Thanet council leader Rick Everitt has pledged more community involvement will take place next year before decisions are made about the future of Ramsgate Port and Harbour.
The pledge comes as public consultation on a feasibility study for the site closes today (December 18).
The study, which was initially published in January this year, examines a range of options for the Port and Harbour.
Due to the cancellation of two public drop-in sessions originally timetabled in March and April and the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings and events, the opportunity for comment was extended from the October 2 deadline to today at 5pm.
However, the continued covid crisis meant public events were not carried out.
Now Cllr Everitt has promised further community engagement, possibly along the lines of events and the panel set up for the Margate Town Deal.
He said: “”As leader of the council and portfolio holder for the port and harbour, I am very grateful to all those who took the trouble to respond, whether as individuals or as part of groups and organisations. Your input will help shape discussions as we move forward.
“Nevertheless, it was not the council’s intention that the document placed on the website should be the only basis for public engagement. We wanted to talk to stakeholders at the port itself, to bring the opportunities and challenges to life, and to stimulate the discussion. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, this has simply not been possible.
“At the same time, the council has recent experience of engaging with the public and stakeholders in Margate through the development of the Town Investment Plan for the Margate Town Deal bid. This involved putting together a Town Deal Board, a People’s Panel and working with individuals and organisations who have proposed ideas for regeneration. This has been very positive.
“I know that there is enormous passion in Ramsgate and beyond for the town and its future and that we haven’t been able to capture this energy properly through the current exercise. I have taken account of some of the comments made about this in the feedback.
“Ramsgate itself is benefitting from Heritage Action Zone funding and I believe that through working together as a community we can put together an exciting and widely supported plan to regenerate the whole town which can form the basis for lobbying central government and viable funding proposals.
“That will include engaging with the town council and other stakeholders, as well as the wide range of communities in Ramsgate, and bringing in external expertise to facilitate the process.
“We want to strengthen the links between the port and the town and it seems sensible now to consider them together as part of this larger exercise, capitalising on the amazing assets and opportunities that Ramsgate has, including the harbour and its surrounding area.
“There will be more details of what this work will look like early in the new year. However, I wanted to reassure everyone now that the council wants to do more than has been possible in 2020 to engage with residents about Ramsgate’s future and that the end of the feedback period on the feasibility study is by no means the end of that conversation.”
Consultant WSP’s report covers four specific areas (commercial, residential, leisure and mixed use) – other suggestions can be given too.
The report has suggested uses including reviving the hotel and conference centre plan for the Smack Boys Home building and creating industrial zones, waterfront homes, retail and themed leisure facilities.
The study looked at ideas including a hotel and conference centre, berthing for small cruise ships, waterfront homes and the possibility of a maritime village.
WSP also advise retaining commercial port functions so “ro-ro operations can be accommodated on a significantly condensed footprint compared to current operations.” A single berth is suggested.
The report says industrial zones should be prioritised to retain employment land and the scope to deliver a significant jobs boost to the area with a focus on “specialist recycling centres, bespoke design studios, and 3D print facilities.”
Workshop areas for entrepreneurship opportunities and creative industries is recommended as well making space for specialist maritime purposes, such as vessel design / architecture.
Cllr Everitt previously said he would like to see a major attraction based on Ramsgate’s maritime heritage and connection with the Dunkirk Little Ships , created in partnership with businesses and other organisations, to draw in visitors.
Themed leisure uses are also suggested such as a theme park, aquarium, or watersports centre on the land currently occupied by the commercial port. The study also says Brett Aggregate operations should remain in place for the duration of the company’s lease. The Brett’s site is currently the subject of a large number of objections relating to a new berth and queries over the lease and environmental impacts.
A suggested timeline of three and a half years to complete the project is given. The aim of the project is to stop the haemorrhaging of cash from port operations.
Find the WSP report at thanet.gov.uk/feasibility-study