Monday, 9 January 2017

What mistakes were made

With the fate of the building site still unresolved I thought a short history lesson might be appropriate. Many "mistakes" were made, some incompetent but some may have more perverse reasons. In 1998 the listed former station building burnt down. To date no one has been charged with arson but Ramsgate residents know who caused the fire.
After 3 years of wrangling with James "Jimmy" Godden he finally gave in and left leaving TDC to advertise the site for an alternative development. This was in 2002 and led to the release of a document called the Ramsgate Renaissance Commercial Development Opportunity. This document, whilst not ruling out housing, made it clear that the development should be a mixed leisure and retail development.
However after 6 initial inquiries were whittled down to just two the final winning bid emerged at a Full Council meeting in December 2002 which seemed to be residential in nature and proposed by a Broadstairs Estste Agent acting on behalf of (who we now now as Colin Hill) of an offshore comppany registered in Tortola, British Virgin Islands. This company was called SFP Venture Partners.

 I'll leave the reader to decide whether this offer meets the needs of the previous document and whether the money changing hands and the word Whitbread swung the vote.
Needless to say the Labour run Council chose SFP and whether the choice was right or wrong would only be known in the future. These are the original drawings submitted however this author believes this could have been stopped in its tracks with a simple phone call to Whitbread who, in early 2004, denied any involement in the development.
Note the use of Whitbread logo!!
You will also note it wasn't the Council or even an Officer that discovered this fact.

The next opportunity to stop this development was when the actual planning application was made however by this time Labour had lost control of the Council to the Tories under Ezekiel.
The actual application was made in November 2003 and validated 15th December 2003. Now this is where I believe something occurred which was extremely unusual. Planning a development of 107 flats with ancillary uses as per this planning application should have been scrutinised with a fine tooth comb seeing as how prominent the position of the flats however planning was granted on the 28th January 2004 with work to commence within 5 years.

Please note the name of the planning officer (Mr. B. White)

So why did this application not receive the proper investigation it deserved?

No work was actually done on the site within the 5 years stipulated however KCC did move a roundabout and build a storm drain and that has been used as the reason to allow the PP to stand in perpetuity. Whether this is legal is a moot point as TDC will not rescind the PP.

In 2006 a development agreement was signed but a stipulation was that SFP (now a Ltd Company run by Sean Keegan) obtain a £5.6M surety to reimburse the Council should the company fail.

By 2009 it becomes obvious that Sean Keegan had failed to obtain the requisite surety (cynics might believe they had no intention of getting it) and again TDC fail to remove them as developers. The Chief Accountant of TDC actually said to Ezekiel the due diligence was inadequate yet Ezekiel ignored this advice and on the promise of a local builder being bought in (Cardy Developments Ltd) he swung the Council to accept the continuing use of SFP.

In February 2014 this Development Agreement ran out and at this point the land should have been returned to TDC however the legal advice given to TDC was somewhat ambiguous and TDC bottled it and continued to negotiate with a developer who had failed to develop the site since 2003, over 10 years of procrastination.

Since the Freehold was sold for £3.915M to Colin Hill there is simply no legal way the site can be taken back except by paying Colin Hill the money he demands. This is likely to be in the region of £10M and will be similar to the way he ransomed Peterborough Council from 2003 to 2008.