Written by Jocelyn McCarthy
I am sad to tell you that, as I stepped down as Chairman at the last AGM, after ten years in post, this will be my last Chairman’s Letter. During those ten years I have seen The Society grow in stature and ambition, and increase its membership. Its status and the work it does has been acknowledged by the community, the local Councils and organisations such as Heritage Lottery Fund, Civic Society, Community First, and even the office of the Lord Lieutenant. I hope that The Society will continue its brilliant work, and that its contribution to the community will continue to grow.
I am also sorry to record that the editors of About Ramsgate have decided to step down after more than two years of dedicated and inspired work. It was a lucky day when Stephen Davies and Veronica Pratt agreed to take over the running of the magazine. Both are Life Members of The Society, and publishing professionals with long and distinguished careers, with experience in major publishing houses including Penguin/Viking, the BBC and Reader’s Digest. Together they undertook a major redesign of the appearance and content of the magazine, and I am sure everyone will agree that the new-look magazine is stylish, informative and entertaining, and enhances the prestige of The Society.
Due to an oversight we neglected to acknowledge their contribution and their legacy at the AGM in May, but I’m sure members will join me in thanking Stephen and Veronica for their hard work over the last two years, and for providing us with a magazine to be proud of.
A new team headed by Brian Daubney, another Life Member, will produce the magazine in future, starting with the autumn issue. We are very grateful to Brian for agreeing to take on this task, and wish him luck.
In my last letter I said how well the shop in Harbour Street was doing, so I am sorry to say that at the moment it is closed, due to the extensive refurbishments being undertaken by the owners. The owner has offered a new five years’ lease but unfortunately it is far too expensive for us. The Society has been asked to come back with an offer. We have been looking around to see if there are any other suitable premises available, but properties in the centre of Ramsgate are extremely costly. The Harbour Street shop has been a great focus for The Society. I was surprised how many people didn’t know The Society existed, but were happy to see its presence in the centre of town. It would be a shame if The Society were unable to re-establish its presence within the town. We were fortunate that, due to well-wishers and generous contributors, we were able to afford seven months’ rent (we also had three months rent-free). If such premises are obtained in future The Society hopes that members will consider contributing to what has proved a worthwhile enterprise: either by volunteering their time, or making a financial donation.
The Pleasurama site has been sold to Cardy by TDC. We hope the £3 million proceeds from the sale will be invested in Ramsgate. For example, the Westcliff Promenade above the former Motor Museum is collapsing, and we hope that some of those funds could be directed to repairing the promenade. So far there is no sign of activity at the site, but we hope that work will start soon to remove this visual blight from our seafront.
With reference to the Royal Pavilion there is more delay to the application, while the Council seeks further detailed drawings. The first stage of the listed building consents has been approved. Yet again watch this space.
You’ll have heard about the proposed O’Regan development in the Port of Ramsgate. No application has actually been put in so far. I attended a pre-petition meeting with would-be election candidates called by Friends of Ramsgate Seafront and other groups.
The purpose was to send a petition asking Thanet District Council not to entertain an application for industrial development on the Port of Ramsgate. The Society has been asked for its support. We feel that, due to the environmental impact, a development like this should not take place.
Continuing on the subject of Ramsgate Harbour, we have been approached by Nick Dermott of Thanet District Council, who has been instructed to put in an application to HLF for funds for improvements to the listed structures in the harbour. He has asked The Society for support. As you know the harbour has several Grade 1 and Grade 2* listed buildings within its boundary, and also includes some Monument structures, including Smeaton’s Crosswall and the slipways. The Society is happy to support this great project. A team headed by John Walker has submitted a bid for HLF funds for Ellington Park and we hope for good news in due course.
Project Motorhouse is still going ahead, despite the recent news in the paper that it may have to be demolished. The plan is to rebuild it, like for like. The group is still seeking funding and The Society continues to give Janet Fielding its full support. As you know it is not a listed building and is not included in a local list, and The Society would like to see it reinstated, due to its historical importance.
My best wishes to the new Chairman, John Walker. I hope The Society will continue to prosper.