Thursday, 17 January 2013

Thanet council announce plans to restore and renovate the Embassy hotel in Cliftonville

Yesterday afternoon I attended the site visit for the media to The Embassy Hotel in Surrey Road, Cliftonville.

The Council bought this Edwardian building along with Hotel Leslie on the same street. The Embassy had become a 24 room hotel with unsympathetic extensions to the front and rear. Planning permission F/TH/11/0995 was granted to convert the 24 room hotel to 2 4 bed houses.

There were no comments from Conservation in the Officer Report because Surrey Road, along with most of Cliftonville is not within a Conservation Area. Cliftonville's Conservation Area Appraisals, although the reports have been paid for by English Heritage and have been written, have not been published. Consequently the planned Conservation Areas for Cliftonville are not in place. This creates the sad fact that the £21m Live Margate expenditure for housing renewal in Cliftonville with the Council as the developer, is going ahead with no Conservation framework in place. 

The Embassy Hotel development is a good example. The site architects stated yesterday that the original specification was for replacement windows on this Edwardian building to be  timber framed, but that the need to get value for money had overidden this, so they were going with plastic. The most important factor was value for money. It is likely that had the area already been designated as a Conservation Area that plastic windows on an Edwardian building would not be permissable. 

Here is the historic frontage of The Embassy Hotel building taken from the Council's own website:

Here is the frontage today in 2012:

There is no image of the houses the funding will produce and how the frontages will look with the plastic windows.
Similarly for the second of the two projects listed on the Live Margate site, The Hotel Leslie:

Current 2012:

But this building will be demolished. There are no pictures of what the replacement will look like on the Live Margate site.

There is a real risk that, given the spending power of this fund with Thanet Council at the helm, that a sea of plastic and unsympathetic frontages will proliferate throughout the area, irrevocably changing the streetscape of Cliftonville. The remaining architectural heritage of the area is one of the most valuable assets it has.  One of our best assets to build on for the future.

This is all in stark contrast to only a few streets away at the nearby Dalby Square £1.9m renovation project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. I covered this project way back in 2010.

Thanet District Council's own press release on Dalby Square states:

"Grants will be given to improve the appearance of the front elevations of buildings in the area, in a manner that reinforces their historic character, to replace lost architectural detailing, such as balconies, windows and cornices and to improve the ‘public realm’ – such as paving and lighting. Further, funding is aimed at bringing empty properties back into use, especially where this will help to create additional employment in Dalby Square; beyond the extra staff who will be involved in coordinating the scheme itself."
Interestingly, the 'Live Margate' hoarding on the site of The Embassy Hotel and indeed the Live Margate website, has a picture of a couple sat in Dalby Square in front of the facades with original windows and balconies that the Dalby Square scheme is restoring and retaining. If the Live Margate scheme is so proud of the planned demolitions and the plastic windows it will slap into heritage buildings, why not depict these schemes instead? Perhaps because they don't photograph as well as the highly preserved Dalby Square? Because they stick out like a sore thumb, that's why.

If anyone has any luck getting sight of any of the Conservation Area Appraisal reports for Cliftonville that have been produced, I'd be keen to see them!

Thanet Council are inviting local people to be involved in the Live Margate scheme: 

"We want local people to play an important part in this programme by being involved in keeping the areas you live in respectable and as tidy as possible, making sure the pride that you have in your home is kept high, helping to keep the look and feel of your area to a high standard." 
I would do just that. Get involved and ask to see the Conservation Area Appraisal reports that have already been paid for. And take a look at what this £21m scheme will actually produce. 


  1. I hope that the streetscape of Cliftonville is changed irrevocably but not in the way of the scheme. There are too many roads that were built with guests houses and hotels and are now trying to be used as residential homes. They were designed for short breaks not long term residential. These types of schemes seem to be cosmetic looking to the past rather than radical looking to the future.

    Some of the finer architectural examples should be retained for heritage reasons but the rest need to be demolished and purpose built decent housing put in its place. How many people visit Warwick Road to Ethelbert Road for architectural delight compared to those trying to live there?

    Even though I have a different view I thank you for highlighting this matter through your article and will seek out the documents too although this sounds as though it will be as difficult a task as usual with this type of thing. In view of the amount of money involved public scrutiny is vitally important.

  2. If Cliftonville looked as good as it did in 1920 people would flock there in millions.

  3. From out The Queen's Highcliffe for weeks at a stretch
    I watched how the mower evaded the vetch,
    So that over the putting-course rashes were seen
    Of pink and of yellow among the burnt green.

    How restful to putt, when the strains of a band
    Announced a thé dansant was on at The Grand,
    While over the privet, comminglingly clear,
    I heard lesser Co-Optimists down by the pier.

    How lightly municipal, meltingly tarr'd,
    Were the walks through the lawns by the Queen's Promenade
    As soft over Cliftonville languished the light
    Down Harold Road, Norfolk Road, into the night.

    Oh! then what a pleasure to see the ground floor
    With tables for two laid as tables for four,
    And bottles of sauce and Kia-Ora and squash
    Awaiting their owners who'd gone up to wash -

    Who had gone up to wash the ozone from their skins
    The sand from their legs and the rock from their chins,
    To prepare for an evening of dancing and cards
    And forget the sea-breeze on the dry promenades.

    From third floor and fourth floor the children looked down
    Upon ribbons of light in the salt-scented town;
    And drowning the trams roared the sound of the sea
    As it washed in the shingle the scraps of their tea.

    Beside The Queen's Highcliffe now rank grows the vetch,
    Now dark is the terrace, a storm-battered stretch;
    And I think, as the fairy-lit sights I recall,
    It is those we are fighting for, foremost of all.

    Cliftonville 1940 (John Betjeman

  4. Quite frankly Northdown Road (and all roads of it) should be flattened and a tree lined avenue created, with a mixture of 4-5 bed high quality well designed contemporary houses. Then hopefully it might draw families that are not reliant on housing benefits into the area! Don`t even start me on why social housing has been built on the Sea-Front!

  5. yes it has to look like heaven to make people come, people want to stay in paradise when they go on holiday, it so obvious.

    do people want to go see social housing, NO.

  6. Nice Article! Thanks for sharing with us.

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