Monday, 14 December 2009

CABE's Dickon Robinson on the March 2009 Margate visit

http://www.cabe.org.uk/articles/town-centres

"Robinson believes that visiting a town centre is like taking a person’s pulse – it tells you about the health of a place. Take Margate, which he visited in March with the urban panel: “I went for a walk up High Street, it’s a complete disaster zone – M&S and all the other large shops had gone, more than fifty per cent of the shops are empty.”

It’s true that Turner Contemporary, an art gallery and cultural centre designed by David Chipperfield Architects and inspired by JMW Turner’s long association with Margate, is being built to boost the town’s appeal – and that its community outreach arm has re-opened the M&S building . But Robinson has his doubts that such flagship developments can save a place. The gallery will not primarily be home to Turner paintings and major cultural regeneration projects can often play out more like Sheffield’s National Centre for Popular Music than Bilbao’s much admired Guggenheim."


Interestingly, the Turner Project Space at the M&S Building closed not long after the CABE visit and then of course there are the TDC plans to let the Upper High Street go to residential. i.e. to destroy the shopping centre of the High Street from Boots upwards up the hill. It will be interesting to see if these plans from TDC have been submitted to CABE in their response to the report drafted after the March visit which is still pending.

Recently, I was at a friend's wedding and was chatting to people who live in Brixton in South London. They were telling me of the work done in Brixton Market to allow artists to take on empty units via a charity set up. Apparantly this way, rates were able to not be charged. Or at least it was rent free and the rates were paid. I'll dig out more information and feedback. I wholeheartedly agree with Mr Robinson. I look forward to hearing more from CABE.

7 comments:

  1. Surely turning run-down & largely closed shopping areas into residential areas is preferable to building new housing on farm land? At least the residents will be living in Margate rather than in (or near) Westwood Chaos, therefore hopefully supporting the shops that are still here.

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  2. No need to build on farm land. Margate is full of empty residential property. Remember Cliffe Terrace, http://margatearchitecture.blogspot.com/2008/09/itsy-bitsy-teenie-weenie.html ? Under the guidance of the TDC Empty Properties Department, shops were ripped out and made into apartments. The apartments have been standing empty for over a year, proving there is no need or desire for converted shops as living accommodation.

    Taking away the upper part of the high street will weaken the viability of the middle part- the idea is that for a town centre to be successful you need a critical mass of retail offering. Leaving Boots at the end will only encourage it to leave.

    Retail in the old town has turned around in recent months, seeing 5 new shops open since the summer. These are not just fill-in pound shops, but inspirational businesses that attract visitors. As things pick up, any empty shops up the high street will become an asset to the development of our town.

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  3. I still think there's too many shops in the high street to ever be fully revived again, especially if Tesco (& others) open near Arlington House.

    My dream is to see the seafront from Arlington House to the clock tower pedestrianised, the amusement arcades closed down & shops opened all along there. Let much of the high street close down & get Boots, McDonalds etc to move to the seafront.

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  4. Tesco is a supermarket, not a quality local independent shop. How do you think the local food shops will fair with another supermarket on the doorstep? And is that the first thing you want to see when arriving at a seaside town? Ever been to mainland europe and be welcomed to a beach resort with an Aldi? The seafront should independent shops but mostly restaurants and cafes to enjoy the view. Businesses that are bigger, require lots of parking, deliveries from articulated lorries should be easily accessible to the settled communities who probably don't want to fight through touriests with their shopping bags. We've already got College Square with Morrisons.

    The shopping arcade in Arlington is marked for redevelopment, but why? There are nothing wrong with the shop units except they're half empty and a bit run down. These units are similar to those at Spitalfields in London and are occuppied and thriving. The main reason for the push on this site is money. There's money going to large developers and not individual businesses. Why the concentration on large flagship projects when there are many more needs throughout the town. What have these developers like Freshwater actually done with their site since owning it? Is there an excuse for it being run down and with dumped rubbish?
    I agree with LJN, why more low quality residential when there are so many empty flats? yet there are 4000 people on the waiting list for homes. Take Cliff Terrace indeed. Still empty and still advertised for sale! Now converted into flats that have no appeal. Once commerical goes to residential you never get it back. You also have to look at what kind of residential you create. Who in Thanet wants to live in a converted shop when there are empty houses to be had?

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  5. Have you actually visited Arlington Arcade lately? "Half empty & a bit run down"? In the arcade & the outside Arlington shops area there are what, 25, 30 units? As far as I can recall there's now 5 stores still open, many of the others have been shut for well over a decade.

    As for the "fight through touriests with their shopping bags", exactly how many shoppers do you expect to see on a pedestranised seafront area?

    And again people are talking about yet more cafes & restaurants, there's already too many competing for business.

    Much as I prefer the idea of small independent stores, a large Tescos (or similar) would be very helpful for people who live in the fast fading Westbrook area. When I moved here just 10 years ago we had a post office, a fishmongers, a greengrocers, a butchers & a bakers (& the bank had just closed), now we have none of those. To buy fresh un-processed food we have to travel to Morrisons or (as it's not much more difficult by car) Westwood Chaos. There's plenty of cafes & restaurants though...

    I'm not sure how many people you expect The Turner Centre to bring to Margate, but even combined with the return of Dreamland even TDC are living in the real world in that they don't forsee all of the high street AND the old town AND the harbour area AND the Arlington House end all thriving with lots of cosy little galleries, restaurants & shops.

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  6. Shops being empty doesn't mean you have to knock them down. You have to think of ways to fill them. There are other projects nationally that have bridged the gap between empty shops and them being occuppied. Affordable rents, rates etc and a concerted effort to bring them back into use to serve the community is less extreme than bulldozing them.

    If you allow the seafront to become the state that it is, is there any wonder the shops are suffering? There is legislation to stop property owners willfully allowing the streetscape to deterioriate to the detriment of the community.

    You said:" As for the "fight through touriests with their shopping bags", exactly how many shoppers do you expect to see on a pedestranised seafront area?"

    Are you really saying that the seafront of a resort town is an ideal location for a supermarket?


    You said: "And again people are talking about yet more cafes & restaurants, there's already too many competing for business."

    If Margate takes off again, then the seafront area should well enough be able to sustain a wide variety of restaurants and cafes. they have this in Broadstairs and Ramsgate.


    You said: "When I moved here just 10 years ago we had a post office, a fishmongers, a greengrocers, a butchers & a bakers (& the bank had just closed), now we have none of those."

    Might I suggest that larger chains and out of town shopping centres are to blame for this?


    You said: "To buy fresh un-processed food we have to travel to Morrisons or (as it's not much more difficult by car) Westwood Chaos. There's plenty of cafes & restaurants though..."

    Oh come on. From Westbrook to Morrisons? It's no where near the trek that is up to Westwood X.


    You said: "I'm not sure how many people you expect The Turner Centre to bring to Margate, but even combined with the return of Dreamland even TDC are living in the real world in that they don't forsee all of the high street AND the old town AND the harbour area AND the Arlington House end all thriving with lots of cosy little galleries, restaurants & shops."

    Have I said I'm relying on the Turner or Dreamland?? There are plenty of vacant houses throughout town to be filled that would create the need for local shops. And no it's not all about cosy galleries and cafes, but come on, we are a tourist area too. And if things improve on top of the resident population there are also tourists and daytrippers who need to eat and drink.

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