Thanet council deputy leader Lin Fairbrass has stated that work on the derelict Pleasurama site will start this Autumn.
In a facebook announcement Cllr Fairbrass said: “I am now able to confirm that the current owners are making preparations to commence works this Autumn.”
The Isle of Thanet News understands that representatives of Ramsgate Development Company Ltd – the firm now in charge of the leases for the seafront site – will also meet with Kent Highways on September 29 to discuss the issue of the hoardings at the site.
These are partly on the promenade and should only be in place while development work takes place.
The ‘Autumn’ start date is further confirmed in an email from Kent County Council received by former councillor Ian Driver in response to a query about the hoardings.
The email states: “Highways Operations attended court earlier this year as part of the “Stopping-up” order process for an area of highway land.
“This has gone through the final process step and has concluded. The developer’s representative has confirmed this conclusion has allowed preparations to commence for a start this Autumn.
“We are currently awaiting further information and detail on their intentions to commence work.”
Mr Driver said: “The Pleasurama hoardings continue, as they have done for more than a decade, to despoil and blight a prime Ramsgate seafront location and occupy thousands of square metres of public promenade.”
KCC says it will have an internal meeting later this month “to review our position and set our timetable in regards to the next steps we may take in regards to the current licence.”
The Autumn pledge is the latest in a string of expected work commencement dates on the site which has been empty for almost two decades.
Destroyed by fire
The site was destroyed by fire in May 1998, two years after then-owner Jimmy Godden took it over.
Originally planning permission was given to Mr 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, named Royal Sands, was headed by development company SFP Venture UK but work never got underway.
In April 2013, Thanet council rejected a bid for SFP to buy the freehold of the site before project completion.
SFP said it was unable to secure the necessary funds to complete the scheme under the existing development agreement.
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. A due diligence process was conducted into Cardy Construction Limited the same year.
Cardy had to prove it had the funds for the scheme via credit checks, company and company personnel checks; There were also checks on three year audited accounts and evidence was required to show that Cardy Ramsgate Limited – an independent company created for the scheme – purchased 100% shares of SFP Ventures.
Contracts, which included a long-stop date of three years, were signed with Cardy Ramsgate Ltd in March 2015.
Cardy Ramsgate Ltd completed a £3.515 million payment to Thanet council for the site freehold in July 2016. This amount is listed as £3 million by Land Registry.
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.
Mr Stannard had pledged to complete the project by 2017 but his resignation passed the scheme to Anthony Hollis who was appointed director on August 12, 2016.
The firm was renamed Ramsgate Development Company Ltd in September 2016.
Mr Hollis is also a director of Aldress Developments SE Ltd, formerly SFP Ventures (UK) Ltd until a change of name last year.
Shaun Keegan, one of the founder directors of SFP Ventures with Mr Hollis, resigned his directorship in 2014.
Ramsgate Development Company Ltd is listed as having ‘significant control’ of Aldress Developments SE Ltd, with documents from January this year showing it holds the only share of the company.
Documents on Companies House also reveal two people with ‘significant control’ of the Ramsgate Development Company as Colin and Robbie Hill. Both are listed with an address in Geneva.
They are involved with the Panama-based Mintal Group, which Land Registry documents show has a £3million charge on the Pleasurama site.
Colin Hill, the son-in-law of Mr Keegan, was also a financier for previous developers SFP Ventures.
The contract with TDC states the project must be completed within three-and-a-half years – which would imply a date of January 2020 if taken from contract completion or 2018 if applied to when the deal was first signed. If it is not developed then the council has an option to buy it back.
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 spokesman said: “We have made contact with the owners of the site to establish when works will commence.”