One of Ramsgate seafronts most iconic buildings the Victoria Pavilion is about to go under the auctioneers hammer, if Thanet Council's Cabinet has it way. The century old listed building has been leased from Thanet Council by the Rank Organisation since 1969 for the princely sum of £6,000 per year! In that time the building has been a nightclub and a casino and sadly been subject to extensive internal vandalism by Rank without Thanet Council lifting a finger to force its tenant to repair the damage (estimated to be £millions). For the past 5 years this forlorn and sad building has been boarded up and has haunted our seafront with memories of the splendid past and fear for a squandered future.Meeting on 20th June Thanet Council’s Cabinet is likely to agree to extend the remaining lease term (31 years) to over 100 years in order to make it easier/ more attractive for the Rank Organisation or the Council to sell on the lease to another commercial concern.
But hang on a minute. Why should the Cabinet be giving Rank a get-out-of-jail-free-card by ignoring its past dirty deeds and helping it to divest itself of a lease it no longer wants without having to pay a penny for trashing the insides of one of the most important community assets in Ramsgate? This reminds me of the approach the Cabinet and Council Officers have been taking towards failing Pleasurama developer SFP Ventures - instead of taking a tough stance against them for blighting our seafront for a decade they are indulging them to the point of sycophancy.One other little detail which seems to have escaped the attention of Cabinet members and council officers, is the opinion of the local Ramsgate community. Before this lovely and important publically owned building is pimped out to the highest bidder and taken out of public control for 100 years or longer, surely these must be some sort of public consultation and discussion about what local people think the building should be used for and perhaps insisting that the new tenants make available some community space in this large building.
Also I suspect that the Cabinet and council officers have conveniently overlooked the Localism Act 2011 which requires “local authorities to maintain a list of assets of community value which have been nominated by the local community. When listed assets come up for sale or change of ownership, the Act then gives community groups the time to develop a bid and raise the money to bid to buy the asset when it comes on the open market. This will help local communities keep much-loved sites in public use and part of local life”.Personally, I think that the Victoria Pavilion is one of the most important community assets in Thanet and rather than plan for its immediate disposal to goodness knows who, the Cabinet should actually be engaging with the local community, as per the Localism Act, to explore ideas for its future use and to identify funding sources (Coastal Communities Grant, Heritage Lottery Fund) to pay for the development of these ideas.
Like the Pleasurama site the Pavilion is an important community asset. Let’s act to keep it that way and take control over its future development rather than sell it to the highest bidder.
The Cabinet meets to discuss this plan on 20 June 7pm Cecil Square offices Margate. Please come along to that meeting to lobby Cabinet members and persuade them not to agree the proposal and have a community consultation instead. I have copied the proposal below.In the meantime please e-mail Thanet Cabinet members and ask them to defer their decision to dispose of the Victoria Pavilion and instead begin a public consultation on its use and ownership by the community. We need to act now before it’s too late.
Here are the Cabinet member e-mails. 4 of the Cabinet members are also Ramsgate Councillors. I hope that they might be persuaded to do the right thing
Proposal for Cabinet 20th June
Cabinet are asked to consider supporting a possible extension to the leasehold
interest of the Royal Victoria Pavilion, Ramsgate (site plan in Annex 2) in order tofacilitate private sector capital investment. There are currently 31 years unexpired on
the original lease agreement granted by the Authority in 1969 for use of the property.
Expressions of interest have been received for the site from third parties, both directly and via the tenant, but the unexpired period of the current lease is too short to
support the level of investment required to bring the building back into effective
commercial use. The freehold of the property will be retained by the council, but
Cabinet is asked to consider authorising officers to expand the marketing process ofthe lease, in conjunction with the existing tenant, for the site, in an open and
transparent method, whilst ensuring best value and probity for the Authority. This
assistance would be by being able to offer an extended lease of over 100 years, if
necessary to the party taking over the building on the basis of a guaranteed
investment from them. The value of this extension would be to support the investment and not to increase the value of the lease to the current lessees. At this stage it is not proposed that the council places any specific restriction on the commercial transfer of the lease as landlord, but clearly any changes to the building and its use would be subject to planning and listed building applications. In considering potential tenants under a longer lease term the Authority will be in a position to consider financial issues against social benefits achievable.