New ideas to stop the port haemorrhaging cash have been raised by the Ramsgate Action Group.
The group has been campaigning for clear information from Thanet council over the port and harbour accounts in light of a deficit adding up to more than £20 million since 2010.
Members have been promoting the idea of a marina village – with the offer of a feasibility study by international consultants Marine Development Limited made last year – to make the site economically viable but now say options could also include anything from further industrialisation to a ‘people’s port’ with a super-version of Herne Bay’s pier development.
A sum of £500,000 has been stripped out of spending plans and another £130,000 of savings have also been agreed for this year making £630,000 (£730,000 for a full year) in cuts.
That decision came at the end of the saga of Seaborne Freight proposals for a Ramsgate/Ostend ferry service which, in December, saw the firm awarded a £13.8 million government contract for extra ‘Brexit-resilience’ crossings despite having no ferries and no company track record.
The government ditched the deal in February after saying backers for Seaborne had pulled out. The news came amid mounting pressure from politicians, media and reports from the National Audit Office that revealed Seaborne Freight was flagged as being a ‘high risk proposition’ before it was awarded the post-Brexit extra capacity contract.
Last month the government abandoned the entire Brexit ferry deal with termination payout of £43.8million to the firms, and associated costs taking the final bill to some £50million.
At the end of February councillors acknowledged the ferry option was finally off the table.
RAG has since put forward five alternatives to stem the continued losses, which they estimate to still equate to some £1 million per year.
Top of the options list is a marina village development which could include an expansion of the marina, a hotel complex or conference centre, leisure and retail outlets, restaurants and cafés, maritime sports and activities, such as yachting school or windsurfing, and residences or housing developments.
MDL, responsible for projects including Ocean Village in Southampton, offered to carry out the study last year but other potential investors or developers could also lay out their plans.
RAG spokesman Steve Coombes said: “Without major infrastructure investment, perhaps anything from £35 million – £200 million, a ferry option at the port no longer looks possible.
“Given the accumulated deficit of over £20 million and likely projected future losses of approximately £1.3 million per year, RAG hopes that TDC will commission the MDL proposal for a feasibility study on a maritime village development on the Port of Ramsgate as soon as possible.
“One of the components of our proposal will be to lay out all options for the future of the port, with a clear cost-benefit analysis for each of them.”
Industrialisation could include expansion of Brett Aggregates as well as other firms carrying out activities such as reprocessing waste.
However, there has been local opposition to further industrialisation and some anger at a tender from Thanet council which includes a 3,000 tonne per hour conveyor in the replacement for berth 4/ 5 which is used by Brett Aggregates.
RAG fears the expansion could lead to pollution of surrounding areas, particularly the adjacent marine RAMSAR and Sites of Special Scientific Interest around Pegwell and Sandwich Bay and has launched a campaign against the proposals.
The group also say the tender, and expected increase in industrialisation, would kill off the marina village plans even before the feasibility study is carried out.
The group is urging Thanet’s newly elected councillors to raise this, and take action, at their first full council meeting on May 16.
Thanet council says some £40,000 is earmarked for a feasibility study of the port to be carried out before the end of the year.
RAG spokesman Steve Coombes said more shipyard facilities could be another alternative, adding: “There have been suggestions the port could be converted into a shipyard that services yachts, particularly super-yachts. The current slipways could be extended to expand the port and harbour’s ability to repair and service crafts of all shapes and sizes.
“A People’s Port option could involve version connecting up the east and west by a series trails, installations and activities. The port itself could become a sort of “super” version of Herne Bay Pier, incorporating small scale retail and leisure outlets, perhaps a stage or even a theatre.”
The final option would be a combination of the previous suggestions, other than industrial activities.
Steve added: “MDL’s proposal for a feasibility study also allows them to take soundings from the public and other interested parties to consider any other serious options that have not be included so far.
“So if anyone has any plausible and financially viable ideas for the port that have been overlooked, RAG and MDL would like to hear from them.”
Ramsgate Port’s losses also include £5million in live export compensation paid after the High Court overruled a live export ban from the port put in place by the then-Labour led council and £3.4million for bankrupt TransEuropa Ferries unpaid fees and charges.
The port has a temporary deal with car shipper GEFCO but there has not been a ferry service since TransEuropa Ferries filed for bankruptcy in April 2013.
The last successful operation was run by Sally Line Ferries. Sally ceased operations in 1998.
Thanet council pays a £246,000 lease fee to Crown Estates for the land.
So good to see this; we are looking at Coastal Regeneration, and potentially an imaginative, economically viable (and repeatable) model that could be of benefit to other coastal towns as well. A feasibility study will consider all options for the Port but having said that industrialisation is a poor option when so many facilities and services could be provided for the community, for young people, and visitors. We have to be sure that the feasibility study takes place as soon as possible under the incoming administration.
Horses and stable doors still
It is good that people want to force progress. But it is long overdue that those same people face reality. They are now dealing with a new council which inherits a situation of about face review of contaminated land strategy. If that review is conducted properly it must examine the history of Brett planning consent and the history of toxic chemicals burial at Pegwell Nature Reserve and the implications of toxic firefighting foam residue at Manston with access to Thanet water supply
By law TDC should have reported these issues to Public Health England in the Brett in the Nemo and in the Manston planning process. Also by law TDC should have reported these issues to KCC Director Public Health and to Clinical Commissioning Group in the NHS Planning process
One of the issues the invester put to Kent Police Economic Crime Unit Inquiry, re Manston, is that the applicant plan, to allegedly avoid environmental hazards to health law duties, is fraud. The people at RAG seem to understand this but then to take a leaf out of the same book by concealing environmental hazards to health statutory duties in their visions. Even from the much vaunted feasibility study.
Simple, TDC return the port to the Crown Estate who can spend vasts amounts of its fortune on the port, instead of local tax paying Thanet residents forking out for it.
Who exactly are RAG? They make a lot of noise but dont actually seem to have any accountability to the local community. They have been pushing their idea of a marina for a long time, however this will not bring the real jobs local Ramsgate residents need. Ramsgate, doesn’t need to be turned into a rich boy’s pleasure stop off but needs to provide real jobs and industry for locals. Ferry Port still offers a good solution to bring in passing trade and providing local jobs. RAG seems to only want a ‘pretty’ chocolate box Ramsgate not what makes Ramsgate that is a seaside town that has its own identity by have a great mix of tourism and local industry.This needs to be encouraged to be continued, not suffocated by RAG and its gentrification attempts
The port area is ideal for industry. So long as these industries conform to health and safety regulations. As BAP says, jobs are what’s needed here. Ramsgate is a fantastic town and it needs local workplaces, what could be better than workplaces in the town itself?
Would anyone want to live in a house or flat on the port area? Only for a short time in the summer, I should think. (The Nero Road flats are still empty.) Super-yachts are hideous great things, why encourage the super-rich?
I don’t suppose we should be in the least bit concerned that a director of MDL Marinas Group Ltd – The Honourable Edward Richard Iliffe – is also a director of Kent On Line Ltd and KM Media Group Ltd.
No doubt any pieces presented by these news outlets about marina villages in Ramsgate would be completely impartial.
This site is nothing to do with the KM group