Wednesday, 18 February 2015

O'Regans The Truth As I See It.

The proposal to locate a concrete block manufacturing and waste wood processing facility at Ramsgate Port might not, as Labour Councillor Mike Harrison wrote in  a letter to the Thanet Gazette,  conflict with  the Council’s current planning policy.  But  this doesn’t mean  that TDC, the port owner, is obliged to permit this hugely unpopular development taking  place on its land.  On the contrary!  Planning permission or not,  Thanet Council could have given ORegan’s the bums rush months ago and there is not a thing the company could have done about it. So why didn’t this happen.?

According to the information I have received from the Council, O’Regan’s first met the Council to talk about their plans on 25 June 2014. The O’Regan’s proposals are very significant in terms of their scale and implications,  so it’s inconceivable that the  Cabinet Portfolio Holder for the Port of Ramsgate,  Labour Councillor Mike Harrison and possibly the Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Planning, Labour Councillor Richard Nicholson, were not briefed about  this meeting. Because this meeting involved  discussions about plans which would generate  a significant rental income from O’Regan and the possibility of  increased shipping at the Port,  I would also have expected the Leader of  the Council, Iris Johnston,  to have been briefed as well.

But erring on the side of caution, perhaps council officers needed to get more information from O’Regan and its agents about its plans before they put Cabinet members in the picture. The second meeting where this would have happened was, according to the Council, held on 10th July. Just 2 weeks after the first meeting. So shortly after 10th July 2014 I  believe that key Labour Party politicians responsible for running Thanet Council would have been fully conversant with the O’Regan plans.

At this point in time I would have expected the Council’s Labour bosses to have realised just how risky  and potentially polluting the O’Regan plans were. I would have expected them to have  instructed  officers to tell  O’Regan’s “sorry we don’t want your business here. Do yourself a favour, save time and a lot of money and move on”.

The fact that this didn’t happen at the second meeting in July 2014 meeting makes me suspicious.  But to be totally fair and scrupulous I will concede that only 2 meetings had taken place with O’Regans and that the Council and its Labour bosses didn’t wish  to be too hasty in making a decision. They simply wanted  more time to conduct  robust due diligence on O’Regans. If this was true then there was a 2 month period between the meeting on 10th July and the next reported meeting on 12 September in which the Council could have conducted research into their wannabe tenant O’Regan. In this time it would have been possible to  have quickly established, through company check websites,  that the O’Regan Group and its associated companies do not appear to have been  financially active, or to  have established a significant  business track record, in the UK.

It would also have become clear that claims made on the O’Regan Group’s website that it was developing a concrete block manufacturing facility at Ridham Dock, Sittingbourne were not true. According to my checks with the Environment Agency  and  Swale Borough Council  and Kent County Council, operating permits and planning permission do  not appear to exist for such a plant. Nor could I find any pending applications in the system for such a plant. The rest of the website is incomplete with links which do not work which would  again suggest to anyone evaluating the O’Regan Group that it is not as successful and active a company in the UK, as its agents tried to portray at the recent public meeting in Ramsgate.

Further, I assume that if the Council and its  Labour bosses would also have discovered, as I did by a few hours googling:

  • A report in the Irish Times dated 11 June 2008 that Louis O’Regan was embroiled in a dispute with the Bank of Scotland (Ireland) concerning an unpaid debt of 196,000 Euros.
  • A report in the Experian Irish Gazette dated 28th October 2009 which stated that judgments against Louis O’Regan to the value of 138,686 Euros were made by Cork County Court
  • A tax debtors report published by the Irish Government in September 2011 which states that the Louis O’Regan Limited owed the Irish Tax Authorities 93,456 Euros in undeclared VAT and PAYE 

Also if research was conducted into the sustainability of the O’Regan  business plan, particularly its  proposal to process waste wood at the port, it would have soon become clear that this activity  is not viable.  The imminent commissioning of the large, state of the art,  MV Energie Biomass power plant, co-incidentally located at Ridham Dock, will “hoover up” virtually all the available waste wood in Kent to feed its gargantuan 172,000 tonnes annual capacity. This means that it will be virtually impossible for the  O’Regan group to get its hands on any waste  wood at all because most of will be heading toward the MV Energie Biomass plant.

But the most important issue when evaluating and assessing O’Regan and the suitability of its proposals,  would have been its record in its native Ireland. Checks on this record would have quickly revealed a report in the Irish Times of May 2005 about   Louis J O’Regan, being fined 100,000 Euros for illegally dumping 100,000 tonnes of builders rubble in a quarry in Cork. The judge said “this was no small enterprise to bring 100,000 tonnes of waste on to the site. The defendant had a total disregard for the requirements of waste management legislation." A report in the Irish Examiner of 26 June 2008 that Louis J O’Regan Ltd was responsible for the unauthorised removal of hazardous waste from a former steel works site in Cork Harbour. So serious was the risk of pollution from this action that the Irish Chief Sate Solicitors Office wrote  to the company ordering it to cease work immediately and leave the site.

It’s my belief that had the Council and its  Labour Leaders done its homework  it would have decided before the 12 September meeting with the O’Regan Group that this organisation was totally unsuitable to be  a tenant of the port. There are question about its business record in the UK, there are questions about its payments of debts, there are questions about its business plan and questions about it pollution record. In short more than enough evidence for a reasonable local authority to decide that granting a tenancy to this company to this company would be high risk.   At this point the company and it agents should have firmly but politely been shown the door. But amazingly that didn’t happen!!  There have been 2 further meetings with the O’Regan Group. The Council’s Corporate Management Team and the Labour Cabinet have also discussed the O’Regan plans and pre-planning advice is still being proffered to them. Why??

Well there are 2 possible explanations. First the Council and its political leaders have been totally incompetent and failed to carry out proper  investigations into  O’Regan’s. Second the Council’s Labour leadership was more interested in the income they could secure from the O’Regan operation than any consideration about the track record of this company and the environmental implications of what it proposes to do at the port.

Personally I tend toward the second explanation. Bearing in mind how TDCs  Labour councillors  are already tearing up their 2011 election manifesto promises  to protect Thanet’s environment by overdeveloping the district with 12,000 new houses  more than half of which will  built on greenfield sites. Bearing in mind how Thanet Labour Councillors are now support building a Parkway Station despite having opposed it in their 2011 manifesto on environmental grounds. It’s hardly a surprise  that the  Labour Leadership of Thanet Council are also quite happy to have O’Regan ply it’s dirty, risky, and potentially polluting  trade at Ramsgate Port.

There is not a shred of  evidence to suggest that Labour Councillors were worried  about the noise and atmospheric pollution the proposals might involve. Nor the problems associated with the storage and  transportation of large volumes of polluted water generated by O’Regan’s industrial processes.  There  appears to have been no thought about the threat to Ramsgate’s tourist industry; the site of special scientific interest and the European special area of conservation which border right on O’Regan’s proposed area of operation. It is my belief that the possibility of earning a little bit of extra money in rental income from O’Regan’s port operations caused Thanet’s Labour bosses to abandon any pretence  they had to defend the  environment in and around the port and town of Ramsgate.

It was only on 12  January 2015  at the public meeting at  Chatham House  Grammar School that Labour came unstuck. I very much doubt they expected the anger and universal opposition to the plans which were so evident that night.  Hot on the heels of that  meeting, an emergency Ramsgate Labour Party conclave took place on 19th January where it decided that it would be electorally expedient to fall in behind the public anger and say, after more than 6 months silence on the matter, they didn't like the idea. But worse than that some people standing to be Labour Councillors in 2015 are now doing the rounds saying we never supported the O’Regan plan. Labour councillors were always opposed to it. But we had go through due process. To be frank this utter bollox. The only process to be gone through was to have identified  that O'Regans were chancers trying to find a cheap port from which to ply their cheap and dirty trade and to have told them to get lost!!

Any other explanation is is nothing but nonsensical clap-trap aimed at distorting the truth and getting Labour  out of a tricky fix.  Sorry but this misguided loyalty, muddying of  waters and covering up the truth is hardly likely to endear the Labour Party  to voters heartily sickened by Labour's  TransEuropa Ferries and Pleasurama shenanigans

The truth as I see it  is that if Thanet Labour councillors were genuinely opposed to the O’Regan plans they could have sent them packing in September 2014 if not before. The fact that this was not done suggest to me that Thanet Labour Councillors wanted to do a hypocritical dirty deal with an organisation with a questionable record, at the expense of the people of Ramsgate.

But of course this is just supposition and guess work on my part. But we will find out the truth soon enough when the Information Commissioner orders Thanet Council to release to me the documents and e-mails related to these meetings with O’Regans. The documents which the Council and its Labour Leaders are desperately trying to resist letting me have.


  1. Ian. What makes you think that elected Labour Councillors are, in any way in charge, even in their own party ? The Labour party mandates its leaders from within. Faceless, unelected party officials are actually in charge and their so called councillors have to tow the party line. There is no leadership from the top, as in most healthy organisations. This is nowhere more evident than in local government, where political correctness, politics of envy and ideological claptrap from the bottom up becomes the order of the day. Well done on your excellent sleuthing, Very impressive and valuable. The local Labour parties (Branch, District, Constituency) will be hastily covering up. If you want this kind of behaviour to stop, we will need to elect our own council leaders and not allow parties to subvert our democratic rights. Looking forward to our public debate on this.

  2. Time dinosaurs like Harrison moved on.

  3. Very good article. Why is there only one councillor doing any public scrutiny of what our council does? What are the other fifty doing year in year out?
    The question is, if a Labour Party conclave decided they now don't like the O'Regan plan, why has Cllr Harrison written in full and active support of it in the newspaper?

  4. Harrison has been deselected so good riddance. But the other Labour councillors must have supported ORegan and White

  5. How can we be rid of Iris and Everitt too. Dinosaurs the lot of them.

  6. Both the rank and file KCC and TDC councillors are irrelevant. Almost 100 of them. Maybe qe should just elect the Cabinet and have the ithers as ward volunteers? Too much inept governance and the appearance of democracy. Elected Leaders would ensure public accountability.

    But they prefer secrecy and party deals.

  7. The proposal for a wood burning plant at Richborough has everything to do with this. BFL have not put in their planning application for their "energy park" yet. They have plans for Biomass CHP generation which entails burning.....yes! wood chip! How convenient that will be to transport the wood up the river to Ramsgate and chip it there. I believe BFL are waiting to see if O'Regan get the go ahead before they commit to this.

    1. very interesting point. I had not thought of this.

    2. Blimey if you want to know where the pollution risk is, this wood burning plant is it, thanks 12.27.
      Ramsgate and Broadstairs would be downwind of this most of the time with prevailing winds.
      So much madness goes on in the name of the environment like diesel cars to save CO2 when in fact they are 20 times as toxic as petrol cars, and wood burning when people have to keep breathing the smoke from it let alone the "impurities".

  8. I bet the two former officers have pulled a few strings to help it along.

  9. Who did they meet?

  10. What a coincidence that Gloag has money in bio-mass!