A £3.4million debt on Ramsgate’s Pleasurama site has been paid

The Pleasurama site

A £3.4million charge on the former Pleasurama site in Ramsgate has been paid – meaning the title to the derelict site now comes under the sole control of Ramsgate businessman Martin Rigden.

Mr Rigden, also a director of Blueberry Developments, initially took significant control of Ramsgate Development Company – which owns the freehold of the site – in March 2019 but two debts were owed to Panama-based firm Mintal Group.

According to Companies House the charges were satisfied in full on January 27.

Accounts filed up to March 31 2019 show accrued debt of £11 million, up from £9.8 million the previous year. What that debt is made up of is not shown although a loan amount of £6.4 million remains out of the £9.8million listed for 2018. Loans are secured against work in progress.

The long running saga of the seafront site dates back more than 20 years. The plot has been empty since a fire in 1998.

Pleasurama fire 1998

Originally planning permission was given to James 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.

In 2004 planning permission was granted for a 60-bed hotel, 107 residential apartments, leisure facilities and retail.

The deal was headed by development company SFP Venture UK but work never got underway.

The Royal Sands project

In April 2013, Thanet council rejected a bid for SFP to buy the freehold of the site before project completion.

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. 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. The agreements included a performance monitoring arrangement with two milestone dates to ensure the site was built out. 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.

The firm was renamed Ramsgate Development Company Ltd.

Workmen on site at Pleasurama last year

Documents on Companies House revealed two people with ‘significant control’ of the Ramsgate Development Company as Colin and Robbie Hill.  They are involved with the Panama-based  Mintal Group, which had the charge on the seafront site.

Robbie Hill resigned the role in 2016. Colin Hill resigned in March last year.

The registered address for Ramsgate Development Company changed from Essex to Cliff Street in Ramsgate,

Mr Rigden is now the sole director of the company.

Photo Trevor Shonk

No work at the site has been undertaken aside from a survey and hoardings repairs last year. The last contract with Thanet council stated the project must be completed within three-and-a-half years, which would have implied a date of January 2020  if taken from contract completion. However this date has been and gone.

Stipulations within the contract mean 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, the £11million accrued debt 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.

A Thanet council spokesperson said: “The long stop date was extended and as the property has been sold on, we have contacted the new owners about their intentions.”

Read here: Pleasurama: 20 years since site destroyed in blaze