The meeting was packed. I reckon more than 200 people turned up to hear what local politicians and spokesman for the developers, estate agent Terence Painter, had to say about the future of this failing project which has blighted our seafront for over a decade. It was clear that the vast majority of the audience were opposed to the development and would like to see something else instead. One speaker asked for a show of hands and at least 95% of the audience indicated that they wanted the council to end its agreement with project developers SFP Ventures UK Ltd and remove them from the site. Speaker after speaker condemned the developers for turning our seafront into bombsite which was deterring visitors, putting other organisations off investing in Ramsgate, and taking away public amenity for young people.
Most people were unimpressed by and angry with their local councillors who could only repeat the mantra "we don't like it but there is nothing we can do about it". Cabinet member Allan Poole stated, to a chorus of boos and hisses of disapproval, that in his opinion helping the developers complete the project was the best thing the Council could do. He created further anger by allegedly smirking and laughing at many of the speakers who disagreed with him. Many people expressed the view that if SFP Ventures has been unable to raise funds to complete the project in the past 7 years, then it is unlikely that they will be able to raise the money in the future. many people speculated about who was actually behind SFP ventures and what their motivation might be. I fully support the sentiments and anger of the majority of people at the meeting. Council officers and elected councillors
have in my opinion badly mis-managed this decade long disaster. £millions have been wasted in lost opportunity costs and the potential for new inward investment, jobs and increased tourism have been squandered by allowing SFP Ventures to remain the project developers who have sat back and done nothing.
I hope the Scrutiny working group which meets for the first time on 18 July, and which I am a member of, will begin the job of getting rid of SFP
once and for all and working with the community to develop ideas for new uses for this important seafront site. I will be arguing that external, expert legal advice is taken on ending the Council's agreement with SFP. I will also be arguing that meetings of the Scrutiny working group take place in public in Ramsgate and that local people are properly consulted on the working groups recommendations before they are sent off to Cabinet or the full Council for approval.One final comment on last nights public meeting and the setting up of the scrutiny working group. These only happened because local people had signed petitions, lobbied their councillors, and expressed their anger about the way SFP Ventures and the Council have turned our seafront into a festering slum. Keep the pressure up because People Power is the only thing which will ensure that this scandal is put right. Shame there wasn't enough time to talk about Victoria Pavilion and Transeuropa Ferries 2 more cases of Council incompetence which I will continue to raise on these pages and elsewhere.