Agenda item

Ramsgate Regeneration Programme


Cabinet discussed the updates regarding the Ramsgate Regeneration Programme. The meeting was informed that the Council had secured £22.5m of government funding for regeneration projects in Ramsgate. This included both the Future High Streets Fund (£2.7m) and the Ramsgate Levelling Up Fund (£19.8m). Along with Margate regeneration funds which would be reported next month, these programmes were part of a complex array of central government grants, with different timescales and reporting requirements. The government invited the Council to participate in its Simplification Pathfinder Pilot, with the aim of simplifying project approval and reporting arrangements and setting a more realistic timescale for project delivery of March 2026. This was an opportunity to reset the programme and on 21 September 2023, Cabinet approved a new Investment Plan, setting out the updated programme, which had subsequently been approved by government.


The programme focused on projects that provided creative workspace, improved the public realm and connectivity between the harbour and the town, improved the port and harbour itself and created opportunities for skills development and job creation. The report provided update details of each of the 10 projects currently in the programme and an update on progress. Cabinet was not expected to make any decisions on this matter. The purpose of this report was to set out publicly some of the issues that would need to be addressed in due course.


This funding represented a significant step up in the scale of the Council’s regeneration capital programme. At the time of the bid submissions and funding awards, the Council was not adequately resourced to deliver a programme at this scale. Therefore it had been essential for the Council to employ additional project management officers and appoint construction design teams to deliver the programme. The Council also experienced a period of high inflation. Although reasonable assumptions were made about inflation, the Council could not have anticipated the 20%-30% increases in construction costs that had since been experienced. This was common across the whole of the national levelling up programme.


At the time of the central government bidding rounds, many projects submitted for funding across the national bidding programme were only at concept stage, with only high level projections of costs and timelines. Considerable work had been completed to develop the original programme concepts into deliverable projects with updated costs and delivery timelines. The Council had also learnt more about the likely viability of some of the projects proposed. It was not just a question of whether the initial investment was possible within the funding provided, but in some cases whether the proposed use would be achievable or sustainable. In this respect, the Leader of Council had arranged to meet the Thanet Fisherman’s Association to ensure that there was understanding of their position on that project and how the Council could best support them.


The Leader recently had the opportunity to visit the Clock House, which had now returned to Council control, and was confident from talking to representatives of the Ramsgate Heritage Regeneration Trust and Ramsgate Society, as well as Council officers and project leads, that the Council was not only going to be able to safeguard the historic building but also provide something really special in it. The Leader further said that from speaking regularly to the staff at the Newington Community Centre there was a positive view about the works planned there. The Leader had also seen first-hand the potential at 5A Broad Street. The Council was working through the Royal Institute of Architecture’s design stages (details in annex 1 to the report) for each project. This provided a much improved understanding of the design and outcomes for each project, the project timelines and the estimated costs.


This work was continuing and importantly a detailed condition survey and costed schedule of works for the port infrastructure project had been commissioned. The cost of this project would exceed the original grant allocation and the outcome of this work would provide much greater clarity about these costs. It would also be aligned with the Council’s process to appoint an operator, in order to ensure the major investment was only made to meet the demand which Cabinet remained confident now existed. Other options to fund the port infrastructure would also be explored and the Council was already engaging with government on a strategic level in view of the pressures on Dover and its motorway access corridor.


Overall, inflation had put pressure on the affordability of the full programme, but most projects remained deliverable and where they may not be that was not just about the upfront cost. It was inevitable that the Council would have to make some difficult decisions about the final programme over the coming months, and use the flexibility provided to the council as part of the Simplification Pathway Pilot to switch funds between projects where this was necessary. Cabinet had already committed to not moving funds from Margate to Ramsgate, or from Ramsgate to Margate, but within each town adjustments would be required.


At this stage, Cabinet was simply asked to note the progress made and challenges which have emerged. The report would also progress on to the Overview and Scrutiny Panel so that it could be further scrutinised. Importantly each individual project would be considered by the Overview and Scrutiny Panel and Cabinet before being approved once complete information about project design, outcomes, timelines and costs were known.


The following Members spoke under Council Procedure Rule 20.1.


Councillor Austin;

Councillor Davis;

Councillor Pugh.


Cabinet agreed to:


1.  Note the progress achieved in the delivery of the approved Ramsgate regeneration programmes;


2.  Note that further reports will be received, authorising specific procurement activities as each respective project reaches that stage, and setting out the project deliverables, timelines and costs;


3.  Note the proposed monitoring and reporting arrangements, set out in section 6;


4.  Note the current funding gap in the programme;


5.  Refer this report to the Overview and Scrutiny Panel and subsequently consider any comments made by the Panel.

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