Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Ramsgate Pleasurama: Gagging Injunction Continues

Former Councillor, Ian Driver, says he is “astounded” that Thanet Council has refused to release him from a High Court gagging injunction which is almost 2 years old.

Originally granted  by the High Court in October  2014, the gagging injunction prevents Driver from publishing or disseminating  documents about the controversial Ramsgate Pleasurama development site which include reports  produced by lawyers Pinsent Mason and property consultants Strutt and Parker.

Driver, who due to legal aid changes, was forced to represent himself at the High Court argued that  widespread concern about the stalled Pleasurama development and  its  long-term blighting of  Ramsgate’s  seafront,  meant that there was an overwhelming public interest in allowing the publication of the documents. TDC’s barrister, Wayne Beglan, disagreed, claiming  that the release of the documents could have  jeopardised negotiations which were then  taking place between TDC and building contractors Cardy about the development and sale  of the Pleasurama site. The Court ruled against Driver.

Said Driver, “negotiations between  Cardy and TDC over the development and sale of the Pleasurama site were completed on 20th July 2016 when Cardy purchased the freehold of the Pleasurama site  for £3.515 million from the Council. On hearing this news I immediately contacted the council requesting that I be released from the injunction as there was no longer a legal justification to continue it.

I was astonished to receive a reply  from the Council’s legal officer, Colin Evans yesterday (Tuesday 30 August) saying that the documents remain confidential because their disclosure would be prejudicial both to the interests of the Council and Thanet residents. Moreover if the information were to become public it could prejudice the Council in its commercial dealings and negotiations. If the information was released there could be a detrimental effect on the Council.

Now that the freehold of the Pleasurama  site has been sold, with the cash safely  in the council’s bank,  and  now that negotiations with Cardy have been concluded I am at a loss to see how Thanet Council’s commercial dealings could be jeopardised by allowing the publication of the documents. I think that the real reason for withholding the documents is that their  publication will cause serious embarrassment to top council bosses and  politicians. This is all about watching arses and protecting reputations instead of being open and honest with the public about how the Pleasurama development was mismanaged”.

Driver says he will be contacting South Thanet MP  Craig  MacKinlay and Council Leader Chris Wells to request that the decision not to release him from the injunction be urgently reviewed. He is also seeking advice about taking legal action or complaining to the local government Ombudsman because he claims that his right to free expression is now being unlawfully fettered by Thanet Council’s refusal to release him from the gagging injunction.

It is believed that Driver is the only  councillor in legal history to be subject to a gagging injunction by the council  he was democratically elected to oversee. Driver claims that the Council’s former Monitoring Officer told him that the  decision to secure the gagging injunction was approved by “very senior” members of Thanet Council’s ruling Labour Cabinet,  which  at that time was led by Iris Johnston.

Thanet South MP Craig MacKinlay, who is supporting Driver in his fight against the injunction said in a letter submitted to the judge at a cost hearing  that “the fact that an elected councillor in exercise of his of his own judgment in what should brought into the public domain in the interest of his electors was then subject to effectively a “muzzling action” by the very council upon which he serves, at public expense, is highly questionable and raises important constitutional issues  as to the basis and rights of elected representatives”  

Driver has now had a £23,000 charging order, plus 8% statutory annual interest placed  on his family home by Thanet Council to cover the costs of the High Court hearing. The father of 3, who was forced to give up work almost 3 years ago to become a carer for one his daughters who is disabled said he is paying back the debt at £80 per month but that the  repayment does not cover the interest and the debt is becoming bigger and bigger. He will be publishing an account and short video of how and why  the injunction was secured against him in the next couple of months and will be linking this to a crowdfunding appeal which he hopes will help him clear what he described as a “politically motivated debt aimed at  silencing me and punishing my family who have done no wrong”


Saturday, 27 August 2016

Ramsgate Live Exports 26 August

Only three lorries tonight. Still three lorries too many. The lorries drove  around the roundabout and onto the  port approach road  at recklessly high speeds. It was sheer luck that nobody was hurt or worse. I wonder if the police have cautioned the lorry drivers for their dangerous driving? Once again the police prescence was very large with over 20 vehicles at the scene.  It was great to see South Thanet MP, Craig MacKinlay at the
demonstration. Craig has been very supportive of the campaign to end live exports and his bill to amended the Harbours Piers  and Clauses Act of 1847 gets a second reading in November. If successful his Bill will pave the way for a post-Brexit banning of live exports. Lots of news faces tonight. Please if you have any interest in stopping this brutal trade, come and join us. Sadly my filming of the lorries was pretty bad tonight and I didn't catch the speeding vehicles. But I did record some interviews with campaigners which show that we are just every day women and men young and old who care about the welfare of animals. Come and join us

Friday, 26 August 2016

Ramsgate Pleasurama- I Publish Secret Q&A

As the Ramsgate Pleasurama development deal collapses Into uncertainty and confusion, desperate Thanet Council bosses have issued a Question and Answer crib sheet to soothe nerves and steady the ship. But hang on a minute, instead of publishing the Q&A on the Council’s website and issuing a press release about it, this important document appears to be intended to be secret.  According to an email I have seen the Q&A “has been prepared for Councillors only and is not being issued externally”. Excuse the bad language but keeping this important  document secret form the public  is nothing less than taking the piss out of Ramsgate residents!  That’s why I am publishing it in full below.

For more than 20 years the people of Ramsgate have been forced to endure having their seafront blighted by the stalled Pleasurama development. I do not believe there is another seaside town in all of the UK in which a large area of its seafront has been blighted, overshadowed and despoiled  by the presence of  a massive derelict building site for such a long period of time. The economic implications of this situation are appalling. £millions worth of  investment in Ramsgate and the jobs that might have been created by it,  have almost certainly been lost as a consequence of the seafront dereliction. Many thousands of visitors have undoubtedly been put off coming to Ramsgate because of the neglected run-down feel of the seafront.This is simply not acceptable. Whatever their excuses and despite their weasel words,  the blame for this situation lies entirely with Labour and Conservative councillors who could have done much, much more to  end the blight and dereliction of Ramsgate’s seafront, but chose not to do so.
Surely it is the people of Ramsgate, who have had to live  
with the consequence of the bad choices of their politicians, who are owed a full and frank explanation of what is happening at the Pleasurama site. But no!  Being true to its culture of North Korean style secrecy, the bosses at TDC act as if they do not need to be truthful and accountable to the people who pay their wages and to whom they are supposed to be accountable.  Instead they mail secretive  Q&A crib sheets to elected councillors, rather than publically publishing this information in and open and transparent way. This a disgraceful and undemocratic way to run a council.  

But my anger and frustration over this tight lipped approach to democratic accountability is focused  most of all on Thanet councillors. I am astonished  that not a single councillor, especially Ramsgate councillors,  have had the guts, decency and respect for their constituents  to publish in full the Q&A crib sheet which was circulated to them a week or so ago.  Surely it is the democratic  duty of elected councillors to keep their constituents fully informed of what is going on, especially on important matters such as the Ramsgate Pleasurama development which has now hit extremely seriously problems.  Yet, to the best of my knowledge not a single councillor has publically mentioned the existence, or contents, of the secret Q&A. This is an inexcusable piss take of the people of Ramsgate who, in my view, are being treated like fools by their councillors.
Labour's Iris Johnston & Rik Everitt celebrate deal with Cardy which is now in trouble
But it gets worse. When controversial political issues flare up, such as the recent collapse of the building contractors Cardy and the serious implications that this may have on the  Pleasurama development agreement and the ownership of the site,  it is generally expected that  political opposition parties will step up to the mark,  exposing any secrets or wrong-doing, highlighting shortcomings in  plans and presenting  alternative solutions. But no! Not a word have I heard from Ramsgate’s opposition Labour Party about the Pleasurama crisis which has developed over the past month.

Labour’s TDC councillors for the Ramsgate area; Karen Constantine, Peter Campbell and  Michelle Fenner, and the 2 Labour Ramsgate  Town Councillors; Penny Newman and Susan Kennedy have been silent on this extremely important issue. To the best of knowledge not a single one of them has published the secret Q&A document, nor have any of them made any public statements about the worrying Pleasurama situation.  Furthermore  there has been no  mention of Pleasurama on the South Thanet Labour Party website or the South Thanet Labour Facebook page.  This is a gross dereliction of  Thanet Labour Party’s duties and responsibilities as political opposition group and in neglecting these duties they have badly let down the people of Ramsgate who will continue suffer the economic consequence of the continuing dereliction of the seafront.

But Labour’s  silence might well be explained by the fact that it was they, when  in charge of the council in 2014-15  who negotiated,  approved and signed off the deal with Cardy which is now unravelling so badly. It is their short-sighted and badly thought out deal which was paraded by them as an election gimmick in 2015, which   is now  allowing associates of the former developer SFP Ventures, to regain control and influence over the Pleasurama development  and potentially gain ownership of the  freehold of the land. Is there any wonder that these incompetent so-called politicians  now  wish to remain silent in order to avoid attracting attention to their own appalling failure and mismanagement of  Pleasurama.
Here is the secret Q&A which your councillors were too spineless to publish. It raises many more questions than it answers. I will be writing more fully about the Q&A shortly. In the meantime  feel free to comment on the document. Unlike your councillors and TDC I am happy to promote free and open debate about what is happening to Ramsgate seafront.

The Council entered into a development agreement for Royal Sands, Ramsgate with SFP Ventures Ltd in 2006 - which was subsequently modified in 2009. The development then stalled. Both parties undertook a mediation process which resulted in discussions with the introduction of Cardy Construction Limited to the process by SFP Ventures Ltd. It was agreed in 2014 that Cardy would purchase SFP Ventures limited which enabled them to renegotiate the terms of a new agreement with the council.

Q 1. Who were the parties to the 2015 agreement?

A new agreement was entered into in March 2015 between SFP Ventures Ltd (since they had the benefit of the 2006 development agreement with the council), Cardy Ramsgate Limited (who agreed to purchase SFP Ventures Limited and purchase the freehold of the site) and Cardy Construction Limited (who were the guarantors for SFP).

SFP Ventures Ltd is now wholly owned by Cardy Ramsgate Limited.

Q 2. So who owns the Royal Sands site?

It is now owned by Cardy Ramsgate Limited.

Q.3. How much was paid for the site and by whom?

The council received £3.515m for the site. 

This was made up as follows: a sum of £550k was paid in 2009 by SFP Ventures Ltd in 2009 (under the 2006 agreement); a sum of £1m was paid as a deposit by SFP Ventures limited in 2009 (this deposit together with accrued interest formed part of the purchase price); the balance of £1.96m was paid by Cardy Ramsgate Limited in 2016.

Q 4. What provisions are in place to ensure that the site will be developed?

In the agreement, there is a long-stop date of three and a half years with measurable milestones, by which the site must be developed. If it is not developed then the council has an option to buy it back.

 The first milestone relates to the completion of piling (and certified practical completion of that piling) for the hotel within two years. The second milestone relates to completion of the building works so they are ready to be fitted out within three and a half years.

If those milestones are not met, the council has an option to purchase the site back from Cardy Ramsgate Limited.

Q 5. Hasn’t the piling already been completed, if so, why was this condition imposed?

 Only the hotel site needs piling, together with the certificate of practical completion – which Cardy Ramsgate Limited has two years to complete

Q 6. What is the impact on the agreement, of Cardy Construction Limited’s insolvency?

Cardy Ramsgate Limited is a stand-alone company, completely independent of Cardy Construction Limited.

Cardy Construction Limited was identified as the builders by the original developer. The council awaits confirmation of which contractor will be completing the building of the development.

Q 7. Were any checks carried out into Cardy Construction Limited prior to the council entering into an agreement with them?

A due diligence process was conducted into Cardy Construction Limited following the Cabinet decision in October 2014. That process included:

·        Evidence of meeting funders requirements for the scheme and funding in place

·        Development viability appraisal

·        Compliance with TDC Money Laundering regulations

·        Credit Checks - 3 year audited accounts – including asset and liabilities statements

·        Evidence that  Cardy Ramsgate Limited have purchased 100% share capital of SFP Ventures Ltd

·        Full breakdown of Company structure and CVs on key individuals

Q.8 Why were there delays with this scheme?

This has been a complex agreement to put together given the history of the site and there were further difficulties with completing the cliff works due to adverse weather conditions.

Q.9 There has been a recent change to the directors of Cardy Ramsgate Limited, what difference does that make?

A change in directors makes no difference to the legal obligations imposed on Cardy Ramsgate Limited.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Ramsgate Pleasurama High Court Gagging Injunction Challenged

Gagging Injunction Prevents Driver From Publishing Key Pleasurama Documents
Former Councillor, Ian Driver, has accused Thanet Council (TDC)  of breaching the Human Rights Act 1998 by unlawfully depriving  him of his  freedom of expression.
In a complaint to TDC,  Driver claims that the council has  failed to release him  from  the terms of a  High Court gagging injunction which was secured against him in December 2014 in a timely and reasonable manner.  The gagging injunction prevents Driver from publishing or disseminating confidential documents produced by lawyers Pinsent Mason and property consultants Strutt and Parker about the controversial Ramsgate  seafront Pleasurama development.
TDC argued in the High Court that the  release of these documents by Driver may  have jeopardised negotiations which were then  taking place between TDC and building contractors Cardy about the development and sale  of the Pleasurama site.  Driver, who is a carer for his 2 disabled daughters, was forced to represent himself in court as legal aid is no longer avaible for contesting an injunction. He   argued that because of widespread concern about the stalled Pleasurama development and the long-term blighting of the seafront, it was in the public interest to release the document.  Following submissions from Thanet Council's expert injunction barrister, the court ruled against Driver who has now had a £23,000 charging order, plus 8% statutory annual interest placed  on his family home by TDC to cover the costs of the High Court hearing.
Said Driver, “negotiations with Cardy and TDC over the development and sale of the Pleasurama site were completed on 20th July 2016 when Cardy purchased the land for £3.515 million from the Council. There is now no longer any  legal justification for TDC to continue to hold me to the terms of the injunction. To continue to do so is unlawful and unjust and breaches  my rights to free expression  under article 10 of European Convention of Human Rights.
Driver says that if released from the injunction he will immediately publish the documents in the public interest. He said “although these documents are almost 2 years old they are still very relevant and in my opinion expose serious mismanagement by Thanet Council of the Pleasurama project which the public should know about. The documents also contain other information which will be of  great interest to the public”.
It is believed that Driver is the only  councillor in legal history to be subject to a gagging injunction by the council  he was democratically elected to oversee. Driver claims that the Council’s former Monitoring Officer told him that the  decision to secure the gagging injunction was approved by “very senior” members of Thanet Council’s then ruling Labour Cabinet,  which  at that time was led by Iris Johnston.
Gagging Injunction Against Public Interest Says Driver
Thanet South MP Craig MacKinlay, who is supporting Driver in his fight against the injunction said in a letter submitted to the judge at a cost hearing  that “the fact that an elected councillor in exercise of his own judgment in what should be brought into the public domain in the interest of his electors was then subject to effectively a “muzzling action” by the very council upon which he serves, at public expense, is highly questionable and raises important constitutional issues as to the basis and rights of elected representatives”   
Driver will be publishing an account and short video of  how and why  the injunction was secured against him in the next couple of months and will be linking this to a crowdfunding appeal which he hopes will help him clear what he described as a “politically motivated debt aimed at  silencing me and punishing my family who have done no wrong”

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Ramsgate Pleasurama Taken for a £3Million Ride

In March 2015 Thanet Council’s Labour Cabinet approved a deal whereby Cardy building contractors would take over the failed Ramsgate Pleasurama developers, SFP Ventures UK Ltd, purchase the freehold of the site from Thanet Council and proceed to  build 107 flats and a 60 bedroom hotel development within a 3 and half year period. And that’s what appeared to be happening.
On 17th October 2014 Shaun Patrick Keegan and his partner’s daughter, Natalie Wood resigned as directors of SFP Ventures UK. On the same day Michael Stannard, managing director of Cardy Construction and a director of Cardy Health Care, Cardy Group Holdings and Cardy Ramsgate etc took over the company and became its sole director.
Fast forward 2 years – on 20th July 2016 Stannard via Cardy Ramsgate Limited purchased the freehold of the Pleasurama site for £3.515 million. This was made up as follows: a sum of £550k was paid in 2009 by SFP Ventures Ltd in 2009 (under the 2006 development agreement); a sum of £1m was paid as a deposit by SFP Ventures limited in 2009 (this deposit together with accrued interest formed part of the purchase price); the balance of £1.96m was paid by Cardy Ramsgate Limited. It appears that the £1.96million was funded by a loan from Panamainian company Mintal Group Inc. which is believed to be owned by SFPs financial backer and multi-millionaire Colin Hill. Less than a month after the purchase of the land a series of strange events happen at Cardy Ramsgate and SFP Ventures UK which came to light in documents published on the Companies House website on 22 August.
Lets begin by looking at Cardy Ramsgate. On 12 August a new director was appointed to Cardy Ramsgate’s board. His name is Anthony Albert Hollis aged 77. On 15 August Michael Stannard resigns as a Director of Cardy Ramsgate leaving Mr Hollis in sole charge of the company and presumably the new owner of the Ramsgate Pleasurama site. 
 Now let’s turn our attention to SFP Ventures UK Limited. On 12 August SFP changes its name to Aldress Developments Limited and Mr Anthony Albert Hollis become a director. On 15 August Michael Stannard resigns as a director of Aldress/ SFP Ventures leaving Mr Hollis in control of the company.
So who is Mr Hollis? Well basic research on the Companies House website reveals that he has longstanding and very close business links with many of the people associated with SFP Ventures UK Limited and their financial backer, multi-millionaire Colin Hill. Hollis was in fact a founder director of SFP Ventures Limited in 2006 along with Shaun Patrick Keegan and his partner Jennifer Wood. Hollis is a co-director of Greenwoods Hotel Management Ltd and Greenwoods Properties and Investments Ltd, Caran Property Consultants Limited, First Response Maintenance Limited and several more companies with Karen Haylock. Karen Haylock is close business associate of Colin Hill and Colin Hill’s wife Donna Benita Hill who also happens to be the daughter of Shaun Patrick Keegan. Together Haylock and Donna Benita Hill are co-directors of at least ten companies some of which were established by Colin Hill and Shaun Patrick Keegan.
So what does this tell us? By doing a deal with Cardy to buy out developer SFP Ventures UK Ltd, Thanet Council’s Labour Cabinet thought it had outsmarted Keegan and Hill. But they were totally wrong. SFP financier Colin Hill appears to have bank-rolled Stannard’s Cardy Ramsgate to buy the site from the council. Within days of the purchase being completed Stannard like an obliging wife in a marriage of convenience, steps aside allowing a close associate of SFPs Keegan and its financer Colin Hill to take control of Cardy Ramsgate and what was SFP Ventures UK Limited. In effect those same people who did virtually nothing to develop the Pleasurama site; leaving it derelict and festering and blighting Ramsgate’s seafront for over decade are now back in control of the site and this time they now own the freehold. I’m sure that what has happened is perfectly legal. The question now is will the owners of the Pleasurama site, ever begin development work or will we face another ten years of dereliction and blight of Ramsgate’s seafront.
There is one thing for sure the history of the Pleasurama development is one of appalling mismanagement and incompetence by Thanet Council and successive Labour and Conservative administrations who must take full responsibility for more than a decade of neglect and dereliction of Ramsgate’s seafront and the massive lost opportunities this dereliction has caused. I am sure I will be writing much more on this subject soon. As the Who once said - meet the new developers same as the old developers. Here’s their song

Ramsgate Live Animal Exports 23 August

Kent Police dramatically increased their presence at last nights (23 August) anti-live animal exports demonstration. About 100 police officers faced a similar number of campaigners at the Nethercourt roundabout. At about 9pm six tightly packed lorries carrying at least 2,500 sheep drove around the roundabout and onto the Ramsgate Port approach road. Unlike previous demonstrations the police formed a cordon between the lorries and the campaigners, preventing people from blocking the road and holding up the lorries. Former Thanet Councillor and co-founder of the campaign against live animal exports, Ian Driver, said “the police have changed their tactics tonight and flooded the demonstration with more officers than I ever seen before at great public expense. But this will not stop us from continuing
to protest against this appalling and cruel trade. I and many others have been campaigning against live exports from Ramsgate for more than 5 years and I will continue to do so until it is stopped. Every time there is a shipment we are joined by new people who want to stand up for what is right, especially young people. Kent Polices’ deployment of a 100 officers will not intimidate us or stop us from exercising our democratic right to protest against an evil trade. If you care about animal welfare come and join us”.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Cardy Administrators Named. What Future Ramsgate Pleasurama?

According to the London Gazette administrators RSM Restructuring Advisory LLP were appointed on Friday 12th August to oversee the affairs of struggling Canterbury based  Cardy Construction Ltd. Their priority will be to be try generate enough money through sales of  assets etc. to pay off the company’s creditors – an amount rumoured to be over £1million. The administrators are required to produce a report detailing the debts owed by the company and how much creditors are likely to be paid within the next six week or so. This report will be published on the Companies House website.
In a separate development Cardy Construction’s sister company Cardy Healthcare Limited is almost a month overdue in submitting its annual confirmation statement to Companies House. Is this delay a sign of yet further troubles for the struggling Cardy Group?

Uncertainty about the future of the Cardy empire raises the question what next for the Ramsgate Pleasurama development?  A spin off Cardy branded company, Cardy Ramsgate Limited, purchased the freehold of the Pleasurama site from Thanet Council in July for a reported £3million. An offshore Panamainian company Mintal Group Inc, believed to be owned by the funder of the previous Pleasurama developers Colin Hill, is thought to have lent Cardy Ramsgate the money to purchase the Pleasurama site. Documents published on the Companies House website  show the  that Mintal Group Inc has secured 2 charges against the freehold of the Pleasurama site in exchange for unspecified loans to Cardy Ramsgate.
Cardy Ramsgate was set up in March 2015  and is controlled by Michael Stannard its sole director.  Stannard is also a director of Cardy Construction Limited, Cardy Healthcare Limited, Cardy Design and Build Limited, Cardy Canterbury Limited and Cardy Group Holdings Limited. Although Cardy Ramsgate does not appear to be part of the Cardy group of companies questions must be asked about the behaviour of its director, Michael  Stannard.  On 20th July Stannard, in his capacity has the sole director of Cardy Ramsgate,   signed  the loan documents which  gave the Mintal Group a charge on the freehold of the Ramsgate Pleasurama site. Within 5 days of these documents being signed Cardy Construction Limited (of whom Stannard is the managing director) announced  that it was  seeking administration and proceeded to lay off a reported 200 staff from sites across Kent and further afield.
So why did Stannard want to purchase a large plot of land using what appears to be money borrowed from an offshore Panamainian company, when he almost certainly knew that Cardy Construction, who would presumably have been  asked to build the Pleasurama project, was facing insolvency. It simply doesn’t make sense to me. Not that I am suggesting any illegality, but something doesn’t smell right about these developments.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Margate Dreamland Rewarding Failure?

The recent BHS scandal demonstrates  how unscrupulous businessmen like  Sir Phillip Green and Dominic Chapple can accumulate large  personal fortunes  by feeding,  like vultures, off struggling  companies.  These so called entrepreneurs reportedly bent the rules of business  to breaking point,  subverted ethical standards,  and ruthlessly exploited staff and investors  to feed their insatiable  greed for personal wealth.  To coin an over-used phrase  people like Sir Philip Green are, for many,  the unacceptable face of capitalism.  And here in Thanet I fear we have  something akin to a BHS situation  developing at  Margate’s  iconic Dreamland Amusement Park and here’s why I think so.

In November 2014 a company called Sands Heritage Limited, who’s directors include  Mr Nicholas Con-nington and Mr John Adams,  was appointed by Thanet Council as the operator of Margate’s  Dreamland Amusement Park.  There was much controversy surrounding Sand’s application to become Dreamland’s  operator.  It was a new company seemingly inexperienced in running seaside amusement parks. There were also  rumours  that Sands allegedly  enjoyed certain “advantages”  over the other companies applying to become  the Dreamland operator.  These rumoured “advantages” have, to the best of my knowledge, never been substantiated but, following a number of complaints,  Thanet Council  took legal advice about the park operator procurement exercise   and disallowed much of Sands Heritage’s application documentation during the  final stage of the selection process. Like many others, I am curious to know what  Edi-vence of alleged wrong doing, the secret legal advice contained – if indeed any at all??

Dreamland opened to the public on 19 June 2015 and the controversy continued. Its  key attraction, the scenic railway,  was still being restored and not ready for use by customers for several months to come. In October 2015 Sands Heritage threatened to sue Thanet Council for breach of contract and alleged  multi-million pound financial losses caused by the council's incompetence in managing the Dreamland project. Clearly there was some substance to this claim and in November 2015 Thanet Council paid Sands  £912,000 in compensation.  In December 2015, just 6 months after the opening of Dreamland,   Sands Heritage announced that it owed a massive £2.9million  in unpaid bills, much of this to small local businesses. On 23rd December Sands reached a Company Voluntary Arrangement with its 100 plus creditors, using some of the £912,000 from Thanet Council to make an initial payment towards  clearing the debt. By May 2016 it became clear that Sands Heritage was still in serious financial difficulties resulting in the appointment of Duff and Phelps as administrators of Sands Heritage. On August 4th , at a meeting of its creditors,  the true  extent of Sands indebtedness became clear. According to administrators Duff and Phelps’ report to the meeting,  Sands owed a massive £8.34 million to almost 300 creditors many of them small local business who can ill afford even modest losses.

Sands’  only secured creditor is, according to the Duff Phelps’s report, Arrowgrass Master Fund Ltd, an investment company registered in the offshore tax haven of the Cayman Islands  which is owed £2,343 million plus any accruing interest, charges and costs. The security on this debt is a charge on Sands’  99 year leasehold of  the Dreamland Amusement park. This means that if Sands Heritage were to default on its repayments to Arrowgrass,  go  bust, be wound up or sold, which considering the precarious  state of its finances are all likely options, then Arrowgrass will end up owning the Dreamland lease to do with as it likes.

Now this where things begin to get interesting, or perhaps questionable, depending upon your point of view. Arrowgrass Master Fund Limited is owned by London based Arrowgrass Capital Partners LLP. According to internet sources  Arrowgrass Capital was founded in 2008 by former Deutsche Bank traders. The fund’s founder CIO is Nick Niell.  The other founders are Henry Kenner, James Barty, and Michael Sung Wook Chung”. Arrowgrass appears to be a company which specialises in high risk, high return investments particularly focused on companies struggling to keep their heads above water like Sands Heritage. According to a disclaimer on the Arrowgrass  website its investments are intended for sophisticated investors who can accept the risks associated with such an investment including a substantial or complete loss of their investment and who have no need for immediate liquidity in their investment. Investments will be subject to strict limitations on transferability and withdrawal”.

It surprised many people  to learn that prior to opening the Sands Hotel in Margate and setting up  Sands Heritage Ltd company director Nicholas Con-nington reportedly worked for Arrowgrass Capital Partners reportedly  for a period of 4 years.  It has also emerged that Con-nington’s colleague director at Sands Hotel and Sands Heritage, John Adams,  was the  director of company called Lifescan Limited alongside Arrowgrass founder Nicholas “Nick” Neil.

But the close ties between Con-nington, Adams, and the founder of Arrowgrass don’t end there. In March 2016 Adams and Con-nington set a company called Brede Hotels Ltd. In the statement of capital published on the Companies House website Mr Nicholas Graham Niell is listed as owning 100 shares in Brede Hotels. Brede Hotels Ltd appears to be the sole owner of Nyland Rock Hotel Margate Ltd, which was set up by Adams and Con-nington in May 2016, just before the Nyland Rock Hotel was sold for a reported £1.75 million to Tower Pension Fund Trustees on 1 July 2016. According to Companies House records, the receivers have now been called in to Tower Trustees.

Now I’m not suggesting for a moment any illegality or law breaking. But what does concern me is the ethical  background to this saga. In effect the directors of a troubled business (Sands Heritage) have a long standing relationship with one of the directors (Nick Niell)  of a company (Arrowgrass) which has lent them a significant amount of money. The 2 sets of directors have also, as recently as March – May 2016, established joint business ventures together (setting up Brede  Hotels Ltd/ Nayland Rock Hotel Margate Ltd).  

I’m sure that this is no more than a case of business mates innocently helping each other out.  But as I have stated in earlier postings there is something important that needs to be publically clarified in order to reassure everyone  that the relationship between  Sands Heritage and Arrowgrass is ethically kosher. That is for Con-nington and Adams to declare whether or not they, or their  relatives, have investments in Arowgrass or its related companies including Arrowgrass Master Fund Limited.

If they do, then many people might argue that Con-nington and Adams through returns on any investment they might have in   Arrowgrass, might make a profit  from the failure of their own company, Sands Heritage. Bearing in mind the fact that Thanet taxpayers have spent, to date, at least £9 million to purchase, restore and open  Dreamland (with more to come) and that at least the same has been spent on the park via Sea Change, Coastal Communities and  Heritage Lottery grants. Then taking into account the economic damage caused, particularly to small businesses, by the Sands Heritage failure to pay £8.34 million bills; I think that that there would  considerable, widespread and entirely justifiable, anger if it transpires that Nicholas Con-nington and John Adans, through their relationship with / any investments in, Arrowgrass, were to profit from the failure of their company, Dreamland operator, Sands Heritage Ltd.

The Geezas From Arrowgrass - Would You Buy A Used Amusement Park From Them?
On 20th June I called out Con-nington and Adams on this blogsite. I said “Nick Connington and  John Peter Anthony Adams need to make a public statement in answer to my simple question – do either of them (or their relatives or friends)  have any  financial interests (shares, loans or investments )  in Arrowgrass Master Fund Ltd or any of its associated companies?  I am sure that Messers  Connington and Adams have nothing to hide and will be happy  provide a truthful answer my question, which hopefully will be no”.  Almost 2 months later they have made no public response to this important ethical demand. Now we have fuller picture of what has been happening at Dreamland its more important than ever before for the people of Thanet to know what is happening. So once again I call out Con-nington and Adams to make a public statement in answer to my simple question – do either of them (or their relatives or friends)  have any  financial interests (shares, loans or investments )  in Arrowgrass Master Fund Ltd or any of its associated companies. Like millions of people  I was sickened and angered by the way in which the collapse of BHS massively enriched its owners at the expense of its staff and investors. I don’t want Dreamland to become another BHS and nor do thousands of Thanet residents. So come on Sands Heritage bosses do the right thing and make that  statement.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Ramsgate Live Exports 11 August

Over 100 animal welfare campaigners gathered at the Nethercourt roundabout last night to protest against the  export of sheep from the Port of Ramsgate  for ritual slaughter in Europe. At about 11.30pm 7 lorries  carrying approximately 2,500 sheep tried to drive towards the port approach road, but were blocked for a short while by campaigners sitting in the road and standing in front of the  lorries . About 40 police officers were able to clear the way for the lorries which continued their journey to the port where they were  loaded onto the waiting animal ferry Joline for a 4 hour voyage to Calais . It is understood that 3 people were arrested.  Ian Driver, one of the founders of the campaign against live animal exports from Ramsgate filmed the arrival of the lorries. He said “this cruel and barbaric trade  has been taking place from  Ramsgate Port for more than 5 years.  It is evil. It cannot be justified. It  should be banned.  I will continue to protest and take direct action against the perpetrators of live exports  until it is stopped. I would encourage anyone who cares about the welfare of animals to join our protests and stand up and be counted. Driver publishes details of forthcoming shipments on his blogsite Ian Driver’s Thanet and on his Facebook page.  The next shipment is expected in 2 weeks time. It  is thought that 2 shipments per week are likely to be leaving Ramsgate from late August till mid September.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Margate Dreamland: Council Hides £1millon Payment to "Cover Arses".

Former Councillor, Ian Driver, has claimed that Thanet District Council (TDC) is trying to “deceitfully hide ” a compensation payment of almost £1 million made to troubled Dreamland Amusement Park operator Sands Heritage Limited (SHL) in order to “protect the arses of top council bosses and politicians” . The payment of £912,892 was made to SHL in November 2015. It is understood that it was made in order to prevent an embarrassing court case, in which SHL intended to claim damages from the council for failing to meet its landlord obligations under the terms of its 99 year lease agreement for the Dreamland Amusement Park. Although the council has never publically stated how much it paid to SHL (1) it did admit in a recent statement that “The Council and SHL agreed to settle claims and counterclaims in November 2015”. After examining TDCs draft accounts for 2015-16, Driver discovered that this large payment did not appear to have been included as separate item of expenditure and “seems to have been merged into other figures to hide it away from public scrutiny”. On 6th July Driver wrote to TDC saying “I would also like to raise with you my concern that the draft accounts for 2015-15 do not appear to identify the sum of £912,892 which was paid by Thanet Council to the operator of the Dreamland Amusement Park, SHL. This payment was, I believe, part of an out-of-court settlement with SHL made because the council had failed to comply with its agreements with this company. Because of the nature of this payment I would have expected it to have been reported as an item of exceptional expenditure and to have been mentioned in the notes to the accounts in a similar manner as the damages payments to the live animal exporters have been treated in the accounts. This does not appear to have happened and I would be grateful if you could let me know whether the draft accounts will now be amended to identify this payment as exceptional with an accompanying explanatory note”. On 3rd August, a senior TDC Finance Manager replied to Driver stating that “I can confirm that I am happy with the current treatment (of the payment to Sands Heritage) and no additional notes will be added (to the accounts). Driver has now contacted the external auditor who is currently checking TDCs accounts and has asked that in the interest of public accountability and transparency he reverses TDCs refusal to separately list the payment with an explanation of its purpose, in the 2015-16 accounts. Said Driver “I believe that TDC’s refusal to identify and explain this £1million payment in its accounts was a deliberate effort to cover-up the fact that it was forced to pay compensation to SHL because of its utterly incompetent management of the Dreamland project. Had the Council managed the project efficiently and effectively there would have been no need to have paid £1million compensation. Hiding this payment away in the accounts is a despicable and deceitful act which is all about  protecting the arses of  senior managers and politicians rather being open, transparent and accountable to the taxpayers to Thanet. This appalling anti-democratic action is another reason why there should be a full independent inquiry into the council’s management of Dreamland.

1. Thanet Council has never stated how much compensation was paid to Sands Heritage. The figure of £912,892 was disclosed in a document produced by SHL’s administrators and published on Companies House website in July 2016

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Ramsgate Pleasurama Public Meeting

About 80 people attended a public meeting held at Ramsgate Royal Harbour  yesterday evening to discuss  latest developments in the long-running and controversial Ramsgate Pleasurama saga.

The meeting was addressed by John Davies chairman of the Friends of Ramsgate Seafront (FORS)  group and former Thanet Councillor, Ian Driver, a longstanding campaigner against the Pleasurama development. Mr Davies said that FORs will be campaigning for a public inquiry into Thanet Council’s management of the site, especially the sale of the freehold to developers  Cardy Ramsgate for £3million last week at a time when other Cardy companies were reported to be facing serious financial difficulties.  Mr Davies said that FORS will be organising more public meetings  in the near future to gather support for their campaign for an inquiry with the ultimate aim of securing the return of  the land to the  council.
Ian Driver, said that the derelict Pleasurama site had blighted Ramsgate seafront for more than 20 years and had deterred investment and development in the area at the cost of £millions in lost income and jobs. He said that he did not believe that Cardy Ramsgate would ever complete the development and that Cardy’s funder,  the offshore Panamanian based Mintal Group, would ultimately take control of seafront site and land bank it  till prices rose. He explained that Mintal appeared to be owned by multi-millionaire, Colin Hill, who was also the financier for the previous failed Pleasurama developers SFP Ventures. He said that Thanet Council should make a determined effort to regain ownership  of the land and that there should be a major public consultation with the people of Ramsagate about what the land should be used for. His preferred option was from leisure and community use.

See video of Ian Driver's speech to the meeting below