Thursday, 4 February 2010

Ramsgate's New Town Hall

Last Monday evening Ramsgate Town Council voted to move from its historical home on the Eastcliff, Albion House to Ramsgate's Custom House, right next to Ramsgate's Royal Harbour and in the middle of Ramsgate's cafe culture strip. (click on photos to enlarge them)

Last week I had the opportunity to look around the splendidly refurbished Cusom House which is a rich part of the town's history. There is plenty of space, far more than the Town Council needs. So this is not just a move to new premises, but a statement of intent by the Town Council that it wants to do more for the town.

Rooms could be rented out to generate income. The Atrium room could be a cafe. I think this is an ambitious plan in an area where there is plenty of well established competition. The Atrium does not have a great view out as my photo shows, and personally if I wanted a drink I would go for the view of the harbour every time in any of the numerous nearby establishments.
There is a long list of ambitious projects by Councils, where costs have overrun and projections have not been realised. You only need to go to the north of the Isle of Thanet and all the problems that the Turner Centre has had to see an example of the sort of problems that can happen.

Whilst I am not the greatest enthusiast for the Town Council (I think it is expensive for what it can do), if you knock on doors regularly in Ramsgate, there is no doubt it is what local people want.
So in going forward ambitiously the Town Councillors are reflecting the public's views. One thing that does concern me is that the Town Council is struggling to be a Council for the whole town. There's no doubt there are many people in the centre of town who care passionately about the Town Council.
In much of Northwood, Newington and Pegwell
people's priorities are services rather than symbols and heritage, important as these are. I attended a consultation meeting from the Town Council last week in Northwood where there were as many councillors as residents. (Thanks to the Town councillors for turning out in such good numbers.)
The thought crossed my mind that with such a ratio the consultation could have turned into a speed dating style event, where each resident could have had one on one's with each councillor and after 10 minutes move on to the next one....
Ok, perhaps not ...... a similar meeting in Albion House was packed with over 60 people present I am told. I attended two consultation meetings and the striking thing for me was the age of those present. Ramsgate Town Council could look for a joint venture with Saga as sponsors, as they can bring out their ideal target audience. I fear that however well intentioned the Town Council is, it listens to the voices of the older part of our community disproportionately. And I do not have an easy answer for how they can attract younger people to their meetings.
But, in the same week I went to a Police and Communities Together (PACT) meeting in Northwood where young parents were present. So tackling crime and anti-social behaviour should be something the Town Council considers further I would suggest.
Back to the building itself which is magnificent and if you get the chance to look inside, do. My favourite feature is the wind dial in the ceiling upstairs, which connects through to the weather vane on the dome on top. What ingenious and glorious design, an architectural treasure that should be available to be viewed by the people of Ramsgate.


  1. GRRRRRRR Custom House not Customs House.

  2. Mark, Gazette today, three Conservatives, including Laura Sandys, have written in about eh disgust in Labour Cllr's voting to move from Albion House, casting off Ramsgates history etc etc.

    Which council leaders put Albion house on the asset sale list in the first place, and levied a rent higher than customs house, kicking off the whole chain of events?

    Laura - its noted how you make an effort to make a hypocritical snipe at Labour, but fail to make one public comment when Infratil and TDC support night flights over your constituents heads.

  3. It is very understandable that a forward looking RTC would wish to get the best value for their rental expenditure and if this is obtained at the Custom House, then so be it,
    which will also thwart the sale of Albion House, by TDC, because of loss of rent. Possibly enabling RTC to purchase it, a smart move all round, I think.

    Anyway the Custom House is a more accessible building to the people and more central. It is unfortunate that the Mayor's parlour will have to move but we need RTC to be forward thinking not a museum piece. Blame TDC for this not RTC.

    With regard to Saga verses the young, I would suggest that the poor attendance at Northwood, Newington, etc is partly due to your inablity to engage with your voters, RTC are certainly communicating with anyone caring for the town.

    Finally,you should realise, if the centre of town looks good it will attract tourists and wealth which can generate revitalisation of the wider areas. Spending on Northwood and Newington first will not attract money into the town.

  4. Well done Phil Dadd in the restoration. A local architect who supports Ramsgate in lots of ways
    David Redfern, Acol

  5. I've just written to the Gazette to take issue with the blatant political posturing of Laura Sandys who fails, yet again, to criticise her own party at TDC. I loved the 'I'm a Ramsgate resident' bit as she's only living here while she tries to get the parliamentary seat.

  6. Plenty of room and wall space for maritime exhibits.Perhaps the RTC could take out on loan the Ramsgate items which TDC have in storage or out of Ramsgate for 36 years. Bearing in mind the Ramsgate art collection on the TDC books once belonged to the original pre 1974 Ramsgate Town Council. What are the chances of any of it being returned.

  7. Anon 8.45 many thanks for the correction, now amended.

    Steve I agree, thanks for flagging this up.

    Readit a load of out touch nonsense and your cowardly anonymity will sadden all those I know who are involved and work hard for RTC.
    I am sorry you regard Northwood and Newington residents as second class citizens who should rely on trickle down economics from the centre of town. In case you hadn't noticed more people shop at Westwood Cross than in RTC centre.

    David agreed and the decorators have done a first class job from what I have seen but I've been unable to find out for sure who they are to commend them, possibly Windsor Decor?

    Anon 11.25 it is not just Laura all the other Ramsgate Tories have a shameful record on defending Ramsgate against asset disposal, they have not thought this through politically.
    Tony a great idea.

  8. Jenny Matterface6 February 2010 at 08:09

    Which is more important -improving the quality of life for residents of some of our more disadvantaged wards or helping businesses make money?

    In my book improving people's lives rank higher as then the businesses will benefit but then I'm not a businessman, just someone who cares for those without my advantages in life.

    As for Laura Sandys' letter in the Gazette, I consider that typical of her political posturing, jumping on the next convenient bandwagon. Why not take your TDC colleagues to task over all this? After all they are the ones trying to sell-off our assets.

  9. Just a point,
    The Historical home of Ramsgate Council was and is above the Halifax in Ramsgate Town Centre. (Used to be Burtons)