A fire that devastated the Pleasurama site in Ramsgate took place exactly 20 years ago tonight (May 25).
The blaze on the evening of May 25 -going into May 26-, 1998, devastated everything on the site, including the listed railway -which was after deemed too dangerous to remain and was completely demolished – the amusement arcade, cafe/restaurant; bingo hall and associated offices.
It took place two years after then-owner Jimmy Godden took the land over.
Originally planning permission was given to Mr Godden, now deceased, for a shopping centre on the land but, in 2001, when it became clear this was not going to materialise Thanet council bought the site by compulsory purchase. The council did not pursue its right to insurance money paid out after the fire.
TDC then pursued The Ramsgate Renaissance Commercial Development Opportunity, laying out ideas including leisure for the site.
A deal was then made with development company SFP Venture, a firm registered in the British Virgin Isles, with representation from estate agent Terence Painter. The company submitted a planning application in November 2003.
In January 2004 planning permission was granted for a 60-bed hotel, 107 residential apartments, leisure facilities and retail. The anchor hotel/restaurant of this development was announced as Whitbread.
Whitbread later denied any involvement in the scheme.
In 2006 SFP Ventures (UK) was incorporated with one £1 share.
As part of its original agreement with Thanet council, SFP Ventures were to hand over a £550,000 deposit and a performance bond of £5.6million.
But in 2009 a new deal dropped the performance bond and agreed instead to surety of £1 million.
In April 2013, Thanet council rejected a bid for SFP to buy the freehold of the site before project completion.
SFP said it was unable to secure the necessary funds to complete the scheme under the existing development agreement.
In February 2014 cabinet members agreed to axe the development agreement with SFP, but were unable to reclaim the three 199-year leases for the site because they had no long stop date in the deal.
Talks with Cardy Construction to take over the project by buying out SFP were revealed in September 2014. A due diligence process was conducted into Cardy Construction Limited the same year. Cardy had to prove it had the funds for the scheme via credit checks, company and company personnel checks; There were also checks on three year audited accounts and evidence was required to show that Cardy Ramsgate Limited purchased 100% shares of SFP Ventures.
Contracts, which TDC say included a long-stop date, were signed with Cardy Ramsgate Ltd – an independent company created for the scheme – in March 2015.
Cardy Ramsgate Ltd completed a £3.515 million payment to Thanet council for the site freehold in July 2016. Land Registry records the sum as £3 million.
Cardy Construction went into administration the same month.
Michael Stannard, then the sole director of Cardy Ramsgate Ltd, resigned his role on August 15, 2016.
Mr Stannard had pledged to complete the project by 2017 but his resignation passed the scheme to Anthony Hollis who was appointed as director on August 12, 2016.
The firm was renamed Ramsgate Development Company Ltd.
Mr Hollis is a director of Aldress Developments SE Ltd, formerly SFP Ventures (UK) Ltd until a change of name last year.
Shaun Keegan, one of the founder directors of SFP Ventures with Mr Hollis, resigned his directorship in 2014.
Documents on Companies House reveal two people with ‘significant control’ of the Ramsgate Development Company as Colin and Robbie Hill. Both are listed with an address in Geneva.
They are involved with the Panama-based Mintal Group, which has a £3million charge on the seafront site.
Colin Hill, the son-in-law of Mr Keegan, was also a financier for the previous developers, SFP Ventures. He appears on the 2018 Times Rich List at 397th place with a personal fortune in excess of £200 million.
The last financial statement for Ramsgate Development Company Ltd, running for the financial year up until March 2017, shows the amount owed to creditors (director’s loan) now stands at £9.24 million.
A pledge to start work on the Pleasurama site by last Autumn has not come to fruition. A statement issued by Thanet council last November said Ramsgate Development Company Ltd had instructed construction works to begin on the seafront site.
According to a statement from TDC the company was due to undertake remedial works to the hoarding and other necessary building preparatory work. Some work to the hoardings was carried out.
Hoardings replacement has also been carried out this month. Construction work has still not taken place.
The latest contract with TDC stated the project must be completed within three-and-a-half years, which would imply a date of January 2020 if taken from contract completion. If it is not developed then the council has an option to buy it back.
It is not clear what sum TDC would need to pay, the £3.5 million the freehold was sold for or the market value of the land which, if developed, could potentially exceed £30-40 million.
The cliff wall adjacent to the building site remains in the ownership of the council, which is responsible for inspections and its maintenance.
Information that a local developer may have bought the site remain unsubstantiated.