Western Undercliff cafe, restaurant and flats plan to be ditched over pathway row

The development has been put on hold

Plans for a café, restaurant and flats at the Western Undercliff have been ditched by the developer in a row with Thanet council over further financial contributions.

Tim Burt, who is a partner in Western Undercliff Ltd, says negotiations with the council’s estates department have broken down over a demand for ‘excessive’ payment to allow an overhang on the new building which would go over council owned pathway.

There are also issues over the site being served by private sewers belonging to TDC and permission to connect the new build to them being denied.

An offer of £20,000 has been made for the over sail, which is a ledge similar to that on the Beach Retreat building in Marina Esplanade,  but has been rejected with Thanet council asking for an unspecified but ‘significantly higher’ figure which the authority says should reflect the market value.

Overhang at Beach Retreat

But Mr Burt said: “We are applying for consent to ‘over-sail’ the footpath while maintaining access – this footpath has no value as it cannot be sold and we are not blocking any future development by doing so.

“As for our value – as of today the value is marginal again – who would buy it given the constraints of the sewers, access and having to work with an intransigent TDC estates department?”

The path in dispute

The development was granted approval at the end of last year but a separate application is now needed for the overhang.

The plan was to demolish the derelict café and toilets at the Western Undercliff and replace it with a five storey building with ground floor cafe and outdoor seating, ground floor public toilets, eight apartments and a fourth floor restaurant.

The application followed the purchase of the site at auction in 2018. It was sold by Thanet council  for £100,000.

The plans, drawn up by MBW architects, are for a building with “a stepping form” to allow for all apartments to have terraces or balconies as well as a top floor viewing terrace available for restaurant guests.

The “ship” shaped build would have green copper on the front elevation and light coloured stone at the base and rear.

Tim Burt

Mr Burt says in total an offer of around £75,000 of funding across the scheme has been rejected by Thanet council.

He added: “This is not to mention the loss of future amenity, construction jobs, employment, housing and council taxes and that the site will remain undeveloped in its current condition.”

Planning permission remains valid for three years.

Mr Burt said: “We purchased the site at auction and have gone through the planning process. We have involved the local community and included amenities. Local groups have been onboard and happy with the final scheme. The development isn’t particularly profitable, it is very marginal.

“We always recognised the pavement belongs to Thanet council but were led to believe consent would be relatively automatic. We have offered to relandscape, raising the pavement levels and sorting the drainage out, where it floods in return for the overhang but they want money, so we made a good offer which initially received no response or acknowledgement.

“We then had a video conference which deteriorated very quickly, it was all about how much more money they wanted although they will not name a figure.

“I feel as though the council is trying to hold us to ransom. We have now confirmed we will not be proceeding so this is entirely down to their change of will if it is to move forward.”

Ward councillor Becky Wing says it will mean the loss of promised amenities to undercliff beach-goers if the situation can’t be resolved.

She said: “As a regular sea swimmer and beach lover I often used the old cafe and its public toilets and when we lost it, it was a massive blow to the community.

“A subsequent failed community attempt to buy the cafe, despite raising £70,000 by the Western Undercliff and Ramsgate Community, was testament to the strength of feeling at its loss.

“Disappointed but determined the Western Undercliff group approached the developer who had purchased the now derelict site and began negotiations to try keep the cafe and public toilets as a feature in the new plans.

“The developer was extremely receptive and despite not being local ‘got and understood the feel of the place’. I was therefore over the moon to see the plans approved, they represent a ‘sea change’ for our beach which is well used and has seen an increase during lockdown as many people and families have reconnected with their environment.

The inside of the derelict building Photo Western Undercliff group

“This beach is one of the safest to swim from and there is now a large group of winter dippers many of them women which is another fabulous positive. Our community has been left for too long without facilities on this beach and now we have a developer that is prepared to add them to their plans, you might say this is a ‘win,win’ situation for all. The developer had hoped to start work by this February, to the joy thousands of locals.

“With a cafe, public toilets,  bike park, residential units and a clifftop restaurant to eat and enjoy the views and our stunning sunsets, what is not to like?

“Disappointingly we are now faced with a situation where the developer has become so frustrated with TDC that they are seriously considering pulling out. I understand the issues are to do with access to drainage and a part of the building that overhangs a TDC footpath.

Derelict Undercliff Cafe.

“The developer was asked for and has offered what seems to me to be a generous financial sum, given the small footprint of the site. This offer has now been rejected by TDC and it seems clear that financial profit is always placed before social profit.”

Cllr Wing says she has now written to the council leader Rick Everitt in the hope he can intervene and prevent the loss of the scheme on a site that has been derelict for more than six years.

A Thanet council spokesperson said: “We are disappointed that the developers feel they are being ‘blocked’.  We have had discussions with them on a normal commercial basis regarding a possible Deed of Easement, but have not been able to agree terms with them as yet.”

UPDATE: 

Thanet council leader Rick Everitt has outlined details surrounding the sewer and overhang issue.

In response to a query from a resident, he said: “The council has a legal obligation to get “best value” for residents in commercial transactions. The negotiation of a fee for an overhang of council land is normal practice and would be negotiated by the council’s estates team with the developer. The amount agreed is then valued independently by a firm of chartered surveyors to ensure the council has achieved best market value for its assets. It is not a matter elected members can decide or should involve themselves in.

“This process is in train and it is not appropriate to comment on figures. Nevertheless the actual sum seems unlikely to be material to the viability of the scheme in the context of the development of eight flats, a cafe and a restaurant. It should be noted that the value of the land is likely to have been increased by the granting of planning consent and therefore if the developer does not wish to proceed he may have the option to sell his interest on.

“A number of people have commented on what the council or councillors on the planning committee should have done in respect of the application. The application did not go to committee, it was decided by officers under delegated powers, which is the situation with most planning applications.

“The planning report prepared by the planning department, which is a public document available on the council website, reports consultation responses drawing attention to the sewerage issues, including the need to secure Thanet District Council consent for discharge of groundwater into its foul sewer. This discussion is not part of the planning process but the need for it is flagged. I would expect the developer or his agent to have investigated this issue.

“I do understand that residents are anxious, on the basis of what they have read or heard, that the development may not proceed. As leader, I am satisfied that the council is following a proper process to safeguard the interests of residents and doing so in a timely way, given that consent was only granted on November 30.

“I want to see the development proceed. However, the council cannot engage in commercial negotiation through the media or correspondence with third parties, and I am satisfied from my conversations with officers that they are acting properly and using their best efforts to reach a mutually satisfactory conclusion.”

58 Comments

  1. Welcome to Fanet. Another developer prepared to invest in Thanet yet has to pay for the councils mismanagement of residents payments by way of property taxes. TDC dig the hole whilst the residents pay for it to be filled.

    • yes like a runaway train , constantly new initiatives whilst abandoning into dilapidation publicly owned property parks etc

  2. Well done, Becky. Thanks for your efforts. TDC showing their lack of business acumen as usual, sadly.

    • I wonder how much these new flats would be sold for. I don’t see why TDC shouldn’t ask what seems to them to be a reasonable price.

    • Spend spend spend , the electorates precept , like it’s burning a hole in the pocket, no interest in addressing tough situations within ward boundaries despite living in the same district,

      Poor opposition against each other and leadership,

      Fraggle rock has more debate and challenge , spend spend spend

  3. Stupid Greedy Council desperately trying to money grub at every opportunity to make up the shortfall caused by their incessant mismanagement of Thanet affairs. Shame on you Everitt, so much for the “change of direction” and more Community Based Decision making that we were promised

    • Do you – or anyone else on here – have evidence for your various accusations of TDC ‘mismanagement’? If there’s no evidence, STOP spreading misinformation.

      I’m sure TDC are not perfect but all Local Authorities have all had their government income halved since 2010. They are all skint!!

      Good on TDC for standing up for taxpayers and ensuring that developers pay their fair share. The profit margins from developments such as this are huge.

      • That’s it exactly , incessant mismanagement, Officers getting a tough time when delivering the will of ultimately their political masters . Delegated powers are not demonstrated here,

        That’s how local democracy works

        We blame officers for everything,

  4. How absolutely rediculous what are Thanet Council thinking? This project can only help the community, as said, jobs housing and making those beaches a delight to be on 🤷🏼‍♀️

    • Agreed, who is chairing these meetings and what experience be elected,many boosting a pension with 3400 quid gaining elected role on being a nice person,

      Rarely in this area true campaigning on issues in targeted ward and even rarer in other wards within Thanet District

  5. The sooner TDC ends, the sooner we will all be better off emotionally, mentally, financially.
    Urgent need of change in Management (Executive Officers) would ensure this…

    • I disagree, Officers are very good in my experience, it’s the elected representatives that are totally agog and void of acumen in dealing with these situations

  6. The Fanett disease strikes again with TDC shooting itself on the foot. Meanwhile, the area stagnates. Pure incompetence, pure greed.

  7. Unbelievable! Why was planning permission granted in the first place? Can’t they read/understand architects drawings? Also if there was an issue with the sewers than again, surely that should have been pointed out at the time of the application? Clearly they don’t mind wasting other people’s money either.

    • Labour led council with zero business acumen. They have no idea and the applicant now left hanging. Why are Labour councillors as one not bringing heavy pressure on their planning departments to get a grip. Laughing stock.

      • Hang on, there’s plenty of conservative and independent councillors too. They don’t have anything like the power that people think they have. This isn’t about party politics (and local issues never should be). This is a council executive issue, with the executives being non-local and wanting Ramsgate to be the commercial dump while Margate and Broadstairs are bigged up as the holiday destination. Once again Ramsgate is being done over. Well done Thanet Green Party for calling it out.

      • Fed up also, yet again officers deliver the will of political masters – don’t they ? Yet again this void of , it’s the council a mistake of its the officers ,

        Personally observing it’s the poor leadership distanced of blame , at election, this culture is strong in Thanet- unlike many other coastal towns,

        Where the voter removes or installs candidates with reasonable opposition on committee members wards or facilities within.

  8. TDC sends deliberate negative messages out to developers. I know people involved in Planning all over the Country and they ALL say that Thanet is the worst place they have ever had to operate. If our elected members cannot get things sorted what hope do we have?

    • First hand evidence, Thanet has astoundingly inadequate leadership- consultation fatigue also – adding the electorate here are struggling to understand how and when to change their communities and situations.

      Comparison with other coastal towns an easy further piece of evidence

  9. What’s wrong with charging something closer to market value rather than letting a private developer pocket all the profit? Why is nobody criticising the developer about the attempted use of the press to put pressure on TDC to give in to what seems to sensible business acumen? Why is profit to a developer seen as more beneficial to the community than a fair and reasonable payment to the local council, especially now with all the dipped revenue due to a ruined tourist season? I’m baffled how one sided these comments can be.

    • Dotty, the developer paid market value on the open market, and gained planning permission through the proper channels. TDC would rather have a concrete batching plant polluting the beach at vast financial and environmental cost than have locals and visitors alike enjoying our beautiful beaches.

      Perhaps the developers haven’t bribed the right people?

      • I think that unless it’s proved without a doubt that Brett’s is breaking environmental regulations, the vendetta against Brett’s should stop. The works are not particularly ugly or even particularly noticeable. It is better for it to be positioned next to the sea than inland. The port should have as much industry as possible on it- not housing and shops. Environmental regulations should be adhered to. The council should focus on ensuring that this is the case.

        • Yes agreed, and the duty of care by actively alerting county and national authorities to remedy situations, the wheel that squeaks the loudest shall receive the most oil ,

          A duty of care quickly underlined in other sectors but cavalier in it’s own public sector as if unconcerned of the safety of people in Thanet .

          Rarely do we see councillors taking on county or national authorities in observing or at least highlighting dilapidated roads and facilities

          Your leisure the example with filthy swimming pools and crumbling winter gardens , yet banging the drum of EU politics or ugly towing of the party line .

          It’s time for change taking on the obvious concerns of sadly a aloof electorate so fatigued with disastrous policy set out by democracy not Officers

      • What pollution does Brett’s produce?
        It uses sand. There’s about a million tonnes on the beach.
        It uses aggregate. There’s about a million tonnes on the beach.
        It uses water ….
        There is also cement powder. But this, of necessity, is held in hermetically sealed containers (otherwise it would go off).
        So what’s “vast environmental cost”?
        Do you drive a car? Now that’s an environmental disaster.

    • A breath of fresh air to read your sane and logical comment. I guess the vitriol and one-sided responses are more to do with previous bad experiences and resulting lack of trust in the Council – I can relate to that. But, your reply is the winner. Correct in tone and content. Just one serious question (I have) – why won’t the Council make a counter offer? Where’s the business acumen in “you’ll have to keep guessing” ? I’d be happy to arbitrate. 😁👍

    • Hasn’t the market value been discovered by its auction and highest bidder?

      Yet yes agreed where’s the compromise to not have this deferred again and again

  10. Is there really no limit to the levels of incompetence and mismanagement we have to endure from the well paid numpties at TDC. Please can we have more councillors like Becky and get rid of the time serving party hacks who seem totally unable to control their useless employees.

    • Mr Uden – very well said. You must question why local Councillors exist if they cannot exercise control for benefit of ALL living in Thanet.

    • Great Comment , public monitor is really waking up to the inarticulate and even articulate winners of a really unpopular popularity contest .

      This planning fiasco – one example list in a ocean of poor maintenance, in full view of trapped by comparison to other coastal towns as being inadequate at local authority organisation.

  11. TDC would rather see boarded up slums then they can beg to the government to help this “poor deprived area “
    There are so many premises boarded up in Thanet the window cleaners go around with sanding machines.

  12. TDC planners allow all sorts of dodgy developments in Thanet. This payment not being enough could be a clue as to what TDC normally expect to receive when developers ask to chop protected trees down in conservation areas on new developments, or developers not putting in specific services in where they should for example. TDC are always open to not going by their own regulations if the price is right.
    Saying that though, this is a rather strange development with hardly any footings at the bottom and much wider at the top, being top heavy. If the chalk cliff is not going to be piled into then it could be unstable. I don’t see much on the plans about this and the pictures shown here don’t seem to be very technical to show overhangs on the almost non-existent pavement. It all looks a bit of a strangely impossible place to put this building. But many strange things go on in the Thanet area.
    Why not just put back what was there, a cafe and toilets to serve the community that use the area? Is there not enough profit in that?

  13. For crying out loud TDC!!! Why is it that Ramsgate is always screwed by these stupid dealings? If this was in Margate they would have agreed. It’s time TDC gave RTC more say in these matters. This development would provide homes and jobs as well as well needed facilities in that area. It’s not like TDC maintains the area it’s all the hard work of Maxine and Chris from RTC and an army of volunteers.
    Pulll your finger out TDC 😡

    • Yeah , pull your finger out TDC , regeneration is great, yet failed again, what chance has the heritage property got when here a failure of the elected ,
      Don’t forget Officers obey the will of political masters typically and reasonably

  14. The quicker Margate has a Town Council the better for everybody, TDC is a busted flush. .Let the Town Councils have the right to say yes or no to any thing that’s relevant to their town . Were all these add on mentioned when the plot was up for auction .

  15. TDC seems to reject all creativity and goodwill. What a bonkers situation.

    I don’t blame the developer at all. TDC appears to have no interest in Ramsgate.

    Where is our plan for our harbour our tourism, our resurgent regeneration?

    • Not true Bill, RTC councillors when standing for election all stood on the anti airport card. The RTC councillors won on that card and than went on to fight to stop the airport. RTC councillors did what they said they would do !

      So I fail to see how doing what the councillors doing what they said they would do makes them as bad as TDC. RTC standing up for the majority of ramsgate people and the people that voted them in.

      TDC doesnt do anything to help ramsgate, all TDC do is look after margate and broadstairs

  16. The horrific threat to our health and economy by an absurd cargo hub isn’t the same as a row about a path is it.

    Besides which, nobody would buy a flat there or have dinner there with a dirty old cargo boiler screaming in every 12 minutes directly overhead.

  17. It appears yet again that TDC have scored another spectacular own goal to the detriment of local taxpayers.We all grow weary with their failure to manage in a transparent and honest manner. I’m convinced they should be investigated by central government as the senior officers seem to do exactly as they like with no accountability to elected members.and tlocal residents. They are meant to serve . To digress we still haven’t learnt how much the freehold of Dreamland and it’s real estate assets were sold for, like this situation TDC are content to keep as much as possible secret mired in unnecessary controversy.

    • The irony is that TDC’s actions over this are *protecting* us taxpayers, by screwing as much money as possible from the developer.
      Remember, TDC us actually “us”. If TDC are greedy money grabbers, then so are we, because we voted them in.

  18. We have had almost exactly the same experience with TDC with similar land they have sold and then treat their continued ownership of surrounding land like a ransom strip and what they used to own as part of their fiefdom. Thx net looks like a pile of poop because of council unwillingness to work WITH others and play nicely.

  19. The elected make policy, officers in my experience are competent professionals undermined by daft as a brush elected representatives

    • In the case of TDC the senior officers seem to spend most if their time bullying and refusing to give information to elected members! The secrecy is ubiquitous accross TDC but why, what’s being hidden?

  20. This development MUST be better than the sqalid derelict eyesore that is the current foot path. TDC are greedy, lack vision and stifle any attempt by developers that might ameliorate an area which has for so long been in need of investment and the moment it gets it TDC sabotage it.

    • You are completely correct, it’s exhausting isn’t it , elected playing god supplementing pensions treating representation as a hobby , passing judgment with zero pedigree, whilst unable to maintain the infrastructure, these elected are easily trapped via comparison of other coastal towns similar in size and electorate size.
      It’s blatantly obvious correspondents here within can easily articulately take their place, by campaigning with approval of the electorate on maintaining what we have i.e removing YOUR LEISURE the incompetent caretaker of heritage buildings such as winter gardens, opening up to private sector operators whom will motivate revenue and national operations whom know what they are doing, urge all to consider contacting the monitoring officer with ambition of running for election,
      This planning shambles 100% the shambles of planning committee policy , sympathy for officers whom obey the will of their political masters .
      Let’s have them out ASAP

  21. Its just a little spat, the developer ismprobably in no rush to start the project , they’re hardly going to suddenly give up given they’ll have 150k plus tied up in it. They’ve got the land and planning , at some point a deal will be done.

  22. That area of the town is desperate for something like this and Thanet Dinosaur Committee screw it up yet again.

  23. This is an absolute joke, TDC need either taking over by a higher power or a reshuffle in their management. To reject an offer of 20k with no counter offer is absurd…the developer went to town to change his plans to incorporate what Ramsgate needs toilets cafe restaurant etc..
    Plus even compromised and said he will sort the drainage issue out if the offer was accepted! TDC greedy slimy scumbags who clearly do not care one bit about Ramsgate at all and is purely driven by money rather then the larger community….

  24. Again Thanet council sell of a plot of land for another developer to make millions no doubt local people would never have a say or chance to live or buy in either of these new plots on seafront the council need to think about the people of Thanet rams gate and the mess it’s in town graffiti drugs rubbish and no though of the people who live here..

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