Sunday, 30 September 2007

Building at Risk? 12-15 Cliff Terrace

The collection of Victorian buildings at 12-15 Cliff Terrace is one of Margate's most striking landmark sites. The site was originally a tearoom with diners seated on the first floor, enjoying the amazing sea views. The ground floor seafront outlets were shops and a cafe.

12-15 Cliff Terrace

Situated at the corner, opposite the soon to be re-developed Lido, the building is one of Margate's seafront properties that has, until now, survived intact. The building has been under the same family ownership since the 1940's, and has stood empty for well over a decade and the deterioration of the site has been cause for concern.


The corner building has beautiful protruding curved glass sash windows covering almost the entire elevations.

There was, until last week, an intact, original chemist's shop on the side complete with original bespoke wooden shop fittings. The fact a shop interior survived so long is pretty amazing, given the frequency retail outlets undergo change of occupancy. Sadly, the chemist shop interior I photographed two weeks ago has now been removed.The loss of the shop interior while English Heritage were assessing the building for spot listing does not bode well for the future preservation of the site.

intact chemist shop interior
Chemist Shop Interior September 8th 2007

destroyed chemist shop interior
Chemist Shop Interior September 30th 2007

Many local people thought its future conservation had been safeguarded with Thanet District Council's threat in June 2006 of a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO). However, the CPO was put on the back burner and a local developer, believed to be Jim Ward of Ramsgate FC, has submitted planning permission to convert the entire site to 10 flats. The application is actually by Ward Renovation and Construction Limited, which at the time of writing is not a registered UK limited company.

Many pointed to the fact that being situated in a designated Conservation Area, that this would somehow ensure the buildings' unique features be protected in the future. This is sadly not the case. Conservation Areas are unable to preserve interiors. The removal of the chemist shop interior that has now happened is a sad representation of this. If the building were listed then this would have protected the shop units and also ensure that the fenestration is exempt from having to comply with the necessary building regulations when converting into new flats.

The loss of the shopfronts and units to residential is a sad loss for the area for such a prominent, key seafront site. Shops rarely make ideal residential homes for the occupants and they also negatively impact on the streetscape. The application also contains extensive modification to the shop fronts, which given the detail of the original frontages that have survived, such as the blinds and canopies and curved glass frontages, will have a negative impact on the site.

shop frontage

Given the site's location on the seafront at the gateway to Cliftonville and directly opposite the Lido, the proposed loss of retail and commerical space at street level seems totally inappropriate. Examples of Margate's cultural heritage that have survived should be protected as something to be proud of. There is the example of the seabathing hospital development that has proven that Margate can sustain high quality residential development and refurbishment of a listed building. Here it seems the core aims of the Council's Empty Property scheme, who have worked over the years to bring the building back into use, to be out of step with buildings of architectural significance and of the Council's own regeneration aims for the area as a whole.

The upper floors would make ideal apartments given the seafront location. But there is a strong case that the ground floor retail outlets should be preserved. What vision is there for Margate if a viable use for seafront commerical space in one of the key regeneration areas, opposite a major development site cannot be envisaged?

The planning application reference is F/TH/07/0947. It can still be viewed and comments submitted online by visiting UK Planning and popping in 07/0947 on the Thanet Council page . There have been recent amendments to the application in the last week or so, however, they still propose to convert the shops into flats. The changes to the shopfront elevations include the removal of the original blinds and canopies and the extensive bricking up of what was previously a shopfront. One hopes that this site can be lovingly restored to its former glory and return to a place of pride at the gateway to Cliftonville.

The case officer at English Heritage assessing the site for spot listing is Mr Mike German. He can be contacted by email at or by phone:
020 7973 3113.