The study proposing future uses of Ramsgate Port and Harbour will look at ideas including a hotel and conference centre, berthing for small cruise ships, waterfront homes and the possibility of a maritime village
The work, which will take approximately 12 weeks, was put out to tender last month with a cut off date of September 27. It will look at several possible uses to generate income.
The first area is commercial, which would consider extending current industrial uses of the port – such as Brett aggregates; making more use of the sea and renewable energy facilities already used by London Array; introducing advanced manufacturing and offices. More artist studios and workshops and specific marine related retail such as yacht chandlery will also be examined.
A residential plan will look at waterfront homes, and leisure uses such as space for larger yachts than can presently be accommodated in Ramsgate, hotel and conference facilities, berthing for small cruise ships and shops.
Ideas for a maritime village development will look at mixed use development with waterfront homes, shops, restaurants and cafes and commercial units.
At a full council meeting in February Thanet council pledged some £40,000 for the study.
It followed the decision the same month to ditch £500,000 funding to keep Ramsgate port in readiness for a ferry operation and axe a further £130,000, totalling £630,000 (or £730,000 in a full year) from port spending.
It has not been detailed how the additional £130,000 will be saved.
The funding cut was made following the saga of Seaborne Freight proposals for a Ramsgate/Ostend ferry service which, in December 2018, 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.
The last successful ferry operation at Ramsgate was run by Sally Line Ferries. Sally ceased operations in 1998.
The study aims to find ways to stop the haemorrhaging of cash from the port side of operations.
Ramsgate Port has racked up total losses of £22 million since 2010. The amount includes £3.4million in unpaid berthing fees from bankrupt TransEuropa Ferries and £1.4 million of compensation paid to live animal exporters following a High Court order. However, the total paid in compensation rose to around £5million.
The study is phase one with phase two being the drawing up of a master plan. A final report is expected for completion by January 2020.
WSP has been responsible for some 300 maritime projects in more than 65 countries, including the Panama Canal Expansion and the restoration of the Alexandra Wharf in Canada.
Thanet council leader Cllr Rick Everitt said: “This is an important piece of work to explore options for the future of the Port and Harbour and we look forward to working with WSP. They are one of the world’s leading consultancy firms with a huge amount of experience and knowledge working on this type of project.”