Thursday, 11 July 2013


Thank you Chairman

There is no doubt that the past two months have been the toughest since I became leader of the council. A number of high-profile projects that the council is heavily involved in are at, or reaching critical points. It is important that we keep calm and deal with each and every matter in a logical and straightforward manner and that we take each and every action for the benefit of Thanet residents.

On the Royal Victoria Pavilion:

Following Cabinet, Rank have been asked to submit a timeline to show how long the site has been on the market, by what means and for expressions of interest and the outcome.

TDC’s Property Manager is to meet with Rank to discuss matters further.

Rank has informed TDC they have received regular expressions of interest from community groups and individuals but due to limitations with the current lease (which was granted before the Landlord and Tenants (Covenants) Act 1995 statute) they have not been able to progress this.

The property negotiations to be led by TDC Property Manager so all interested parties need to speak with Edwina Crowley.

TDC now has 2 options with the lease:

1)    Keep current lease and try to influence who the lease is assigned to – means it would be a commercial lease with no option for community use

2)    Explore whether to grant a new lease (a back to back surrender) which would mean TDC could bring it in line with modern practice and influence the terms, which may even enable some community use.

On Dreamland:

Dreamland car park is now open again. The car park was temporarily closed by owner following an urgent works notice being served over the security of the menagerie cages.

TDC installed temporary signage along Margate seafront in anticipation of closure to ensure alternative coach parking provision was clearly signposted.

LATEST: Our latest information is that permission has been granted to appeal. The good news, however, is that the judge has confirmed that the matter should be expedited and that "this challenge to the CPO needs to be finally determined as soon as possible".

TDC is still intending to vest the site and we are aiming to get on site by the start of October.

I also understand that architects working on the design for the interior and exterior of the park. Wayne Hemingway is working on the branding and the look and feel of the project. The Dreamland Trust is working on ride lists. Dreamland Trust Board met yesterday and this was followed by a very positive and businesslike project board meeting which I attended.

On Arlington

The Council received notification on 13 June 2013 of the decision of the Secretary of State to grant detailed planning permission for the development of a superstore with associated parking and services on land at Arlington Square as well as for the external refurbishment of Arlington House. The Secretary of State also granted outline planning permission for the development of retail units on the ground floor of Arlington Square with a 60 bed hotel above.

Obviously, the outline planning permission for the hotel will be ineffective until such time as the Council as the local planning authority is able to approve the reserved matters.

So far as the detailed planning permission is concerned, this can only be implemented if the Council as freeholder gives certain consents required under the terms of the Council’s lease with  Metropolitan Property  Realizations Limited (Freshwaters) - in relation to the construction of the superstore on the site of what is currently an underused public car park.

If and when Freshwaters apply to the Council for these consents, it will be the responsibility of the Cabinet to make the necessary decisions taking into account the officer advice given at the time.

However, the Cabinet is also aware that there are currently not one, but two challenges to the decision of the Secretary of State to grant planning permission, the first being a judicial review arguing that the original, planning application to TDC should have included an Environmental Impact Assessment. The second and most recent challenge is an appeal to the High Court against the decision of the Secretary of State to grant planning permission.

It is likely that both appeals will be heard in December this year and whatever the prospects of success, what we do know is that if either of them succeeds, the court will quash both the detailed and outline planning permission.

In the circumstances, it is my view as Cabinet Leader that it would be premature for the Cabinet to take any decision on whether or not to grant the necessary Landlords consents that would enable the development to proceed until the uncertainty created by the legal challenges has been removed.

On Transeuropa

TDC is actively marketing the Port to attract a future ferry operator.

The repayment of costs owed to the council is still due and is being actively sought.


TDC has not stepped outside of its legal framework in terms of the actions taken.

The constitution of the council has not been breached – the action was taken with the appropriate authority.

The issue of the debt was accounted for in accordance with the council’s rules and was done with the knowledge and support of the council’s external auditors.

This decision was covered by commercial confidentially and so could not be shared as the council had an absolute duty of care. Releasing this information would have fundamentally harmed the trading position of Transeuropa, leading to their immediate failure and leaving the council in no better financial situation. 

The council at no stage waived payments at the port – the repayment of the costs is still due and is being actively sought.

The council took a difficult decision at the time – to act earlier would have risked pushing the company into administration, leaving the port without a ferry service and therefore with the exact budget shortfall it now faces through lost income.

This is very important so I repeat:

If the council had not assisted by rescheduling their debts, Transeuropa would have been forced into administration, and this would have left the Port of Ramsgate without a ferry service. 

Without this, the council would have faced exactly the same loss of income and impact on its budgets, and would have also contributed to jobs being lost in the local area much earlier.

Decisions were taken to protect jobs and the council was acting to try and protect the wider and longer-term interests of the Port, Ramsgate and Thanet. These decisions were not without their risks as events have proved, but this does not negate the valid reasons on which these were based or the position the council took. 

The council took this decision on the basis that the money was due to be repaid in full by the end of 2014/15 and as Transeuropa were in negotiations with a financial investor and taking other actions.

The council has lodged its remaining debt with the administrators and our legal section are taking every action to secure repayment. The information held by the council in relation to this remains commercially sensitive, as it is a key element in seeking recovery of its debt.

Action is being taken to secure a viable future for the Port and the council is actively marketing the Port to attract a future ferry operator as well as seeking other income generating opportunities. 

The council will do all it can to promote the commercial viability of the Port to other ferry operators with a view to potentially securing another service to operate out of Ramsgate.

On Royal Sands

The developer has still to satisfy the Council on legal and financial matters arising from their wish to replace the 2009 development agreement and associated leases.

The council is acting in a reasonable and appropriate way with the developer in assessing their proposals, but in doing it will protect its public and commercial interests.

As resolved at the end of May, Cabinet considers that due to the continuing lack of progress matters have entered a new phase, and is seeking the development of robust action to resolve the issues at this site.

As part of this, Cabinet have fully endorsed and will support the work by Scrutiny on this issue. A Task and Finish Group has been set up to assess future options for the site and report back to Cabinet.

This includes undertaking further legal and financial work in relation to the future of the development.

This will assist the work of Scrutiny, but Cabinet is conscious that time is moving forward, with no discernible progress by the developer.

This gives Cabinet less and less confidence that the aims of the development agreement will be achieved despite the council’s efforts to try and assist in difficult times.

However, all should understand, the development currently has a valid and enacted planning application for the proposal. They also have a previously agreed and valid development agreement and leases.
TDC holds the freehold for the site and future transfer of the freehold is part of an agreement with the developer approved back in 2006.
Complex legal and financial matters always need care and assessments of risk.

However, if the work on legal and financial issues is clearly demonstrating a route forward then Cabinet is more than willing to act to try and bring this long running issue to a resolution.

Former TDC Labour Councillor & Cabinet Member - Dennis Hart

Last but far from least, as I said at the start of my report, this has been the toughest period of my term as leader. Several major projects and issues have reached crucial points almost simultaneously.

However, for me personally, this has also been a particularly difficult time:

Former councillor Dennis Hart, my brother, has been battling serious health problems for some time now. At Christmas he underwent a triple heart by-pass, quite incredible when considering the other serious conditions he has to cope with.

Due to those serious complications, recuperation from that operation was very slow and extremely complicated indeed, but after several months he did return home.

Unfortunately, on the 18th May, Den was once more rushed into the QEQM where his heart stopped beating for ten minutes. He was then unconscious in intensive care for well over a week. Later he was moved to Kent and Canterbury hospital for several more weeks.

He finally went home on Monday 1st July, but was rushed back into intensive care on Thursday 4th July.

I am therefore delighted to report that I’ve spent the last two lunchtimes drinking tea with Den at his flat in Westgate.

He went out today looking stronger than I’ve seen him for the past year.

Chairman, I’m delighted to report that my brother, former TDC Cllr Dennis Hart, is officially the toughest cookie on earth and I am a very, very, proud brother!

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