18 January, 2024

Cabinet to review progress on Ramsgate regeneration programme

Progress on the projects planned under the Ramsgate regeneration programme will be reviewed by members of the Cabinet, at a meeting on Thursday 25 January 2024.

The Ramsgate programme currently includes 10 separate projects, with a total of £22.5m of government grant funding. This £22.5m is made up of £2.7m from the Future High Street Funds and £19.8m from the Levelling Up Fund. Projects proposed for delivery include the provision of a creative workspace and improved highways in Ramsgate as well enhancing the Port, Harbour and places for local people to engage and develop skills to access the new job opportunities being created.

All of the projects are at different stages but require project management, design, construction and stakeholder involvement. They all have government approval and must be reported on regularly. Since the projects were identified and the initial funding bids were submitted in 2019 and 2021, a number of unforeseeable global events have resulted in a period of unexpectedly high inflation, reducing the real value of the funding by around 25%. The council wrote to the Secretary of State requesting the government consider the provision of additional funding to reflect this, however this was rejected.

In light of this, changes to the programme were submitted to Cabinet and approved in September 2023 as part of the Simplification Pathfinder Pilot Investment Plan. This report outlines that further changes are considered possible at this stage. Cabinet will be asked to note that the current estimated cost of the programme exceeds the amount of grant available. It further advises that movement of funding allocations between Ramsgate projects and/or changes to the Ramsgate regeneration programme may be needed, to keep costs within budget.

The report offers updates on all of the projects highlighting which will proceed, which will now be revised and where costs are yet to be determined but are anticipated to exceed the currently allocated budget.

Works to the building at 5A Broad Street, Ramsgate which was acquired on 11 December 2023 are anticipated for summer 2024. This will be subject to a key decision to be made by Cabinet to undertake procurement.

The highways works which aim to provide pedestrians with greater accessibility into the town centre, will now be delivered as part of the wider Ramsgate regeneration programme. It is anticipated that this will minimise the risk of projects clashing in the Harbour area.

The Pier Yard Car Park will be transformed into a new town square. It will be brought together with the highways plans to gain greater economies of scale in terms of delivery.

In December 2023, the National Lottery Heritage Funding bid for the Clock House scheme was unsuccessful. The report advises that the scope of this project is therefore being revised in line with Levelling Up Funding. Work is underway with the Ramsgate Heritage Regeneration Trust to develop a proposal for the building, to safeguard its heritage and future, and identify a way for the Trust to run a maritime heritage hub for Ramsgate.

The report states that the final pre-tender costs are not yet known for the Ramsgate Port infrastructure work, but it is anticipated that in the region of £10m, they will exceed the Levelling Up Fund budget of £3.5m currently allocated. Whilst potential costs have increased, the market testing exercise yielded positive responses from a wide range of parties and helped to inform decisions about how the site could be managed.

A process, asking potential operators their view of how the Green Campus might be run and gauging their interest, has recently ended. This process will inform council-led procurement plans, should the decision be to engage an external operator. If so, procurement would be likely to start in summer 2024.

Plans to convert the Smack Boys building to a restaurant with rooms, contributing to the availability of overnight accommodation in Ramsgate, were reviewed in September 2023. As a result of increased costs which affect its viability, this project will not proceed in its initially proposed form. A provisional allocation of funding will remain under review.

The report also highlights that plans for new fishing facilities will now be amended in response to reductions in the size of the fishing industry in Ramsgate and advice from the Thanet Fishermen’s Association (TFA) about its membership numbers and capacity to support the site. Smaller scale opportunities will be explored.

Focused on developing local skills, the Newington Community Centre project aims to extend the existing building. Plans include a large teaching kitchen to expand on a popular food and cookery programme already offered by the centre. Architects have been appointed to manage RIBA Stages 2-6 i.e. from design and construction, through to handover of the building. Regular meetings with partners and to update residents are underway.

Cllr Rick Everitt, Leader of Thanet District Council said: “The funding we’ve received from the government has kick-started regeneration in Thanet at a speed and scale that would not otherwise have been possible. However, the requirement to enter bids within very short timescales meant they had to be submitted on the basis of high-level information, ahead of a detailed design process providing information on final costs and timescales for delivery.

“This report highlights the significant progress that has been made despite the complexities but also the clear reality of delivering capital projects of this size, over this duration. We have to acknowledge that the world is a different place than it was when the bids were submitted.

“We’ll continue to remain accountable for decisions around spending and recognise the need for our projects to be completed in budget, without compromising council reserves or services. If additional funding isn’t forthcoming and choices therefore have to be made about transferring funding from one or more projects, we need to be prepared for that.”

The report sets out the current status of delivery of the approved Ramsgate regeneration programmes. Following its presentation to Cabinet, the proposal is that the report is presented to the Overview and Scrutiny Panel for consideration and comment. At any point if fundamental changes to the scope, costs or deliverables are proposed, the projects will be brought back before Cabinet for a formal decision.

The Cabinet meeting will take place at 7pm on Thursday 25 January in the Thanet District Council chamber. Members of the public are welcome to attend in-person.

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