. Remember, most of these people opposed the Turner yet it has done wonders for Margate.

Anonymous said...

And at what public cost 09:36.

I smell the foul stench of a local bilious poster|

Anonymous said...

And has the Turner really done that much for Margate? Does anyone believe that a million people have been to see the art or were most of them caught short and needed to visit a decent loo? So a few hobby shops have opened in the old town but elsewhere it's still a disaster. You can't polish a turd.

Anonymous said...

9:53 what are you if not a bilious poster. Go to Margate Old Town and it is a bit more than a few hobby shops. There are café, bars, galleries and novelty shops extending onto the harbour arm as well as the old town.

Do you really believe that people travel to Margate simply to use the loo and does it matter? If loos are what brings them here, then we should build bigger and better ones.

Anonymous said...

We have - it's called the Turner Contemporary.

Anonymous said...

"Terry Painter could market the Pleasurama exclusive dwellings as conveniently close to a potential Wetherspoons and rely on that sales pitch to get would be buyers queuing round the block"

I am sure the allure of a massive Weatherspoons with a beach right on its doorstep (handy for large scale rucks and burying sick the next morning)will bring buyers in their thousands.

John Hamilton - talking sense and cutting through bullshit said...

PERFECT summary!

"Anonymous said...

Most of the bad done to this fair isle is by the likes of James, Driver, Turner, Oldfield, Tongue, Thomas, Watkins and Smithson in their abject negativity towards any attempt at improvement.

Remember, most of these people opposed the Turner yet it has done wonders for Margate."

Anonymous said...

TDC are too idle and incompetent to do anything with the Pavilion. They still get paid for inaction and failure.

How to link salaries with performance and P45's?

6 monthly reviews? The councillors don't even get the accounts at the moment. Just silly bickering pensioners.

Joe Turner said...

I never opposed the Turner Contemporary, which I have visited a number of times and enjoyed.

John Hamilton is a troll who likes to make wild allegations about people which have no basis in truth. Given that he knows absolutely nothing about me, it would be impossible for him to know my positions on all of these issues.

Anonymous said...

8:17, give me silly bickering pensioners any day over a fat, self opinionated twit who claims meaningless directorships and false qualifications.

Anonymous said...

With Hammy and Epps and Mallinson and Holyer we have the worst of Thanet's old fools. They should be councillors.