Wednesday, 7 July 2010

CABE Urban Panel Advice - do not pour money into the roundabout

Remember way back in June 2009 when we posted the CABE Margate Urban Panel Review Document from their March 2009 visit?

Here is the whole Word document for download and to print off:
Link to download the PDF file on CABE's site here.

Having a further peruse of the detail of the review, now reveals advice that is extremely pertinent to the public realm consultation along the seafront, roundabout and Arlington House, and adds weight to the argument that limited resources could be better applied to other areas within the town.

In particular we note:

3.2 The Georgian town built on the hill fields beyond the High Street put Margate at the forefront ofEnglish seaside development for a while and, had Cecil Square and the Assembly Rooms survived intact, the image of the town might well be different today. What is left is poignant proof that good intentions can lead to disappointing outcomes. Staff were keen to point out that Cecil Square remains a viable municipal centre with many of the facilities the town needs still available there. This is true and important, but a high price has been paid to achieve it. Within the governance and local politics ofThanet, it is great for Margate that the civic offices are located in Cecil Square along with the library, Post Office and so on. However, the building that houses them is so out of scale and overbearing as to drive the image of the rest of the square from the mind. What is more, the square has suffered as badly as almost any from the non-negotiable demands of the highway engineer. The Panel’s comments on this can be found at (7.1) below, but it will be no surprise that the repair of thepublic realm here is strongly recommended. Hawley Square, with a good green space and the elegant Theatre Royal, along with Trinity Square with its sadly much expanded but still well managed green space, are examples of the value which Georgian planning brings to today’s town and Cecil Square should rejoin them.

7.1 One area where the Panel saw the opportunity for trimming the sails was in the public realm proposals. While the Panel is a strong proponent of the quality of the public realm generally, it was concerned that the enormous areas potentially involved could resulteither in loss of focus, or in huge costs which would not deliver sufficient returns. So for, example, the Panel much admired the benefit which has been derived from the relatively small and affordable areas of public realmwork in and around the Old Town – particularly the new piazza facing the harbour. It did not believe that the same effect could be achieved by pouring large sums of money into the roundabout by the station or into some hundred yards of the front. Rather members felt that there-creation of Cecil Square as a pedestrian dominated space of quality would offer a far better return for residents and visitors alike. Engineer led schemes of the sort defacing the square are often up for renewal for engineering reasons and now would be the time to ensure that the preparation work has all been done, the vision of another Georgian square of quality being returned to the public has been promulgated and political drive is behind a great transformation.

8.0 Another aspect of management of the public realm is connectivity. It was suggested to the Panel that the development history of Margate combined with its topography had somehow made a place which wasdifficult to comprehend and navigate and where there were critical disconnections which had to be overcome. The Panel did not accept the analysis and thought that the emphasis on connectivity in the masterplan was overdone. In many ways Margate is easier to understandthan other seaside towns. Few others, if any, can boast a view of the sands from the main entrance of an attractivestation Once the short walk which that view inspires has been undertaken (and the Panel accepted the case for some improvement of the pedestrian route past Buenos Ayres) then the Harbour, the Droit House and the emerging Turner Contemporary will be obvious. The Panel thought there was strong case for the Droit House to contain orientation displays and probably for some investment in modern, map carrying fingerposts. Both ofthese should then direct visitors to the attractive small inter-connecting routes which are one of the pleasures of the town, which should be more widely shared.

10.2 Servicing such an economy could have a number of very positive outcomes. Boarding houses could once more function for their original purpose, providing opportunities for self-employed operators and entrepreneurs to establish high quality businesses and provide local employment. Modern guests expect high quality local cooking and the Isle of Thanet is a great place for local sourcing. The very significant skills required to achieve such an aim could be the focus of new further education provision in the town (such as a catering college linked to a training hotel), and the new‘5 star’ boarding houses could both help build the market for and complement new high grade hotels (much better to wait for this moment than fall for a budget hotel in the short term).

1 comment:

  1. So the CABE Urban Panel experts visit Margate and say "don't waste money on a few hundred yards on the seafront or on the station roundabout. Sort out Cecil Square and you will have a higher return on your investment.

    So a few months later, the council is consulting on how best to spend millions on The Station Roundabout and a few hundred yards of seafront. Right.

    Could it be something to do with modifying the station roundabout in preparation for all those articulated lorries that will be delivering to Tesco, the fleets of "you shop we drop" vans and the thousands of additional cars that will be using the roundabout if the Tesco gets built.

    I may be working my imagination too much, but the public realm consultation was introduced by saying that there was no money available. At the time it seemed strange and a few people raised questions about why they were consulting on something if there was no money.

    If you put Tesco/Freshwater into the equation, it could make sense. Considering they are not contributing to the refurbishment of the Arlington House or the shops on the seafront, and considering they will need better access roads for their store, then they will probably try to get the Council to spend the 106 agreement money on the roads they need. Now that would be good business and excellent value for shareholders.

    Just need to get the whole thing look like the whole scheme came from the wishes of local residents and stakeholders.

    I wonder what CABE think about this?