Friday's Isle of Thanet Gazette carried an interesting article on the English Heritage Urban Panel visit to Margate and subsequent report.
The Gazette reports that Chris Smith, the panel co-ordinator stated:
"The Georgian town built on the hill fields beyond the High Street puts Margate at the forefront of English seaside development and had Cecil Square and The Assembly Rooms survived intact, the image of the town today might well be different today.
The building that houses Thanet Council is so out of scale and over bearing as to drive the image of the rest of Cecil Square from the mind. The square has suffered badly from the non-negotiable demands of the highway engineer. Members felt that the re-creation of Cecil Square as a pedestrian dominated space of quality would offer a far better return for residents and visitors alike."
I couldn't agree more. Last week I went on a historic guided tour of Margate with the Margate Civic Society. It was really enjoyable and I'd recommend it. It was so interesting to get a new view of places and details that I pass in everyday life. One of the stops was on Cecil Square. Old photographs were passed around that showed a Thornton Bobby department store with wonderful ronate ironwork to the facade next door to the Natwest Building and that corner was an intact terrace of fine houses down to street level. There was no delivery arch into the corner, which I believe was put in later for M&S. It's so destructive the modifications that are made and then the businesses move on. Looking at the old pictures and then bothering to look up above the traffic it's clear the fabric of the beautiful square is still there. But that it is obliterated by the excessive widening of the road and the Council Offices and Court that tower over in extreme ugliness.
I remember someone telling me that the TDC building was built with no expense spared. Something about handmade bricks shipped in specially? I will have to do some research on this. If anyone has any pictures or knowledge of what was there before the ins and outs of the building of the current Council offices I'd be glad interested.
It isn't hard to imagine Cecil Square back to its former glory. If it was in any other european city it would be one of the main public squares of the town, fronted with shops, bars and cafes. Perhaps a weekly market. Instead it's a car park, duel carriageway and bustop with poor street furniture and inappropriate landscaping. It could be a welcoming place instead of a stressful environment.
It seems Margate officals were pleased with the panel's report in respect of Dreamland and the Turner Contemporary and Old Town. I need to research what plans are afoot for Cecil Square and also to track down the report. The Council is feeding back on the report on June 16th.