Friday, 26 September 2014

Cliffhanger

The integrity of Pleasurama has been much discussed lately and Thanetonline has much information about the issues as does this blog, however after the Overview & Scrutiny called in the Labour Cabinet decision because of the following:
The Chairman of the Overview and Scrutiny Panel called-in the Cabinet decision on 15 September 2014. In calling-in the decision the Chairman indicated the follows:
“I am not persuaded by the argument and evidence given in the report to postpone implementing the earlier Cabinet decision agreed on 20 February 2014.
I have some doubt about the clarity of aims and desired outcomes arising out of this decision and I would therefore wish for these to be explored further. Given the considerable local interest in the site I would wish for the matter to be called in.”
During the debate much was discussed however I want to concentrate of the cliff facade and pose some serious questions.
Previous leaseholders of the Pleasurama site were responsible for the maintenance of the facade however when the new leases were drawn up between 2006 and 2009 for some strange reason not only did TDC take responsibility for the facade and the cliff face behind they also took responsibility for the maintenance as well. So that decision led to the following, the sale generated £550K from SFP Ventures (UK) ltd but in 2008 TDC paid out £900K (with a contribution of £100K from SFP) so that was a nett expenditure of £250K from out Council Tax.
Some explanation of this facade is required at this point.
The chalk cliff was covered with a facade of concrete columns along the 1/2 mile of the site cast against the cliff face however in 2010 it seemed there had been some separation of these columns away from the cliff.
In between these columns had been place 100mm Concrete blocks to a height of about 45 feet however these blocks are not tied into the cliff and are angled such that the weight is supported on foundations described as "shallow and not well compacted"
After Cardy went on site late 2009 and less than a year after TDC spent £900K on the facade the HSE stopped all work on the site due to a bulge and cracks appearing in one panel. Engineers were called in and they inspected. The cause of the bulge was "We suspect the void was filled with the fallen debris (of the chalk) causing a force onto the blockwork skin which could not be resisted" Remember this is 100mm concrete blocks 45 feet high angled inward so how dangerous a force is that hidden behind a 1/2 mile stretch of facade (out of sight out of mind)
This was repaired at a cost to the Council of £20K and only one panel.

Their recommendation were that no works should commence until the structural integrity of the cliff face is established and/or made sound. It is important to understand at this point it is the cliff face hidden behind the facade is what needs inspecting and to date no one has looked (you need boreholes and cameras) You also have to remember the integrity of the chalk has been compromised by tunneling and the firing of howitzers mounted on the Eastcliff during the 2nd World War.

What is important to the building of apartments in front of this cliff is the only route for deliveries, refuse collecting and vehicular access for the leaseholders is a 13ft access road to the rear of the building creating a canyon with a building one side and a cliff face on the other. If maintenance or, God forbid, a fall that effectively cuts off access to the building.
My final point concerns the transfer of the freehold to the developer and the removal of the current leases leaving the freeholder the ability to draw up new leases for each apartment and A3 business. The freeholder will be able to place the onus for the maintenance onto the leaseholder via the ground rent charged, in fact, he would be foolish if he didn't as the building owners would be unable to recoup costs should they fail to do this. As the anticipated life span of the facade is currently unknown it is doubtful any solicitor's searching will be happy with an unknown it would be doubtful whether future purchases of the property would be either.
Rick Everitt last night assured the meeting they were fully aware of the issue of maintenance and confirmed an inspection will take place on the 15th and 16th of October. However as the site is 1/2 mile long and what is at issue is the integrity of the cliff face not the facade it is doubtful whether boreholes and cameras will be used to inspect the real issues.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work Michael. You summarise the situation very lucidly and surely no-one could claim they couldn't understand. The question still remains however, how was it that TDC took on the responsibility for an unknown liability that could run into millions when those leases were granted.

Barry James said...

Who is Michael?

Anonymous said...

Michael Bentine, as you lot are potty!

Anonymous said...

My apologies. Meant to say Barry.

Anthony Howard said...

Will the HSE continue to take an interest in the state of the cliff face....will it have to be satisfied with the 'quality' of any engineers report?

Barry James said...

HSE only get involved if the site is reported for unsafe issues. It is up to the main contractor to do a risk assessment based on any structural reports to hand.

Anthony Howard said...

There would seem to be a discrepancy here...that I have come across before. One way to make a H&S issue 'go away' is not report it in the first place. This happened in some schools with regards to asbestos, where suspected areas were deliberately covered over rather that be subjected to a full survey...which eventually happened anyway due the union involvement.

Barry James said...

I take your point however with such a public site this just wouldn't happen. In fact in December (ish) 2009 a crack and bulging was seen by the public and reported to the HSE leading to a £20K bill for TDC.

There is an issue with report recommendations being ignored or not acted on however this will not happen should the upcoming inspection fail to spot the defects in the 2010 report

Anthony Howard said...

Having read your article and earlier articles by Micheal detailing the structural issues with the cliff face...it seems to me that no one involved with this development, right down to the agents marketing the property, would be unaware that there are concerns that need proper investigation. Not to do so would almost seem to be criminal negligence....and probably would be if someone was eventually injured or killed by part of the cliff face collapsing on them.