Ramsgate Society Chairman’s Report AGM 6th July 2023
I am pleased to report that the Society has been very active since our last AGM and I set out below a brief summary of some of our recent activities.
Planning. Heritage and Regeneration,
Local Plan. The Society is actively engaged in the consultations for the Thanet District Council Local Plan. The Local Plan Review, which will extend the plan up to 2040, is currently “on hold” pending the outcome of the Manston Airport DCO process but we will continue to be engaged in the plan process once the public consultation recommences.
Manston Airport. We submitted detailed representations to the Secretary of State on the redetermination of the Development Consent Order which had been quashed by the High Court. When redetermining the application the Secretary of State once again rejected the advice of his own independent consultants Ove Arup to Refuse the application and instead Approved it. This second determination is currently the subject of a judicial review to be heard on 5th and 6th July. Where the matter goes from there remains to be seen but if the DCO is quashed again the opportunity will arise for the long-term future of the site to be reviewed within the process of the Local Plan Review so the decision can be made locally rather than by national government.
Ramsgate Neighbourhood Plan. Ramsgate Town Council is engaged in the development of a Neighbourhood Plan for Ramsgate. The work of drafting the plan was undertaken by a group of volunteers, including the Ramsgate Society reporting to a steering group led by the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Ramsgate Town Council Planning Committee. When complete the Plan will set out a number of planning policies specific to Ramsgate. These policies will have to be taken into account by TDC officers and councillors when determining all future planning applications. Following the Local Elections in May this year the new Town Council is currently reviewing the draft document. The aim is to secure a Neighbourhood Plan for Ramsgate that is appropriate to the needs of the town and will contribute to its economic and social regeneration.
The Clock House and Pier Yard. Following the Grant of £20m to Ramsgate from the Government Levelling Up Fund we are working with TDC to deliver the Society’s vision for a new Heritage Centre in the Clock House and a new Town Square in Pier Yard. A Design Team has been appointed and is currently working with TDC, The Ramsgate Society and the Ramsgate Heritage Regeneration Trust to develop proposals for a Stage 2 Grant Application to the Heritage Lottery Fund which will fund the costs of fitting out the Clock House as a Heritage Centre to tell the story of Ramsgate Maritime History. There will be many “challenges” along the way but work is expected to start on site in the second half of 2024 with completion in 2026. Regular updates on the project will be given in our monthly Newsletter
Ramsgate Port and Harbour. Together with the Ramsgate Regeneration Alliance we continue to express our concerns about the ongoing losses now amounting to some £30million and the TDC proposals to invest further public funds in improvements to the existing unused RoRo facilities and further intensify the industrialisation of the Port without a credible business plan.
Events and Community Engagement.
Sea front Shelters. We continued to work on the repair and redecoration of the 13 Listed Grade 2 Victorian promenade shelters. During the last twelve months we completed an extensive programme of repairs to all 13 shelters. The condition of the Eastcliff shelters had deteriorated quite badly over the last few years and the replacement of large quantities of timber was necessary before redecoration could commence. The Westcliff shelters were in a similar state with a great deal of rust to be treated and rotted steel to be replaced. The work of repainting the shelters has now commenced though the weather has disrupted our programme on several occasions. The Society was granted a 12 year lease on the shelters by TDC back in 2011 and this expired on 24th May 2023. Discussions are ongoing as to the future ownership and maintenance of the shelters. The Society would like to see the shelters owned locally by Ramsgate Town Council and would be happy to work with RTC and TDC to take this suggestion forward. I would like to particularly thank our Vice President Davena Green, Ramsgate Councillor Becky Wing, the RTC Technicians lead by Maxine Morgan and our group of shelter volunteers for their outstanding contribution to this important project. A special thanks must go to Ramsgate Glass who, without charge, continue to carry our repairs to broken windows due for the most part to senseless vandalism. Their support is unstinting and is a brilliant example of how a local business cares for the town in which it is based and is willing and happy to “give something back.” Thank you, Ramsgate Glass!
Ramsgate Society Talks Series. Our series of regular talks organised by committee member Terry Prue continues to be very popular with most events fully booked in advance. Over the last 12 months we have had talks on a wide range of subjects from Christian Wars of Religion in 19th Century Ramsgate, The nationally important nature reserve in Pegwell Bay, through to An Architects Vision for Ramsgate and several more. Our next talk on Bringing the Tall Ships back to Ramsgate on 21st July was fully booked within 48 hours.
Hustings for the Local Elections. Ahead of the local election in May 2023 the Society organised a Hustings event to enable members to hear from representatives of the main political parties standing for election in Ramsgate. The event was very ably chaired by our committee member Mike Ashley (himself a former Councillor for Norwich City Council). There was an interesting and extended Q&A session after the initial presentations. Certain issues came up throughout the evening, from both the speakers and members of the audience. First, the governance of TDC (lack of transparency, excessive delegation to officers, failure to implement the recommendations of external reports). Second, the future of the Port (continuing financial losses, the Ro-Ro proposal, the proposal to increase the size of Bretts’ operation, and more generally the failure to provide evidence of viability or a proper business case). Third, the failure of the main political parties to work together for the common good: it was noticeable that the loudest applause greeted any speaker who argued for the politicians to avoid political “slanging matches” and to work more cooperatively.
Heritage Open Days (HODS) For several years now the Society has coordinated the Thanet Heritage Open Days in collaboration with TDC Tourism and Information. Thanks to the efforts of committee member Sue Gyde the HODS 2022 was a great success and the planning for HODS 2023 is well advanced (8th Sept to 17th Sept)
Civic Champion Awards. The Society makes this special award to the people who in the view of the committee have made a special contribution to the local community. The winners of the Civic Champion Awards 2022 were The Ramsgate Town Council Technician Team (Community Category) and Discovery Planet (Education Category)
Membership and Communications Our monthly electronic newsletter continues to be the most effective way of communicating with our members and keeps members updated on our activities on a regular basis. Our twice-yearly journal, Ramsgate Matters, deals in more depth with some of the wider interests of our members and I would particularly like to thank our Magazine Editor Brian Daubney, who does an outstanding job for the Society. There are interesting and scholarly articles about Ramsgate’s History, Heritage, Arts, People and Events, past, present and future, which I know our members enjoy and appreciate very much. Our new website went live in June last year.
Over the last year our membership and communications working group have worked hard to update our membership records and as a result we have seen our membership and subscription base starting to grow.
Finance. Our finances continue to be in good shape and our most recent accounts will be presented for approval by members at this AGM. I would like to offer our special thanks to Neville Redvers-Mutton who is standing down as our Treasurer after a three-year term of office and will be handing over to David Lister our new Treasurer at the AGM
I would like to thank the members of the Ramsgate Society Executive Committee for all their hard work during the last twelve months. They are a very dedicated team who are all passionate about Ramsgate and it’s a pleasure for me to act as their Chairman.