Thursday, 9 February 2017

Thanet Parkway Station will bring broadly no improvements to Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate

A few days ago I saw Thanet District Council officer tweets about the improvements in train service that the proposed Thanet Parkway Station to be built near Cliffsend will bring. My own blog post on Thanet Parkway in 2011 raising the same concerns as today.

KCC are running consultation events in various locations at the moment. There's a website with details. But what isn't on the website are details of how this shiny new, station manned by two employees and with parking for 300 vehicles in the middle of the Thanet countryside will affect Thanet's existing train service to their towns of Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs.

Both Thanet Council and Kent County Council's twitter accounts didn't answer the basic questions of how this new station would affect the existing train services of Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate.

One suggested I go to an actual consultation.


 Another offered up sending an email enquiry to thanetparkway@kent.gov.uk. Anyone would think their wasn't information relevant enough to be published on the official website





Concerns have been raised by many since the beginning of Thanet Parkway as a concept. It was originally a station to serve Manston Airport. It appears now to be for the benefit of a future new town, given all the planning permissions for housing around there. Here's what my good friend, Ed Targett wrote about it previously:
https://greentargett.com/2015/04/20/manston-parkway-bad-news-for-margate/ with the CPRE stating:
"
“It is claimed that ‘A parkway station will provide greater opportunity to access London via High Speed 1… However we question whether it would provide any greater access than is currently available, as people in Thanet & Dover have access to plenty of stations with the HS1 service; the Parkway could simply delay trains on the whole network.
“We are also concerned at the claim of: ‘Improved accessibility to job markets in London and wider Kent area’. The focus for Thanet should be the provision of local jobs rather than better access for commuting elsewhere. The climate change imperative requires less travel, not more.
“Furthermore we question the claimed benefit of: “Supporting housing and  employment development identified in the Draft Thanet Local Plan to 2031 Preferred  Option”, since the existing stations will provide at least equivalent benefit if the facilities at existing stations are improved as we suggest.”
So, I sent off my email to thanetparkway@kent.gov.uk On Feb 7th  and waited. I nudged some and finally, this evening two days later I got this reply [my added bold]
From: Louise Oldfield

Date: 7 February 2017 at 18:09
Subject: How will the proposed Thanet Parkway Station affect trains to the existing Thanet towns of Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate?
To: thanetparkway@kent.gov.uk

How will the proposed Thanet Parkway Station affect trains to the
existing Thanet towns of Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate?

1. Will there be improvements in the current time it take to arrive
from London to the towns?

2. Will there be the same number of fast trains to London to and from the towns?

Kind regards,

Louise Oldfield

From:  

Date: 9 February 2017 at 16:42
Subject: RE: How will the proposed Thanet Parkway Station affect trains to the existing Thanet towns of Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate?


Dear Ms Oldfield,

Please accept our apologies for the delay in responding to your email, all members of the project team were at a consultation event yesterday and so we were unable to respond to your query before now.   Please find a response to each of your questions below:

1. We expect the benefits from the Journey Time Improvement Scheme (JTI), which involves upgrading the railway line between Ashford and Ramsgate, to deliver about 3 minutes in journey time saving.  This will mitigate the additional time taken by trains calling at Thanet Parkway, and so we expect the journey times to and from Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate to be broadly the same as today.

2. There will be the same number of both high speed and mainline trains between London and the Thanet towns, and all trains that pass Thanet Parkway will call at the station.

Further information on the project can be found on our website www.kent.gov.uk/thanetparkway, including our consultation booklet and questionnaire.

We hope this answers your queries, however if you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact us and we will respond as quickly as we can.

Kind regards,

Thanet Parkway Project Team | Kent County Council | Sessions House, County Hall, Maidstone, ME14 1XQ | Email: thanetparkway@kent.gov.uk | Visit: www.kent.gov.uk/thanetparkway

What this says is that the journey times to Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate will be the same. But then there's the word 'broadly'. Now this we should be worried about. What does 'broadly' mean? We saw with the Golf Open in Sandwich that high speed trains were just diverted from stopping at Thanet towns. 

What guarantees are there that we won't lose train frequency or suffer increased journey times? 

And if we have nothing to gain in times and the number of trains per day, why would Parkway Station in the middle of the countryside with all the added risks of congestion be being billed as improvements for Thanet by Thanet politicians and Council Officers? There is the very real risk that train services will be cut from the existing Thanet towns.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Nayland Rock Hotel, Margate "mystery owner"

From a recent article in The Telegraph on Margate's wonderful Nayland Rock hotel:
"The hotel is currently without a star to its name, but that according to Carol is about to change. As of last month it has been taken over by a mystery new owner who she is yet to meet. “They are intending to bring it up to a five-star standard,” she says. “Now this place is coming back to what it was." 
No idea why the Telegraph journalist didn't just look up the 'mystery owner' of the Nayland Rock Hotel! It's on the Land Registry as being bought for £1,750,000 by the Bristol based Tower Pension Trustees Limited. This is the same company that bought the pub at 50 Marine Terrace that was then leased on the same day as purchase on a 20 year lease to the operators of Dreamland, Sands Heritage Limited.

Further, Sands Heritage Limited Directors Nick Conington and John Adams have set up a new company called Nayland Rock Hotel Margate Limited (10175490) which has a 100% shareholder, a company called Brede Hotels Limited.


Brede Hotels Limited (10077315) also has Nick Conington and John Adams as directors and a shareholder with 100% of the shares a Nicholas Graham Niell. 

Nick Niell is the boss of the Arrowgrass Master Fund, the hedge-fund that recently lent Sands Heritage Limited £600,000 secured against the Dreamland 100 year lease with Thanet District Council. Arrowgrass is stated in the recent Duff and Phelps administrator's report as now being owed £2.4m by Sands Heritage Limited. See my August 11th post on this here. Arrowgrass was according to Nick Conington's Linkedin profile his previous employer from 2008 to 2012.



Niell and Conington were both registered as the inventors of a 'Media file distribution system and method' on a UK patent in 2002,  which was owned by a company called Digifi Limited (now dissolved). That's six years before Arrowgrass was formed in 2008. A director of Digifi Limited was also John Adams of Sands Heritage Limited.

Digifi's website lists they were partnered with Hush Technologies Limited.




Hush Technologies Limited, also dissolved, has John Adams as a Director and Secretary. Mystery or confusing?


Friday, 12 August 2016

Buyer of Nayland Rock Hotel and the pub leased to Dreamland now in receivership


Bristol based Tower Pension Fund Limited the purchaser of the Punch and Judy pub at 50 Marine Terrace which was then leased to the operators of Dreamland, Sands Heritage Limited has as of yesterday gone into receivership.




Tower Based Pension Fund Limited also recently bought another prominent Margate landmark seafront building, The Nayland Rock Hotel for £1,750,000 on June 30th.



Sands Heritage Limited bosses Nick Conington and John Adams are also directors of a newly formed company called Nayland Rock Hotel Margate Limited.


Let's hope for the best for Margate seafront, it's iconic landmark buildings the future of Dreamland and the creditors owed money.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

The Duff and Phelps Administrator's Report on Dreamland operators

"The Club and The Pub"

Last week, a Dreamland creditors meeting took place at the Shard Building in London. They're the unsecured creditors owed £2.9m out of a total of £8.4m by Dreamland operating company Sands Heritage Limited (SHL) The company is currently running a deficit of £14m. Many of the creditors are Thanet local and small businesses. And it looks likely they'll get a fraction of the money they're owed.

In December 2015, directors of Sands Heritage Ltd announced proposed a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) and appointed Joint Supervisors CCW Recovery Solutions. The CVA document is available to download here.

The CVA stated that SHL Directors approached "certain key creditors, including KCC and Design & Build Limited to see if support could be received in principle to explore the possibility of entering into a CVA..." 




SHL then appointed administrators, Duff and Phelps, who on July 19th 2016 published their own interim report. Download it here on the Companies House website. On reading the Duff and Phelps report, a few points are worth looking at in more detail.


1. SHL took on two 20 year commercial leases, one for Escape Nightclub and one for the Punch and Judy pub, both on Marine Terrace, both on January 30th 2015.

"The Club premises located at 49 Marine Terrace, Margate, Kent, CT9 1XJ over which the Company [SHL] has been granted a 20 year lease commencing on 30 January 2015."



The Club is better known as The Escape Nightclub. It was bought by SHL boss, Nick Conington for £500,000 also on 30 January 2015.

"5.27 In addition to the lease for the Park, the Company also leases the Pub and the Club from third parties on 20 year leases which both commenced 30 January 2015."
The Administrator's Report makes no mention of the ownership of the club. It's not stated why Dreamland would need to rent a large nightclub and only mentions one sub-tenant, Phases Dance studio, which sub-leases the top floor.



The business rates valuation for the Club is £62,500 per year.  Presumably, SHL aka Dreamland were then responsible for the business rates of the Club.




The pub at 50 Marine Terrace, also purchased on January 30th 2015 and leased to SHL for 20 years on the same day, locally known as The Punch and Judy . The pub was purchased by a Bristol based pension trust called Tower Pension Trustees Limited (Company number 02178783).

The business rates valuation for the pub is £39,750 per year.




2. SHL rented a residential property in Margate's old town at Wisteria Cottage in New Street, CT9 1EG from landlords Wink Developments Limited. 
"5.31 At the appointment date, the Company also held a short term lease over Wisteria Cottage. Wisteria Cottage was not required for ongoing trading purposes and accordingly the Joint Administrators entered into discussions with Wink Developments in order to arrange a surrender of the lease. The deposit held by Wink Developments totalled £2,406 In accordance with the lease, Wink Developments were entitled to offset amounts due to them for rental arrears from the deposit held, together with any dilapidations. Following correspondence with Wink Developments, and amount of £1,153 was recovered in respect of the rent deposit."
Wink Developments Limited (Company number 
09559791) is the company of SHL director, Christopher Rudgard Webster. The house, was purchased on July 17th 2015 for £183,000. The Administrator's Report makes no mention that it is leased from an SHL director, for how much or what for what trading purpose for Dreamland.




3. The Administrator's Report states that "In June 2014 the Company was successful in a tender process with TDC to operate the Park" This is incorrect. SHL weren't awarded the tender until November 21st 2014. There were two tender phases. The first in June 2014, when SHL was the only bidder. There was a second tender phase in the autumn of 2014 against other bidders. Here's the TDC announcement in October 2014.

4. "In order to achieve this , the Park was in need of significant renovation works, which commenced in Summer 2014 and had a scheduled completion date of 19 June 2015."

The timeline of events is again incorrect. SHL didn't win the tender to operate the park until November 2014 and didn't commence works in the summer of 2014. 

There is also no evidence that I've seen of a June 19 2015 opening being discussed in the summer of 2014.
5. "3.9 Arrowgrass had previously expressed an interest in working with the Company"


The report makes no mention of Arrowgrass being SHL director, Nick Conington's previous employer from 2008-2012 as per his Linkedin profile.



Arrowgrass is a hedge fund offshoot from Deutsche Bank. Prior to moving to Arrowgrass.Nick Conington worked as a Managing Director of Deutsche Bank for 15 years.

6. Shareholder details:




The report lists a 22 shareholders, they include Nick Conington with 750,000 £1 shares and Christopher Webster has 50,000. Wink Developments Ltd, which is Christopher Webster's company and owns Wisteria Cottage has a further 37,500. John Adams has 100,000 shares and he's also the director of Wyck Consultancy Ltd which also has 10,000 shares.  Stephen Groom (presumably the key creditor of Design & Build Limited) has 25,000 shares. Thanet Property developer Graham Knight has 25,000 shares. Dreamland CEO, Eddie Kemsley has 5,000 shares.






7. Arrowgrass is now stated to be owed £2,400,000, which is an increase from their original secured loan of £600,000 on May 27 2016.













Thursday, 14 July 2016

Breaking: Thanet District Council vote against debating motion on racism



Thanet District Councillors tonight voted against debating a motion proposed by Thanet's Labour Group on racism. The following motion therefore fell:
"We are proud to live in a diverse and tolerant society. Racism, xenophobia and hate crimes have no place in our country. 
Thanet District Council condemns racism, xenophobia and hate crimes unequivocally.
We will not allow hate to become acceptable.
 
This Council will continue to work to ensure local bodies and programmes have the support and resources needed to fight and prevent racism and xenophobia. 
We reassure all people living in Thanet they are valued members of our community."
Cries of 'shame' and 'disgrace' erupted from the packed public gallery. Independent Councillor Bill Hayton turned to the public gallery to state he wasn't racist.

UKIP Councillor Sarah Larkins, also deputy Mayor of Ramsgate, who recently apologised for a Facebook post in which she urged London voters to vote for "anyone but a Muslim" in the London Mayoral election also voted against debating the motion.

Women pension equality campaigners from the WASPI campaign stood up and walked out in disgust in their lilac campaign sashes. The Council had earlier voted in favour of a motion (again proposed by Thanet Labour] supporting their campaign for equal pension rights for women.

It was a night where two universal concepts were put to the Council for support and where only one had the support of the Council even in terms of affording it a debate. The women campaigning for equal pension rights could see the problem with not proactively debating the issue of racism. It's a shame the elected Councillors could not.

Edited to add:
The motion was based on an Amnesty International campaign encouraging local councils to take a stand against racism and xenophobia:

"Local leaders must condemn these actions immediately and do everything in their power to make people safe and welcome. Tell your council to speak out against racism, xenophobia and hate crimes now." Follow the hashtag #AgainstHate.




 

Monday, 20 June 2016

Dreamland lease assigned for charge to offshore company in Caymen Islands?


The Cayman Islands
There was good news from Dreamland over the weekend as it celebrated its first birthday. The park lifted the entrance fee a move met with widespread approval. But news has emerged today that an offshore company, Arrowgrass Masterfund Limited, based in the Cayman Islands has been assigned the lease to Dreamland from operators, Sands Heritage Limited on May 27th in return for the sum of £600,000. The charge document is available to download for free on the Companies House website.



The lease was signed on May 21st 2015 between Thanet District Council and Sands Heritage Limited for the Dreamland site.





Sands Heritage Limited recently went administration owing creditors just under £3m. The agreement states Arrowgrass Masterfund Limited loan is for £600,000. 



Who are Arrowgrass Masterfund Limited?Well, we don't know, because the company is registered off shore. But we have heard of Arrowgrass Capital Partners LLP and this is listed as their correspondence address in the UK.


Arrowgrass Capital Partners LLP is the hedgefund that Sands Heritage Limited boss, Nick Conington lists on his Linkedin  page as having worked for from 2008 to 2012. Arrowgrass Capital Partners grew out of the market leading convertible bond franchise at Deutsche Bank.
Source: Linkedin

Companies House records also show a further charge of £1m to Sands Heritage Limited from June 1st 2015 from a Christopher John Mahoney who is based in the Netherlands. Mahoney and Conington were both part of the winning Oxford University boat race crew in 1980.
Oxford Cambridge boat race crews 1980

Mahoney, is a retired director of agriculture trading of the world's largest commodities trading company, Glencore. A headline in the Independent stated:

"We'll make a killing out of food crisis, Glencore trading boss Chris Mahoney boasts" With Mahoney quoted:
"The environment is a good one. High prices, lots of volatility, a lot of dislocation, tightness, a lot of arbitrage opportunities."We will be able to provide the world with solutions... and that should also be good for Glencore."

Surely, questions now arise:

- What does the agreement between Arrowgrass Masterfund Limited and Sands Heritage Limited mean for the future of Dreamland as an amusement park? 
- Has the future operation of Dreamland been transferred to an offshore company? What role did freeholders and funders Thanet District Council play in the transfer? 
- What role do funding partners The Dreamland Trust and the Heritage Lottery Fund play?

- Is Dreamland as an amusement park safe from being developed into anything other than an amusement park?


Post edit:
Ed Targett has also published a post 

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Save Dreamland...Again!



News broke over the weekend that Sands Heritage Limited (SHL) the company chosen by Thanet District Council in November 2014 as the preferred operator to run Dreamland, has gone into administration. The fact that SHL haven't made it through a full year since signing the lease agreement the night before Margate's historic amusement park opened on  June 19th 2015 is shocking. Sadly, however, unsurprising. 

“We signed the lease the night before we opened in June, after a year of negotiation,” he says. “It was a very complex deal." Nick Conington, Chairman of Sands Heritage Ltd, Property Week, November 6, 2015.
What's incredibly frustrating is how it's come to this. Dreamland is the historic Margate brand, internationally renowned the world over, over many generations of holidaymakers. The subject of a twelve year campaign of sheer will and hard graft by a dedicated group of die hard volunteers and many many supporters wider afield. It developed from a grass roots campaign into a charitable trust. Yet when SHL's marketing and sponsorship manager describes Dreamland as: "one of the South East’s best kept secrets, but as we approach our one-year anniversary, the time has come to grow awareness nationwide. " you know you might need to worry.

It's easy to forget that there wouldn't be a Dreamland for  SHL to sell brand partnerships with without this campaign. After all the hard work of legally securing the site from developers, Dreamland was handed into the care of officials who's job it was to take it forward to the finish line of opening to the public. The people who really cared for it as a vision aren't the people who decided to open it on June 19th 2015. This early date also raised eyebrows at the Heritage Lottery Fund, Dreamland's principle grant funder in an email to the Dreamland Trust on May 1st 2015, released by a Freedom of Information request stating that SHL should bear the full responsibility of this decision. 

Somewhere along the line, care hasn't been taken to keep this publicly funded project to the tune of millions on track (where is the heritage and education learning centre?), ensuring the best outcome for Margate and for the people who put in literally thousands of hours into ensuring Dreamland didn't become another lucrative residential and retail development site in the centre of town.

The fact that we the public are still far from clear about the legal status of Sands Heritage Limited's now 100 years lease (negotiated up from 25 years during the tender process) tells us something. 

Quite simply, what most people want to know: is Dreamland safe? 

If a commercial operator like SHL fail to make a viable go of Dreamland, will SHL's conduct be assessed and Dreamland as a park come back to the Thanet Council for another potential operator to have a go at running the park in the model it was publicly funded for?

Because it seems to me that the people involved in Dreamland in the last 18 months aren't working on the Dreamland I'd envisaged through the campaign period. The other day, I came across Sands Heritage Limited appointed PR firm Kallaway claim to having "increased ticket sales by 500%' (that and raising house prices in the area by 24%!) for the same time period SHL were claiming at court poor ticket sales as the reason they'd amassed almost £3m of debts and laying the blame at the door of Thanet District Council for, among other aspects, not getting The Scenic Railway up and running in time for their June 19th 2015 launch.

SHL having signed the lease on the 18th of June and having had a number of regular meetings with the Council will no doubt have been aware of the status of the Scenic Railway. All available evidence so far released show it was SHL that pushed for that June 2015 opening date. I've yet to see a document of SHL complaining the Scenic not being open for June 19th was going to ruin their plans. If anyone has got this evidence, I'd love to see it.


After entering mediation, Thanet Council handed SHL a further £1,050,000 in December 2015 and rumour has it a further seven years rent free on top of the initial seven, bringing it to 14 years rent free.

Who knew that after the major campaign victory of the securing the site via a lengthy compulsory purchase legal battle that the Save Dreamland badges and posters might have to again come out of the cupboard to fight for the park's future? 

Well, perhaps those of us that questioned SHL's lack of experience in amusement parks compared to other bidders. And as Ed Targett has pointed out on his blog posts here and here even their CVA (company voluntary agreement) was fantastical in claiming they would bring in £7m in revenue between November 2015 and November 2016. Do cast your mind back to how many days Dreamland was actually open from December 2015 to now.

There are many questions to be answered. So many, that I think only a public inquiry will do. Dreamland is a big deal to Margate. It's a big deal to Thanet, a district that can ill afford to lose this amount of money and a valuable seafront leisure asset. We need to scrutiny of the figures and scrutiny of the management of this crucial 12 year project.

How much public money has actually been invested and how much have SHL invested?

According to a Thanet Council's presentation to the Corporate Review Working Party on September 30th 2015, SHL were listed as having invested only £200,000 with the vast share of investment picked up by the public purse.




Save Dreamland...Again! #SaveDreamlandAgain

Post edit: Do contact me if you can shed any light on any of the mysteries in this post.