I attended a meeting of the Pleasurama Working Group meeting last night. We spent a lot of time talking about a committee report which led to changes to the Pleasurama development agreement in 2009 and which included due diligence documents about project developers SFP Ventures Ltd.
Some people at the meeting, myself included, felt that the due-diligence process was flawed. In fact I would go so far as to say that the due diligence conducted into SFP by the Council was a pathetic joke. Some documents were out of date, some made unsubstantiated claims about investments others were, shall we say, of extremely dubious origin. I will publish some of these documents in due course for your merriment.
After asking several questions about the documents it appeared to me that these "dodgy docs" had been accepted by senior officers and Cabinet & Council members at face value. There appears to have been no effort to verify the documents; no effort to seek further clarification from SFP Ventures about the claims they were making and no effort to seek information about the origins of some of the more doubtful documents.
Had there been a proper, more robust, due diligence process and had SFP Ventures been subjected to
much tougher scrutiny then I am sure that this company would have been sacked as the developer in 2009. But, and I am speculating here, it may be that certain powerful people didn't want a robust examination of SFP and its dodgy docs, because they may have had a more than a passing civic interest in the success of this development - nudge and wink know what I mean! This might also be why the decision of councillors from both the Labour and Tory parties, to accept the 2009 report without question and retain (against officer advice) SFP as the project developers was, so I am reliably informed, a whipped decision in which councillors were forced and pressured to vote for SFP.
Incompetence, corruption, political shenanigans or a combination of all of this - either way the result was that a major opportunity to get rid of failing developer SFP Ventures was missed in 2009 and the people of Ramsgate have been forced to endure 4 totally unnecessary years of having their seafront blighted by the Pleasurama bombsite disaster, when something much better and something that local people really wanted could have been built and have been operating by now!
But that was then and this is now. Instead of looking back at the pig-in-the-poke which was forced on Ramsgate - how do we move on?
Well its quite simple! Section 19.1 (3) of the development agreement deed of variation sates that "The Developer shall procure that practical completion of the whole development works takes place by no later than 28th February 2014". Well its pretty clear to me that even if SFP recruited 500 builders and started work on site tomorrow there is no way that they would meet this deadline! In my opinion SFP Ventures UK Ltd is in breach of its development agreement with the Council and the Council should now initiate default proceedings against SFP with a view to taking back the site!
Would it be that simple! But thankfully the working group did decide to take immediate steps to secure legal advice, including advice on termination of the agreement under section 19.1 (3) of the development deed of variation. It might be a costly exercise and it might take a while, but I am convinced that the Council has an extremely strong case which will enable it to prise this site from the avaricious grip of Mr Shaun Partick Keegan's SFP Ventures and his estate agent mouthpiece Mr Terrence Painter. I will keep you up to date about the further twists and turns of this saga, of which I am sure there will be many.
Finally, I've said it before and I'll say it again had it not been for the hard work of local people signing petitions, attending meetings, lobbying councillors then none of these positive developments would have happened. Less than a year ago the Council's ruling Labour Group including every single Ramsgate Labour Councillor voted against my motion on Pleasurama, and shamefully used the Chairman's casting vote to stifle debate of this subject. In July this year, at a packed public meeting at Chatham House School, Labour Cabinet Member and Ramsgate Councillor Allan Poole laughed at and insulted many of the local people who expressed concerns about Pleasurama. I would venture to suggest that the sudden conversion of many Labour politicians into anti-Pleasurama warriors is more about a 2015 election than any deeply held conviction that the blight on seafront is wrong and indefensible. but hey ho I would say that wouldn't I.