Anger as Ramsgate gardens cared for by residents association for 32 years put up for auction by Thanet council

The gardens have been maintained by residents including Jocelyn McCarthy (standing) for more than 30 years

Members of a residents’ association that has spent 32 years clearing and maintaining a piece of land in Ramsgate so it can be used by the community are angry and disappointed at Thanet council’s decision to sell the site at open auction.

The Vale Square east garden is due to go under the hammer on September 13 with Allsop property auctions as part of the council’s asset disposal programme.

The sale of council owned land and property is aimed at bringing money into the coffers and reducing any maintenance costs.

But the Vale Square Residents Association, which successfully registered the garden as a community asset in 2014, has been told that if members want to own the site they will have to bid at the auction.

Jocelyn McCarthy (left) with Ramsgate mayor Trevor Shonk

Jocelyn McCarthy, from the association, says a pledge from the authority that the group would be able to have the land under a community transfer has been dumped and letters and emails asking for the site to be withdrawn from auction have gone unanswered.

Mr McCarthy said: “For 32 years we have maintained the square and we were told it would transfer to us.

“When I moved here in 1986 it was a mess, rubbish dumped everywhere. But we raised money and put the railings back as part of a licence agreement with the council for us to be able to use it.  We spent about £4,500 on that and every four years we spend about £4,000 to maintain the trees which all have TPOs (preservation orders). We pay about £60 a year for the licence which means we can use the square for the community.

“We have spent a lot of money and a lot of time on it and were promised we’d have the option for it to transfer to us if we paid all the legal costs.

“We went to our lawyers and put in a bid and then on July 19 she (Thanet council asset consultant Edwina Crowley) emailed to say the association was not qualified to bid, the moratorium (temporary hold on sale) was over and it was going on the open market. They are saying we have to take pot luck and bid.”

The site, which is yet to be listed on the Allsop auction catalogue, is said to have an asking price of £1,000 but this could rise if there are rival bidders.

The association also says if the plot goes to a private buyer the community may well lose access to it and could see it deteroiate.

Member Barry Quinn said: “For 30 years the Vale Square Residents Association, under the auspices of Jocelyn McCarthy and Stephen Davies, have taken what was a derelict dumping ground and, using their own money and much time, rebuilt the railings and planted and maintained it and turned it into a beautiful community asset that enhances the square and Ramsgate and at no cost to the council.

“Yet, despite this dedication, and assurances from the council over the years, TDC have decided to ignore this and just sell it off to the highest bidder, the buyer could then then do what they want including potentially letting it deteriorate, and of course the local community would lose access to it.

“Feelings are running high and residents and other concerned groups are organising various campaigns to try and stop this happening, but time is running out as the auction is on September 13.”

The association is being supported by MP Craig Mackinlay and ward councillor Peter Campbell who, amongst others, have contacted Thanet council urging that the sale is put on hold.

A Thanet council spokesman said: “The land at Vale Square, Ramsgate, was listed for disposal in 2015. This decision was approved at Cabinet on 24 November 2015.

Photo Clive Hart

“This is in line with our Asset Strategy which requires the council to identify land and property that is surplus to our requirements to be disposed with. By doing this we have the potential to contribute to capital projects and reduce our liabilities through management, repair and maintenance.

“The land is registered as an asset of community value and the disposal process has followed the process regulated statute.  Notification of the disposal of the land was given triggering an initial moratorium period between 12 March 2018 and 23 April 2018. During this time expressions of interest were sought from qualifying community interest groups, however, unfortunately there was no qualifying bid.

“We understand this creates uncertainty for the licensee, Vale Square Residents’ Association, but we have an obligation to follow our transparent policy and processes for disposals. This includes now putting the sale of the square in to a market where all residents, including those who are not necessarily members of the association, have the opportunity to bid for the site.

“The license between the council and Vale Square Residents Association is not being terminated and the auction reserve price is a nominal sum, reflecting any restrictions that are registered with the land.”

Vale Square Residents’ Association is holding a gathering in the gardens at 2pm today to garner support for their campaign to stop the site going to auction.

A petition launched to back the residents association claim to the gardens can be found here


    • Oh like your not for manston airport yes I’m still a member Karen and sorry to say you pick and chose what you want but not listen to the public as well this has annoyed me and I will see you and your not fit for office people at the next meeting.

      • I believe Karen fights for what is right for the people of Thanet and what the majority of residents want. That is listening to the public! This story has nothing to do with Manston. You protestors believe Manston is the be-all end-all of Thanet. There is much more to Thanet than that and Karen, as a Thanet Councillor can comment on what she thinks is right or wrong with the council decisions, which she does here. Nothing more and nothing less. Stop lowering the tone trying to get your personal view of Manston across in stories nothing to do with it.

  1. This assets stripping is absolutely disgusting. Eventually TDC will be poor and have no real buildings of history left, let alone the ignorance of our heritage and the heritage project. As the residents watch the council ruin local communities such as this by not allowing special reference to the common owners and users and patrons of the land. Money money money!! Don’t get me started on the travesty Dreamland has caused or the millions TCS has lost on it. Or the wasted 1.5million lost on the Turner centre. I think this decision making committee needs full investigation. Thanet District Council is not a real estate agent.

  2. Can’t believe this ! I hope it goes to the residents ! Lovely garden . Many happy memories of playing there as a child and attending fates and parties. Very sad x

  3. I wish the residents of Vale Square good luck in their endeavours with trying to secure this area of land from Thanet Council. No one in their right mind what’s this land to pass to some property speculator who thinks they can twist the Planning and Conservation Regulations to make a fast buck and ruin a community asset, however we do live in Thanet!

    On a personal note I have lived in Ramsgate for 12 years and my dealings (far too many for an ordinary resident) with Thanet Council under Administrations of all political persuasions at Councillor and Officer level apart from a few honourable exceptions have been totally negative. We can only hope that next May the stables will be cleared out once again and we just may get a few more sensible and thinking people elected to the Council.

  4. Disgusted by this. I grew up just around the corner from this plot. It was a rubbish tip and dangerous playground for me as a child.
    As an adult it’s one of the areas I now love to admire. It’s an area I show off with a sense of pride to my visitors when they visit Ramsgate.
    I applaud those that have worked hard and maintained these gardens over the years.
    Thanet Council need to verse this disgraceful and short sighted decision.

  5. What is wrong with TDC do they live in another county .We have weeds growing on the side of every road .We have no police officer and crime is all around us .Then they take away a garden that shows ramsgate people’s passion and commitment they really have lost it

  6. Can anyone tell me (FOI act possible? ) what this area of land costs TDC to maintain?) As a previous resident of 12 yrs there I know the local community has initiated 30urs ago, tidied, maintained, planted. Cleaned up, repaired, (for 30yrs!) hosted concerts/theatre, table top sales with local crafters and businesses all with the local community. Yet TDC want to make a few ££. Shame on TDC, this will not go down quietly:

  7. To those at vale square I would watch your selves with a couple of labour members they will stab you in the back second chance they get

  8. A disgusting abuse of council power – this land should not be theirs to sell! Has the association considered a crowd-funding campaign to raise funds? I’d contribute

  9. Pay for our so called council officials really needs reviewing to ensure that bonuses of any description are not paid! They are just not worth it and really have not earned it!

    • It’s the officers, not the councillors, whether they be
      Conservative or Labour, doing all these dirty deeds. They run the show & any non-compliant councillors are ‘disposed of’.

  10. Well Chris Wells and his band of brothers at tdc sold off our work shops at Dane valley, twenty two old established businesses were left destitute, some folded,the site is now a rubbish tip

    • indeed, Tony, despite all our best efforts. Now the businesses that supported each other there have either closed up or relocated, some locally, others elsewhere and even abroad so those unique skills that you could have passed on to younger residents are lost to us.

  11. An appalling decision by TDC. And if they get away with this, how long before they sell the green area along my road in St Peters for housing? And all the other green areas set aside on modern housing estates for the residents to enjoy – how long before they’re all sold off?

    • Some of those pieces of open space will be in the Broadstairs and St. Peter’s Neighbourhood Plan so if accepted, would be protected for some time at least.

  12. Do the council even own this piece of land, I suspect if you go back far enough, it is included in the deeds of the surrounding houses. The council has had a habit of acquiring ‘derelict’ land over the years, which if it was any other organisation would be called theft!

        • This has everything to do with Tory cuts. The Tory’s ideologically-driven programme of austerity has resulted in a significantly reduced Local Authority Finance Settlement year after year.

          • Mismanagement by TDC, not ‘Tory cuts’ You can’t blame the Tories for EVERYTHING. I blame Jeremy Corbyn & his ilk for the demise of the Labour Party. Frank Field would make a great leader but he’s not ‘in with the in crowd.’

  13. ‘Asset Strategy’, Is this the title given by TDC meaning a list of land and properties developers want to get hold of and are willing to pay the council to put on their list?

  14. This is appalling. I urge the residents’ association to reach out to the wider town populace to try to save this green area. I don’t live near Vale Square and I have only once gone to an event there but I recognise that it’s an asset to the town and must be kept. I am willing to make a financial contribution in the event that it goes to auction and a realistic bid is needed to be placed to secure its purchase. Are there others out there willing to do the same? Does the residents’ association have someone or a committee to coordinate this?

    • The residents association are the only people who have keys and the garden is open to the public about once a year
      Why would you offer to pay money to them ?
      Give it to a good cause – shelter – nspcc
      The only people who benefit from the land are the residents association memebers and if you don’t live on the square you can’t join the association – this will effect but a handful of people
      It’s not a public place they call it their private residents garden

  15. I agree with Andrew. We voted for “austerity” thinking that cut backs would always affect somebody else. The “undeserving” sort of person, perhaps. But now it is affecting US because TDC are selling off some land to try to make up the money cut back by the government for “austerity” reasons. It’s not just a case of how bad the TDC councillors are. They ARE pretty bad but they are struggling to keep the Council’s head above water , while trying not to blame their own government for cutting off their money and dumping them in a financial mess.

    • Well done keefogs austerity has effected the poor dramatically and nothing is said, cuts to many services but but they are the so called undeserving poor it only hits home for some when it effects them directly ,it’s a shame that your gardens are being hit by the cutbacks to,but just think for a moment what’s been cut before this got to you let’s hope you can also campaign for less able,affluent ,privalaged groups who don’t have the luxury of your lawyers if you vote for austerity don’t complain when it effects you .

      • The gardens cost TDC nothing to maintain, nothing for 30+ yrs, it’s all funded and tendered by the local community for the community. The local community pays TDC ‘rent’. No austerity here with TDC.
        Your misguided presumption and personal preconception re lawyers and luxury are far from the truth. Perhaps you should research the many Ramsgate projects instigated and supported by many here.

      • It has everything to do with ineptitude with TDC….the lost £3 million, money lost hand over fist with the harbour, etc.

  16. Is there any reason why this green space isn’t included in the Ramsgate Neighbourhood Plan that identifies and allocates, subject to consultation, sites that fulfil the criteria required to be accepted as an ‘open green space’?

    Whoever is drafting the Neighbourhood Plan needs to try to have this piece of land included as soon as possible.

  17. Bloody council, waste of space everything owned by then gets ruined they should concentrate on making what they own tidy, look at all the verges and land this year absolute disgrace full of weeds and you can hardly see over the roundabouts. The Vake square is a lovely area and so well maintained leave it alone!!!

  18. Be good if a band of Gypsies and Travellers won the auction..Be a great place to put their caravans and keep their horses.

  19. Stella, or whatever your real name is, each town council is producing a Neighbourhood Plan and the Broadstairs and St. Peter’s one is already out for comments in a consultation closing on September 17th, produced by a working party of interested residents, town councillors and other interested parties. Where there is no town council a group of interested residents are working on theirs.

    Ramsgate Town Council must be producing one but as I have no idea who Jenny Dawes is, I can’t comment or even know if she has any part to play in that.

    • Chaps, I am going to have to remove the Jenny Dawes comments as they are legally fraught with her having no opportunity to answer

  20. I never thought in a million years I would be saying this but I have had enough, 100% I’ve had enough of the Conservatives, it’s ironic that is the name of their party because they conserve nothing, they would sell their own grandmothers off to avoid nursing home fees and funeral cost. They are an absolute disgrace both in government and with the local mob who think they are important. Our streets are filthy our railways are a sick joke our NHS is on its knees and the crime rate has never been worse. I will be voting Labour not because I think they are the be all and end all but because their leader has a heart for a heart and not a block of ice that Mrs May has for hers. Why I say never in a million years is because I am Jewish. The Tories arre a disgrace.

  21. As usual TDC have gone back on there words a lovely little bit of land which I have been to see and how much does it cost nothing the friends pay for its up keep we are losing to many open spaces and this is one of the best it is better than any area that TDC manage is that why you want to get shot of it it puts all of yours to shame stick by your words TDC and let the people have it.

  22. I thought this was private land in the first place.

    As the Vales Sq residents have sole access to the park (as far ad I know), they should buy it and end this bizzare situation where council tax money is subsidising their private use. Indeed, the article is mentioning “reducing any maintenance costs” which means that some expenses related to Vale park are paid by the owner,TDC.

    Personally, I would like it to remain in the hands of the council and opened to the public.

    • I too would like the gardens to be in council hands and open to all, and to still be looked after lovingly as they have been for 32 years – but is this likely to happen? I don’t think so. As the asking price seems relatively little, even smaller if divided up between a number of sponsors or donors, all it needs is a bit of imagination and an open mind to negotiate with the residents more flexible access to the townspeople than there is at present. But along with the privilege of being able to go in the gardens would come the responsibility of helping to maintain the area and keep it as beautiful as it is now, ie. litter free, for example. If the council is allowed to simply sell it to the highest bidder, the only party to benefit from the sale will be the bidder, and we can only surmise as to what might happen to the square after the auction. This is why I’m suggesting that we consider a scenario in which a number of Ramsgate residents ‘club’ together to offer the highest bid. This is obviously assuming that the petition does not force or even pressure the council to reverse its decision, which is what we would all want. As always, unfortunately, time is not on our side.

  23. I can understand an urgent need to “club together” to buy the land. But, if it is Council-owned, then we, the people, ALREADY own it. Why spend money buying it from ourselves?
    It sounds a bit like privatisation all over again. At one time , we owned all the railways, the health services, all the prisons, the water and gas and electricity industries,the airports, the leading airline etc. Now we, the people, own hardly any of it, apart from the NHS , and that is slowly being whittled away. Tell the Council we already own that land so leave it be. Concentrate on EXPANDING the resources that we collectively own, like more Social Housing for affordable rents!

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