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:
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.