Sunday 30 September 2007

Building at Risk? 12-15 Cliff Terrace

The collection of Victorian buildings at 12-15 Cliff Terrace is one of Margate's most striking landmark sites. The site was originally a tearoom with diners seated on the first floor, enjoying the amazing sea views. The ground floor seafront outlets were shops and a cafe.

12-15 Cliff Terrace

Situated at the corner, opposite the soon to be re-developed Lido, the building is one of Margate's seafront properties that has, until now, survived intact. The building has been under the same family ownership since the 1940's, and has stood empty for well over a decade and the deterioration of the site has been cause for concern.


The corner building has beautiful protruding curved glass sash windows covering almost the entire elevations.

There was, until last week, an intact, original chemist's shop on the side complete with original bespoke wooden shop fittings. The fact a shop interior survived so long is pretty amazing, given the frequency retail outlets undergo change of occupancy. Sadly, the chemist shop interior I photographed two weeks ago has now been removed.The loss of the shop interior while English Heritage were assessing the building for spot listing does not bode well for the future preservation of the site.

intact chemist shop interior
Chemist Shop Interior September 8th 2007

destroyed chemist shop interior
Chemist Shop Interior September 30th 2007

Many local people thought its future conservation had been safeguarded with Thanet District Council's threat in June 2006 of a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO). However, the CPO was put on the back burner and a local developer, believed to be Jim Ward of Ramsgate FC, has submitted planning permission to convert the entire site to 10 flats. The application is actually by Ward Renovation and Construction Limited, which at the time of writing is not a registered UK limited company.

Many pointed to the fact that being situated in a designated Conservation Area, that this would somehow ensure the buildings' unique features be protected in the future. This is sadly not the case. Conservation Areas are unable to preserve interiors. The removal of the chemist shop interior that has now happened is a sad representation of this. If the building were listed then this would have protected the shop units and also ensure that the fenestration is exempt from having to comply with the necessary building regulations when converting into new flats.

The loss of the shopfronts and units to residential is a sad loss for the area for such a prominent, key seafront site. Shops rarely make ideal residential homes for the occupants and they also negatively impact on the streetscape. The application also contains extensive modification to the shop fronts, which given the detail of the original frontages that have survived, such as the blinds and canopies and curved glass frontages, will have a negative impact on the site.

shop frontage

Given the site's location on the seafront at the gateway to Cliftonville and directly opposite the Lido, the proposed loss of retail and commerical space at street level seems totally inappropriate. Examples of Margate's cultural heritage that have survived should be protected as something to be proud of. There is the example of the seabathing hospital development that has proven that Margate can sustain high quality residential development and refurbishment of a listed building. Here it seems the core aims of the Council's Empty Property scheme, who have worked over the years to bring the building back into use, to be out of step with buildings of architectural significance and of the Council's own regeneration aims for the area as a whole.

The upper floors would make ideal apartments given the seafront location. But there is a strong case that the ground floor retail outlets should be preserved. What vision is there for Margate if a viable use for seafront commerical space in one of the key regeneration areas, opposite a major development site cannot be envisaged?

The planning application reference is F/TH/07/0947. It can still be viewed and comments submitted online by visiting UK Planning and popping in 07/0947 on the Thanet Council page . There have been recent amendments to the application in the last week or so, however, they still propose to convert the shops into flats. The changes to the shopfront elevations include the removal of the original blinds and canopies and the extensive bricking up of what was previously a shopfront. One hopes that this site can be lovingly restored to its former glory and return to a place of pride at the gateway to Cliftonville.

The case officer at English Heritage assessing the site for spot listing is Mr Mike German. He can be contacted by email at or by phone:
020 7973 3113.

Thursday 27 September 2007

Seaside Architecture Project

In contrast to the Independent's Margate love article (like I said, don't get me wrong. I love Margate). Mary O'Hara wrote a more down to earth piece in the Guardian. The piece also centers on the soon to be released English Heritage project on seaside architecture. The author, Allan Brodie - a senior investigator for English Heritage has spent the last five years studying the state of British seaside resorts. Brodie states that:

"Margate is a good example of how small-scale, targeted, locally-coordinated projects can help inspire a turnaround."
I had heard that a presentation of the project would be held at the Theatre Royal. Nothing confirmed yet.

I like the sound of this Margate!

Couldn't help but notice the article in the Independent which sang Margate's praises. Now, I'm one that does see the hope of a bright future for the town, and there are many things to be proud of, but I couldn't help but be puzzled over some of the article. Apparantly there are lots of old school style fish and chip shops on the seafront. Has Peter's fish factory got another outlet I don't know about? As for the proliferation of residents enjoying oysters and fine wines...

Neigbourhood watch: Margate, Kent

Airport chaos and carbon footprints have done wonders for Kentish seaside towns such as Margate. Not long ago it was the enfant terrible of the Isle of Thanet, a byword for dilapidated bingo halls and kiss-me-quick postcards. Now the sandy bucket-and-spade resort is the seaside resort du jour. Tourists tired of the nearby trendy town of Whitstable are heading downstream to Margate, where the beaches are sandier and the air saltier, not just from the sea but the old-fashioned chippies that line the promenade.

The town has those sunsets that JMW Turner used to rave about, and Margate's nascent arts scene – with Tracey Emin as mascot – is tipped for success. Kent's first major art gallery, the Turner Contemporary, is set to open here in 2010, and Margate is anticipating its arrival. New galleries and venues are springing up, flanked by the town's retro attractions (an underground shell grotto, curiosity shops, old-school bowling alleys) and those fish-and-chip joints.

A Margate renewal partnership is spearheading the regeneration campaign, working to turn the listed stone pier into an art-and-eating venue with painters' workshops and hi-tech night lighting. A high-speed rail link from London is set for completion in 2009, so you'll be able to go from smoke to sand in less than two hours. But the best thing of all? Margate's house prices are still comparatively low.

Your kind of people?

Margate was once the domain of retired couples and teenagers, but locals are upping the cultural ante. They like their seafood here: not just cod and chips, but mussels, oysters and fine wines too. A successful old-town regeneration scheme has got Londoners all a-fluster: won over by Margate's retro charms, they are opening boutiques, galleries and even a top jazz café that puts on a festival of national acclaim, Big Sky, every summer. You can hardly blame them: a burgeoning arts scene and lack of pretension are an all too rare combination.

Can you shop till you drop?

Despite last year's mass exodus to the excellent shopping centre at Westwood Cross, the local council has done a fine job of encouraging retail in Margate's old town. A farmer's market comes to the hotel-packed suburb of Cliftonville once a month. Great nosh can be found at the newly opened Number Six, which has the best chocolate cake in town. And with no Starbucks in sight, Café G's low-fat cappuccinos won't fatten anyone but the local economy. A new juice bar on the high street gets the youth vote.

When drizzle blows in off the sea, check out the musty antique dealers that line Cliftonville High Street for quirky miscellany and one-off pieces of art. The Old Town Gallery sells original jewellery and vintage-inspired clothing, while Harbour Monkey does a great line in homemade greeting cards. The Flower Lab turns flora into art, while Cuttings Jewellers is the place to go if you're in the market for the other kind of rock. Cream teas at the eccentric Walpole Bay Hotel are a weekend treat.

Green and pleasant?

While green pastures are never far away, Margate is more famous for its beaches than its parks. Gaze up at dramatic rock formations while lying on the sands at Joss Bay, or head to Margate main sands for a spot of sunbathing and bucket-and-spade action, topped off with a Mr Whippy. The swell at Palm Bay occasionally attracts surfers who can't make it to Cornwall. If all that sand gets too much, nearby Grove Ferry is a summer picnic spot flanked by rolling green meadows and farms. Closer still are the olde worlde villages of Minster and Manston, or jump in the car for a 20-minute drive to Marshside. There you will find pubs such as the Gate Inn, serving doorstop sandwiches, flanked by babbling brooks and too many sheep to count.

Do the schools make the grade?

The grammar-school system is alive and kicking in Thanet. The single-sex Chatham (boys) and Clarendon (girls) grammars in nearby Ramsgate both bat well above the national average, while mixed Dane Court Grammar down the road in Broadstairs consistently tops local league tables. The brand new Marlowe Academy in Ramsgate is tipped for success in the performing arts. An excellent independent option is a 40-minute drive away at Kent College in Canterbury.

What's nearby?

There are windswept seaside towns dotted all along the Thanet coastline – enjoy a classic peach melba at Morelli's ice-cream parlour on the seafront at Broadstairs – or head west and walk along the shingle beaches of Whitstable. From here, you can arrange a seal-watching boat trip, and knock back world-class oysters. Regular trains and buses will get you to Canterbury in less than an hour. And thanks to the nearby ferry and Channel Tunnel connections, you can even nip over to the French towns of Calais or Boulogne for steak frites if you want a change from battered cod.

Monday 10 September 2007

Dates for the diary

There are a couple of dates for the Margate calendar this month. Always looking for a thing to do of an evening.

The Theatre Royal itself will re-open after the summer's enforced closure and subsequent management changes with one night relaunch gala, on Saturday 29th of September. So far there's no information on the theatre's website, I read about the gala in the Thanet Gazette.

The next stage of designs for the Turner Contemporary will be unveiled by architect, David Chipperfield, at the soon to be re-opened Theatre Royal in Margate. The event will take place at 6.30pm on Tuesday 16 October 2007. To reserve a place email: or telephone 01843 294363

Friday 7 September 2007

Why Margate?

Margate captivated me from my first visit. Driving in past the station, the bay suddenly opens out. The harbour arm in the distance next to the Droit House and the site of the future Turner Contemporary gallery, the golden sands, sea and sky, lots of sky.

I knew as soon as I started wandering the streets around the old town and beyond that this would be a place I'd like to live. The fact that much of the architecture (Georgian, Victorian, Regency, Art Deco...) has survived intact makes it a really special place. But this isn't a town set in aspic, there are changes afoot. Margate has had it's ups and downs as the fortunes of the British tourist industry changed and took a turn for the worse at the end of the 20th century. It started out as England's first tourist resort for wealthy visitors in the 18th century and fully embraced mass tourism in the 20th. There have been long hard years of decline from the 1970s onwards, but there have been changes afoot and the town is due for a renaissance.

I often find myself wandering around photographing buildings and anything that catches my eye as a newcomer to the town. This blog will serve as an archive and also to document the changes the town is undergoing as it moves through the 'regeneration' process. I have a personal interest in architecture and community development. I've moved from Hackney in east London where over the last 9 years I've seen the good and the bad from the regeneration process within my neighbourhood.