Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Letter to TDC CEO: Wetherspoons drinks licence for Pavilion: Britain's biggest pub

A rather bizarre argument by Tim Howes the legal person at TDC over an email being sat on by him for 6 weeks and the Licensing Committee meeting being suddenly cancelled - so the Wetherspopons licence was approved by just one clerk - Philip Bensted - without any councilor involvement at all(!) for Britain's biggest boozer(!).

TDC at its murkiest and incompetent best.

More later, but my letter here:

Madeline Homer
Chief Executive
TDC Council

Tuesday 29th March 2016

Dear Madeline
I wanted to write to you/Planning Committee on the Ramsgate Pavilion and Wetherspoons planning application/drinks licence.

I would completely agree with Kent Police and DCI Adley in refusing the drinks licence - and indeed TDC in initially rejecting the application.

It’s worth considering that what would be Britain’s biggest booze-barn is likely to be a major centre of disorder and police resource: that part of the seafront is furthest from the town centre and would require extra police patrols as soon as the fighting and use of the beach got out of hand.

To be blunt, a Wetherspoons 15 hour drinks licence in that part of the town centre would be like The Last Days of Rome.

In particular the older Planning/licensing committee members may remember the Sawdust Caesars running amok during the 1960’s that blighted Thanet’s seaside towns – numerous fights and injuries and police being airlifted in to control the influx of Mods and Rocker fights during the Spring and Summer Bank Holidays. Not dissimilar to the recent bussed-in trouble at the Dover riots around demonstrations.

Undoubtedly the same would happen the first Bank Holidays after a mega-Wetherspoons opening - if not most weekends. And similar questions and concerns would then be raised.

At the moment though it’s worth remembering that two large Wetherspoons have closed in Kent at Dartford and Sittingbourne so Wetherspoons is hardly a panacea for regeneration - and as with Sports Direct a focus for parliamentary concerns over zero hours contracts.

As well £1.5M in repairs may sound a large amount but is minimal for a Grade 1 Listed structure next to the only Royal Harbour in Britain: nearer £5M would begin to be realistic. The plans I saw last year at the Royal Yacht Club were weak, simply being photos of the old building 100 years ago and one or two loose drawings and a new glass arch.

As you know I’ve made no bones about my intention to open the Pav as The House of Bamboo jazz club, photographers gallery and Buddhist temple.

The latter faith was cited in Archbishop of Dover’s Easter message on interfaith work with (only 87 Buddhist temples in UK) the Church of England centred in East Kent at nearby Canterbury.

The House of Bamboo is far more in keeping with the Café Culture programme and the Nightime Economy work cited by DCI Adley, and begun by innovative nightspots such as the NME Music Hall, Belgian Bar, Bench Tapas, Rokka and Miles bar.

A bog-standard Wetherspoons would undermine this work.

While the larger bars such as The Goose or various Thorley Taverns would feel the strain in reduced custom – both rather excellent in terms of staff training and SIA/bouncer training without excessive drinks promotions.
Again to be blunt, Wetherspoons as a booze equivalent of Tescopolies would undercut the other pubs and create more zero hours/minimum wage salaries. This is of little benefit to Ramsgate, nor carves out a niche different from any Wetherspoons in any town to help Thanet tourism.

A giant Wetherspoons - while seemingly useful - would destroy the green shoots of recovery in Thanet’s tourist towns, that only the children and grandchildren of the elderly councillors will be able to witness.

Again as you know the required Community Right to Bid I raised – and for clarity I’d repeat again here - was simply ignored by the Planning Director now resigned. Wetherspoons would also be concerned at any flawed process and legal challenge.

Anecdotally several members of the public have urged me to take on the Pav and generate the required jobs etc after almost 8 years derelict especially if the best that we can now come up with is a Wetherspoons booze-barn.
Please reject the licence and Wetherspoons application for the Pavilion.

Copies to Committee and Kent Police and on my blog for public review.

Separately can I raise some specific points:

• Bouncy castles: obviously the terrible death in Essex this weekend – and previous serious injuries - raises issues over bouncy castles at pubs and on Ramsgate seafront for the Planning Committee. I’ve previously raised specific concerns on the noise of the generators and the Taliban could not have designed them better to trap and chop off a child’s fingers or hand – these should be banned from public areas or as a minimum permanent supervisory presence
• RNLI: raised previously with RTC: noisy and polluting beach quad bikes to drive a few feet amongst holidaymakers
• RNLI slipways memorial/boards need preserving
• Slipways: an awful mess that should be cancelled – as with the previous restaurant building project in the same spot - and a Hornby Visitor Centre considered for elsewhere within the town if not New Pleasurama. The Slipways are a key part of a working Port.
• Pleasurama: still a mess and should be cancelled and the site cleared for the Summer
• Tonis newsagent and other town shops/WC: radios blaring outside
• Seafront pubs: Friday and Saturday litter ending up in the harbour for the sake of a bin or 5 minutes with a broom – unfair on the street sweeper doing a rather excellent job
• Similarly dustbin collections in the town centres should be changed from Friday market days
• Litter Patrol stood outside Boots glaring at the public in a stab vest and itching to issue tickets of not much use – a parking warden role too?
• Trade station: machetes, crossbows and hi-powered rifle dangerous but could no doubt be bought up on expenses as a part of a gun and knife amnesty
• Bako van man HGV and now Gefco car transporters on the seafront rather than in the many car parks
• Pedestrianisation of Marina seafront ie removal of parking spaces and enforcement of existing High St pedestrian zone: cars on pavements, driving through, cash vans etc
• Particularly week Bank Holiday events: no funfair, weak advertising of events, Xmas lights not switched on/fireworks etc etc. The worst ever and resulting in a Ghost Town - and certainly not good value for £17M provided to TDC in tax and £400k to RTC and £2BN to KCC plus business rates and national taxes.
• Increasingly – and loosely - I think Pleasurama would be more suited to an ice rink, Hornby centre and open park/funfair certainly the BVI hotel and apartments and shops are another nonsensical overbuild project of little use to the town.
• Discovery park/SHP: review of DP site given Pharma focus
• Parkway: cancelled and £17M cost review
• CCU review/expansion: Broadstairs campus and bus/train links to Canterbury campus and Cliftonville student digs area
• Gasworks and Carpet Warehouse concerns: numerous empty houses housing destroying the town centre and lack of office space
• I’d echo the Gazette comments on Harbour St being a mess and the c.£20k funds has not been detailed as yet, not does last week’s Coastal Communities Minister comment on £2M provided to TDC seem correct or how it has been deployed? Also the KOS comments on Richboro rubble not cleared yet nor the derelict wind turbine
• Ships off North Foreland: c.10 berthed actually amongst windfarms(!) and c.5 far too near the beaches: Torrey Canyon accident etc destroying the Blue Flag beaches and tourist economy for years
• Sand on prom and steps: tourist season begins 1st March certainly not after the Bank Holiday
• 100 SE Rd garden grabbing clearly illegal breaching TDC’s own Local plan and ETC? TDC approved flats and excessive mega-extension: please advise as this should be returned back to the previous footprint – copy of November meeting minutes attached again.
• Paramount theme park relevant for East Kent and EKFilm/Studio as I’ve raised previously and Dreamland
• Thor mercury near Broadstairs is still polluting and endangering the public
• I’ll forward the recent parliamentary report on the Border Force citing the UK’s lack of airport and port security – albeit with Kent Police Operations Pegasus and Kraken - which is relevant for Manston previously, and Ostend and Lydd now
• That said I’d flag up Port Ostend – and recent town visit - and requirement for a foot passenger ferry as part of Ramsgate regeneration
• I would highlight the rather excellent street sweeping and pothole tweaks and public toilets cleanliness- also TDC Beach Volleyball and Beach Soccer activity
• EK Stack: a cement park for 2 days a year seems of minimal value: Dover DDC liaison?
• Can I flag up for TDC schools liaison: BBC Microbit computer free to schoolkids: first 1M produced – worrying if EK kids at the bottom of the pile in receiving them

Please advise on next steps and if you need any other details on the above.

Kindest regards


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