Future care of Albion Gardens thrown into doubt in ‘row over legal fees’

Madeira Walk waterfall Photo Brian Whitehead

Plans to transfer the care of Albion Gardens from Thanet council to Ramsgate Town Council have been thrown into doubt in a row about legal and estate fees.

In January 2019 Thanet council announced another round of asset disposals with some land and property going to auction and other sites earmarked for transfer to town and parish councils or community groups.

Among the sites on the asset list was Albion Gardens, including the Madeira waterfall and Pulhamite rocks, which was earmarked to be passed to Ramsgate Town Council.

Albion Place Gardens Photo Brian Whitehead

At the time the town council said it was unaware of the proposals and by July of that year the grassroots authority said there has still been “no consultation or negotiations” and the authority has simply been sent Thanet council’s asset disposal policy document.

Now the town council clerk Richard Styles says he is shocked to find out that RTC is expected to pay not only its own costs but also the conveyance/transfer and unspecified ‘estates fees’ of Thanet council.

This is in contrast to when RTC took on responsibility for Charlotte Court on a ‘no value transfer. RTC spent £10,000 on remedial measures to improve the small courtyard for use by the public.

Richard Styles

Mr Styles said: “Two years ago, TDC announced out of the blue that it had put Albion Gardens on the transfer list and that RTC was the favoured recipient in the public interest.

“RTC followed up this proposal and agreed to take on the liability for the site, even though it would probably mean a significant burden to local taxpayers. RTC accepted this in the public interest because the gardens, the pulhamite artificial rockwork, and the artificial waterfall contained within the garden, are key features that are clearly identified with Ramsgate as a town.

Photo by Brian Whitehead

“The transfer to RTC’s care should have taken place earlier this year, but it has not happened. The Covid-19 pandemic has slowed progress, but what really has brought matters to a complete halt was RTC finding that not only would it be paying its own legal fees for the conveyance/transfer, but that of TDC and unspecified ‘estates fees’.

“RTC felt that this was unfair and not in line with normal commercial or municipal practice, but TDC were or are adamant. RTC asked the TDC cabinet and the Leader to intercede, but they were told by the Senior Management Team (SMT) at TDC that ‘it would set a precedent’.

Photo Carole Adams

“RTC had hoped through one of its members serving on TDC to table a question under rule 14 at TDC’s Council meeting on December 10, seeking an explanation. For procedural reasons this was not possible and RTC is now placing those questions in the public realm.”

Ramsgate Town Council is now asking:

  1. Why, when Charlotte Court was transferred at no cost to RTC, TDC is now expecting RTC to fund both sides legal costs and unspecified ‘estate charges’, with Albion Gardens, on the grounds of maintaining precedent?
  2. Why does it take so long to convey land/buildings from one council to another?
  3. Where does the wider public interest feature, when an asset transfer is proposed? Does short term financial returns to TDC outreach the long term benefit to the community, where the asset resides and why?
  4. What steps are being taken to reform inter council asset transfers between TDC and its Town and Parish Councils, in order to reduce procedural delay and transaction costs? The same applies to management agreements.
  5. Many of these assets were received by TDC 40 years ago, under the 1974 local government reorganisation, and now that they are either surplus to requirements or becoming a burden to TDC’s resources. Is it justifiable that the host community which may have originally built or paid for the asset, is expected to uphold a principle of ‘maintaining a precedent’.

Mr Styles added: “RTC believes this matter is very important and requires a thoroughgoing reform process to allow assets that are a key part of the identities of all the communities in Thanet, to be transferred and to be given a safe home for the foreseeable future.”

A Thanet council spokesperson said: “It is normal practice for local authorities to charge legal and surveyors fees as well as valuation fees (if applicable) for land transfers. Accordingly, all transfers are subject to the transferee paying Thanet Council’s reasonable legal and surveying costs.

“The surveyor’s fee is not “unspecified”. Each buyer will be informed of the exact fees and we set those fees in accordance with the list published each year on our website under “Fees and Charges” linked here.

“Legal fees are quoted on an individual basis as the complexity of transactions varies. Legal fees are also published under “Fees and Charges”.

“For community asset transfers to Parish or Town Councils, we keep fees to a minimum, but are still obliged to charge our reasonable fees.”

25 Comments

  1. Well done Richard Styles for highlighting the fact that 1. The TDC Councillor wasn’t able to put the question forward. This seems to be a regular occurrence that our Councillors are thwarted with their enquiries. 2. The questions are very relevant and need to be answered by TDC. Why should there be a precendent set on this particular transfer? I am appalled that all of Ramsgate’s assets were given to TDC and in fact that TDC has been such a catastrophic failure over the past 46 years being, mixed up with Police Investigations, Auditor Investigations and Criminality by no less that two of its leaders. This action by TDC is a crime as far as I am concerned. RTC prove they are capable of looking after our assets so much better than TDC does.

  2. Members of Thanet District Council’s ‘senior management team’ need to remember who pays them, who they are working for and what their role is. Time after time their decisions do not serve the people of Thanet. It’s time that the senior management team were assessed for their fitness to practice.

  3. If RTC can find £10,000 to pledge to waste on crowedfunding for Dawes & co to try and stop Manston Airport re-opening and risking much needed jobs to east Kent. RTC can find £10,000 for this that will be for the benefit of the town and its residents rather than the selfish few as in the JR. Thankfully in the new year the law will be changed to stop judicial reviews being used by individuals who try to undermine democracy.

      • I believe she is married to him or even related to SRG ! It’s another stuck record of same old brainwashing.

        The assets were given to the council to look after in our interests so if the council want to remove the responsibility then they should hand them freely to whoever can reasonably handle that responsibility for public use and enjoyment.,

    • It is the opinion of the ExA that the number of jobs created by the airport, were it ever to start, would be more than outweighed by jobs lost in tourism and the hospitality sector.
      Not just my flight of fancy, but the opinion of 4 experts who spent months considering the evidence.
      Where’s your evidence, other than that spouted by the embezzelling struck off solicitor Tony Freudman?
      Plenty of people think that money spent on a JR is money well spent. I’m sure no-one wants an illegal DCO, not even you.

    • I hope Ann is as wrong in her statement about stopping judicial reviews as she is about at least some of the other statements she’s made.

  4. Mr X, I don’t, it’s the principal, anyway that jobs can be created in east Kent so families can prosper and have a meaningful life has got to better than unemployment struggling to live and despair.

  5. Ann

    Er you do

    You back his crazy plans for an airport that has failed 4 times in private ownership, isnt on the aviation fuel grid, has any decent infrastructure and is in the wrong location to name just a few problems.

    Ramsgate councillors stood to fight the airport plans and have backed up that by voting to support a local resident.

    A meaningful life lol living under old dirty cargo planes wake up and smell the gravy !! The airport is a non starter anyone in the aviation industry knows that.

    Anyway this is a out the airport ots about Albion Gardens so I digress.

  6. Mr X, don’t be childish, RTC can find £10,000 when it suits them so they can find another £10,000 for the Albion Gardens for the benefit of many not the few.

    • Strictly speaking, not having an airport at Manston would probably benefit more people than Albion Gardens does, just as having an airport would have the opposite of benefits for more people than not having Albion Gardens would.

    • Ann

      Please point out where I have been childish ? I have just pointed out some obvious and serious problems that the airport would have.

      I didn’t say if I agreed or disagree with RTC backing a local resident. I just said the councillors stood on the anti cargo hub airport and have backed that up.

  7. Surely these were originally owned by Ramsgate Borough Council. Then, when we became TDC these were part of the package at no cost. So the question is, why do Ramgate have to “buy” them back ??

  8. Bit rich (well they certainly aren’t) of RTC to complain about not being consulted when they didn’t consult the public before spending £5000 on that JR regarding Manston Airport, perhaps if they hadn’t spent money on that they could afford the legal fees.

  9. Somehow RTC must keep control of the gardens and waterfall. I don’t really mind what happens at Manston. However what RTC did when openly supporting the JR was a failure in leadership. They have split the opinions of their constituents and lost in eye’s of many their integrity we all know that once lost it’s seldom regained. If RTC mention saving money most will look back at their past and think you are joking!

  10. This is about TDC setting g a precedent on Asset Transfers and expecting the Transferee to pay all legal fees. TDC have money for gagging orders let them pay their own fees.

  11. It is indeed about setting a precedent.

    The expert reports recognised that an airport at Manston might be beneficial to the country as a whole but was likely to be disadvantageous to Ramsgate. RTC accepted that view and wants to support Ramsgate residents. An airport at Manston has already failed three or four times. Will another failed airport benefit Ramsgate? By now we could have had an income from business rates and council taxes had the proposed mixed development gone ahead. Instead we face the prospect of a lorry park.

    Covid has changed the game. The big aiports are struggling and will be fighting tooth and nail to retain whatever business they can. In that climate does anyone seriously believe Manston, as a small newcomer, will stand a chance? Even if you thought so before?

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