Wednesday 30 June 2010

Thanet Residents Panel - Online Survey

Thanet Council have set up a Residents' Panel called 'Community Matters

Here's their latest info:

Dear Resident Panel member,

Many thanks to everyone who has expressed an interest in joining our new refreshed residents' panel for Thanet.

Being a part of the panel 'Community Matters' will provide you with an opportunity to get more involved in Thanet District Council services, to help comment on the way the service is delivered and to let us know your views on the things that matter most to you.

I would be very grateful if you would complete our online survey to formally register as a member of the panel.

All of the information we collate as part of this process will be used to monitor the sample of people that will be included in the panel. It will also help us to target other specific groups of residents across Thanet, as we aim to ensure that our panel is as representative of the Thanet population as possible. All of this data will be held securely in accordance with the Data Protection Act and will not be published or passed on to any other third parties.

Some of the information requested within this survey you may have already provided, but to ensure that full and accurate records are maintained I would still appreciate you filling in all sections of the survey.

To complete this survey please just follow the link below. You will find the link to the online survey at the bottom of the web page under 'Get Involved'.

If you experience any difficulties accessing this survey please do not hesitate to contact me on the details provided below, or you can request a hard copy survey to complete if you would prefer.

Thanks once again for your interest in joining the panel and I look forward to working with you.

Kind regards

Hannah Thorpe
Corporate Communications and Marketing Officer
Thanet District Council
Direct Dial: 01843 577120
Fax: 01843 296866

Tuesday 29 June 2010

Residents say "No! to Tesco!"

Campaigners against a proposed new Tesco store in Margate packed a meeting at a local church hall on Monday evening (28th June 2010).

The gathering was hosted by Arlington House Residents Association who are unhappy about redevelopment plans which will see them losing their car park and flat owners having to foot a bill of £17.000 each. The multi-million pound scheme would see the demolition of a derelict public car park and shops on the controversial Arlington site on Margate seafront.
Association Chairman, Ron Greene, told the assembled crowd that neither property developers Freshwater nor Tesco had provided answers to questions raised during public consultations three months ago. He added, “Research has shown that surrounding property prices go down when a Tesco store is built in a residential area”.

Ward Councillor Iris Johnston and Council planning officer Doug Brown fielded a barrage of questions from local residents and businesses. Arlington House residents also questioned the Councils right to agree to the demolition of the existing residents car park.

Concerned locals also heard from Ron Greene that plans to redevelop the whole of the site had been shelved. “Freshwater are only going for full planning permission for Tesco to go on the car park site”, he said, “The proposed shops, hotel and doctors surgery will only be subjected to outline planning permission as there are no takers for those units. This means that the seaside frontage could remain boarded up for years to come”,

Councillor Iris Johnson called for a show of hands to indicate those in favour of a new Tesco and those against. The vote was unanimously against the Tesco development. After the meeting Ron Green said, “It is clear that the people of Margate do not want another Tesco superstore. I was initially in favour a scheme that would see the derelict site regenerated and the exterior of Arlington House improved. However, I now believe that a store of the proposed size will be detrimental for local residents and existing businesses in Margate. Kent County Council statistics reveal that 20,000 cars a day pass along the seafront at present. That number will obviously increase with the opening of the Turner Centre and Dreamland Heritage Park. The further addition of a 24 hour Tesco superstore will likely cause traffic gridlock at the Station Roundabout due to customer traffic and delivery lorries. If the Council does give the go-ahead for Tesco, I am asking that planning conditions be imposed to restrict the hours for opening and deliveries and that adequate sound insulation be provided to Arlington House at the expense of the developer”.

Please contact Residents Association Ron Greene on 07754 588193 for further comments, interview or photo opportunities.

The Funding of East Kent Opportunities

From a Thanet resident:

Kent County Council and Thanet District Council set up a business venture to speculate on land and create jobs.

They buy a plot of land next to one of Thanet's biggest economic embarrassments:Kent International Airport.

So KCC and TDC set up a company called East Kent Opportunities (EKO LLP) to buy land to create a business park and warehousing, financed by lots of public money. The idea is that other businesses will buy into the project and pay for the capital investment, and pay off the loans and infrastructure.

Hardly any businesses move there. It doesn't work. EKO is insolvent.

Banks won't lend to the failing "company".

TDC and KCC continue to throw money after the bad investment, building a new access road. [You may have seen it by the Ramsgate roundabouts, on the way toDover.] We need new roads to divert traffic away from Margate Seafront. Instead, we get a big road to a field and a handful of industrial sheds in open fields.

Money is being lent to this failing company - probably to avoid embarrassment. £95,000, then £500,000 ... over £6 million since 2008.

To cut its losses, EKO intends to apply to get planning permission to build 600 new houses. Although this may help recoup some money, it would be a total scandal.

The land was Grade 1 agricultural land. Permission was granted to build on the fields - on the grounds that it would create employment.

Residential planning permission would never have been given. So to change now, to Residential, would be planning by stealth - at best. TDC's own officers will be advising on their employer's application - a conflict of interest. Even at committee, the situation is very political.

I think that if the business is not viable in a competitive capitalist environment, it should be allowed to fail - as many businesses have through the "credit crunch".

If public money is available to prop up failing businesses, then it should be put for tender, in a transparent process ie other “failing businesses” should be able to bid for the public money.

The Manston Business Parkwas a bad idea and it came at the wrong time. It is big - but not too big to fail. We are all feeling the pain of financing invasions, occupations, and bailing out bankers. Do we really have to give money to un-viable local companies?

The fields should be returned to agriculture, and public money spent on better things.

Thursday 24 June 2010

Councillor Wise would like to paint Margate Lighthouse in stripes for £10k

Feature on Cllr Martin Wise's idea to spend £10k painting the lighthouse blue and white stripes. Amazing what gets PRd ain't it!

Perhaps sorting out the seaweed smell would help the Harbour Arm.
Some more dog waste bins from the main sands down to the Lido might help. How about some litter bins and a general clean up of the area round the Lido?

Article in today's Daily Wail:

It is known as one of the South East's most tired seaside resorts, but could a blue and white striped lighthouse cheer it up?
A Tory councillor has suggested the paint job to help improve the image of Margate in Kent and attract more visitors to the once-premier beach resort.
Martin Wise said he wants to spend £10,000 on decorating the 85ft lighthouse 'to make it feel more like the seaside'.

He has suggested a traditional red and white stripe, but blue and white has also been put forward to represent the town's football team, Margate FC.
'It is a deprived area and we just want to put a smile on people's faces,' said Mr Wise.
'We want to enhance the area and put it back on the map.'
But the sandy bays of Margate are often at the mercy of the North Sea and the exposed lighthouse would need frequent retouches to its colourful exterior, argue residents.
Local Labour councillor Clive Hart has gone one step further, labelling the plans a 'waste of money' and saying the funds could be better spent elsewhere.
Once one of the most popular seaside resorts in the UK, Margate has been struck by a series of unfortunate incidents over the past few years, sending already-diminishing tourist numbers plummeting further.

Its Dreamland amusement park has, on many occasions, been threatened with closure despite its posession of the world's oldest wooden rollercoaster.
In 2003, disaster struck when a fire tore through two seaside arcades, destroying them and leaving a great hole in the buildings along the front just before the Easter season.
Then in 2008 another iconic attraction, the Grade II Listed Scenic Railway, was severely damaged by a fire.

However, things are looking up with the alternative art gallery Turner Contemporary due to open on the seafront in 2011.
Locals hope it will do for Margate what the Tate gallery has done for St Ives in Cornwall. It is certainly already inspiring regeneration projects.
'There has been a lot of regeneration,' said Mr Wise. 'We want to be like the European resorts where people are always very proud of making the place look smart.'
Local businesses also received another boost this month when Margate was voted joint second in a poll of Britain's best beaches.
Its nine blue flag beaches saw it tie with Blackpool, coming second only to Tresco beach in the Isles of Scilly.

Arlington House Residents' Association open meeting on Tesco

Arlington House Residents'Association
Open Meeting

All Saints Church Hall, All Saints Avenue
Monday 28th June 2010, 8.15pm

We have called this meeting to discuss the consequences of the Tesco store being built on the site of the car park adjoining Arlington House. In view of the likely detrimental impact on residents and businesses in the surrounding areas we are inviting you to attend our meeting to share your concerns.

We have been told that the planning application will be submitted to the Council next month - therefore we must act now. It is most important for you to attend this meeting because it may affect you, your home or your business.

We have heard nothing fromFreshwater
PPS (Freshwater's public relations company) has failed to answer any of our questions
Tesco is now failing to answer emails and phone calls
No firm answers from council on minimum numbers of parking spaces for residents
Case studies show a decrease in property values due to supermarket developments in residential areas


The proposed Tesco store will be similar in size to their store at Manston Road, Ramsgate and open 24 hours. All delivery lorries will have to pass Arlington House twice (due to low railway bridges). Tesco customer parking has now been increased to 350 spaces (with a likely time limit of 90 minutes). This will lead to a significant movement of traffic along All Saints Avenue, the seafront and surrounding areas. Increased levels of noise will result from car engines, doors slamming, shopping trolleys and Tesco staff and customers in general on a 24 hour basis.

The Arlington House Residents' committee has fought long and hard to seek answers and assurances from all parties involved in the redevelopment but has come to the conclusion that the impact of Tesco will be detrimental to local businesses and to residents in the surrounding area.

The Committee has concluded that the only people to benefit will be Freshwater, Tesco and Thanet District Council.

Local Councillors and Council Officers will be at the meeting so it is important for you to attend to make your views known and learn more

Look forward to seeing you on 28 June at 8.15pm


Ron Greene – Chairman, Arlington House Residents Association

Wednesday 23 June 2010

Creative meet up sessions in Margate - Tues 29th June

There is a new meet up for creatives starting in Margate.

The first will be Tuesday, 29 June, 6-7pm, at Marine Studios, 17 Albert Terrace, Margate (contact details and directions here: uk/> ).

If you’d like to attend, please email so we have an idea of numbers. We look forward to meeting you, and encourage you to circulate this to anyone else who might be interested – all are welcome!

Kind regards,
Lauren and Sepake

Next meeting for the Friends of the Zion Chapel Burial Ground Group

The next public meeting will be held to discuss The Zion Chapel Burial Ground in Margate. The meeting will take place:

Thursday the 24th of June
time: 6.30pm
Place: The Media Centre - 11-13 King Street

Compulsory Purchase Order issued for The Arcadian

CPO has been applied for The Arcadian building on Fort Hill opposite the Turner Contemporary Gallery site.

Compulsory Purchase Order issued for The Fort Hill Hotel

CPO has been applied for on the Fort Hill Hotel opposite the Turner Contemporary Gallery site. It has been a long term bone of contention and a general blight on the seafront, Harbour Area.

Thursday 17 June 2010

Daytrippers spend £9 per day in Margate

Back to looking at various visitor profiles as part of the discussion on the possible effect of the Tesco store near the beach. Back in 2008, Margate Renewal Partnership stated that daytrippers who come to the beach and leave spend on average £9 per day as opposed to £20 that is hoped the cultural tourist will spend who wanders more round the town and visits the gallery. Full article:

The 19th-century artist JMW Turner once observed that ‘the skies over Thanet are the loveliest in all of Europe’ – something of a contrast to the ugly, grey tower block that dominates the present-day skyline of his beloved Margate.

From every vantage point, the eye is immediately drawn to the 1960s-built blot on the landscape. It pretty much embodies the careworn buildings and down-at-heel environment of the Kent seaside resort.

But things are set to change – visually, at any rate – as a result of an ambitious proposal for a modern art gallery on a site near where Turner stayed on his regular visits to the town. After 20 years in the pipeline and one false start, the Turner Contemporary is going to be built.

Designed by Stirling Prize-winning architect David Chipperfield, the £17.5m gallery will be clad in white, opaque glass to reflect the light that inspired Turner.

The various local authorities and public sector agencies behind the venture are in the final throes of picking a contractor after securing planning permission from Thanet District Council in February. Construction will start this autumn for completion by 2010.

If nothing else, it will be a stunning addition to the skyline. But the project’s backers hope the building will be far more than architectural eye candy. Although the gallery will promote modern art, part of it will be set aside for an ever-changing collection of Turner paintings, following an agreement with their permanent home, the Tate. Such an irresistible combination will turn Margate into a cultural hot spot. That’s the theory, anyway.

‘The Turner Contemporary is the catalyst for a whole range of cultural experiences and facilities, which we hope will generate local employment, business opportunities and create a thriving creative sector,’ says Derek Harding, programme director of urban regeneration company Margate Renewal Partnership.

Generating income

Harding’s hopes for the Turner Contemporary are based on predictions of 85,000 visitors each year, generating £1.7m in income, or £20 a head. He says that, currently, day trippers to Margate use the car parks, eat their sandwiches on the beach and leave, spending only £9 each on average.

‘What we want to do is bring the type of visitor who is normally attracted to Canterbury and your more established cultural offers, draw them into the area and hopefully ensure that they come back and visit not just Margate, but east Kent,’ says Harding.

There is no such thing as an original idea when it comes to seaside regeneration. Margate is just the latest resort to turn to art as a means of tourist trade gentrification. As Harding freely acknowledges, the model he is following is Tate St Ives, which is widely judged to have been a success for the Cornish town. Along the Kent coast, meanwhile, the spotlight is on the inaugural Folkestone Triennial, a widely publicised exhibition running over the summer and featuring artists such as Tracey Emin.

Famously shortlisted for the Turner Prize, ‘Mad Tracey from Margate’ – her own description – has also spoken out in favour of the Turner Contemporary in the press, albeit some years ago — this has been a long-running project.

By coincidence, the gallery’s Fort Hill site is next to the spot where Emin tried to take her own life by leaping from the harbour wall.

Folkestone and Margate are similar in the scale of their economic decline and the challenge they face in altering perceptions and attracting a new generation of visitors. Indeed, these problems are common to all UK resorts, prompting the British Urban Regeneration Association to establish a steering group for seaside towns, chaired by Harding.

Not everyone is convinced about their artistic leanings, however. Following the triennial’s opening last month, Eamonn Maxwell, curator of London’s University of the Arts and a resident of Brighton, questioned the link between art and seaside regeneration. In a letter to the London Evening Standard, Maxwell wrote: ‘For culture to work in any town, it has to have a local audience. Getting the cool London set down for the private view is all well and good, but who is going to visit Bexhill’s De La Warr Pavilion on a wet Monday?’

Maxwell described even Brighton’s art scene as ‘quite provincial’. He added: ‘Brighton is about an hour from London by train and many curators, designers and artists live here, but work in the capital. Art has played little part in the town’s regeneration over the past 20 years.’

Yet Margate – which Harding says has a level of unemployment and related economic problems that are among the worst in the region – hopes to make a national impact with the Turner Contemporary, although projected visitor numbers have been scaled back since Chipperfield came on board in 2006. More than 150,000 visitors a year were envisaged for an earlier proposal for an offshore gallery designed by Norwegian architect Snohetta and Spence, before it was scrapped when its projected costs rose from £7m to £50m.

Contrasting views

Ambitious projects such as Turner Contemporary are not easy anywhere, but in a jaded seaside resort such as Margate, there are sharply contrasting views about what constitutes heritage and value for taxpayers’ money.

Harding admits it has been hard to sell the idea of an art gallery to some local residents, who believe the money could be more usefully spent on schools and healthcare.

The town’s other key regeneration project – the mixed-use redevelopment of the Dreamlands amusement park – has been the subject of a vocal anti-development campaign. There are just as strong feelings towards preserving slot machines and rollercoaster rides as there are towards promoting art.

It is ironic, as Harding notes, that Margate’s decline should worsen during a decade of sustained economic growth in the south-east, and that this most ambitious cultural project is getting off the ground just as the credit crunch has put a stop to development elsewhere.

In some respects, the gallery is already regenerating the town. With funding from the South East England Development Agency, Turner Contemporary, the organisation that will run the gallery, has moved into the formerMarks & Spencer store on the high street, turning it into exhibition space for the next few years. M&S’s withdrawal from the town three years ago was symptomatic of Margate’s plight, but the most recent art exhibition at its old site attracted 19,000 visitors over three months.

Harding says private art galleries and restaurants have leased some of the old town’s empty shops. The idea is to ‘replicate the feel and environment’ of the Lanes, the popular retail area behind the seafront in Brighton.

But perhaps the most heartening spin-off from the Turner Contemporary is at the adjacent Rendezvous site, where Kent County Council and Thanet District Council have selected Gleeson Developments as development partner for a big mixed-use project. It is yet to be worked up in detail, but will feature housing and a four-star hotel. Harding reveals that Gleeson beat a bid from Urban Splash, best known for its innovative housing projects in northern England.

‘Both of them said they wouldn’t have looked at it without the Turner Contemporary,’ he reveals.

Tuesday 15 June 2010

In the media: Arts, Regen and Seaside Towns

Can it work?

Nice big up for the Walpole Bay Hotel.
If Margate were a blind date, waiting for you at a bar, you would turn on your heel and run. Who wants to spend an evening with a man whose front teeth are missing, whose expression is permanently leery, whose tatty clothes smell of stale chip fat and worse? And yet I fall for the town in the time it takes me to walk from the station to the prom. It's not that I don't try to resist. No sooner am I off my train than I'm counting the number of shops that are boarded up: those missing teeth. But when I get to 12 in almost as many paces I give this up as too depressing. Then it happens. Standing outside the elegant but derelict Dreamland cinema on the seafront - it's from 1935, the first English cinema to be modelled on the Titania Palast in Berlin, a style later made famous by Odeon - I look out towards the harbour wall where, in just two years' time, the town's new gallery, Turner Contemporary, designed by the architect David Chipperfield, will open its ritzy doors. Beside it, Margate's pastel Georgian houses are hunkered beneath the sky like little old ladies in coloured raincoats, and no wonder. As skies go, this one is as big and as brooding as they come, dirty clouds scudding across it as if they were in some strange meteorological race. The effect is beautiful, and extraordinary. It makes you ache for Margate: for all that it was, and for all that it could still be. Suddenly I'm head over heels in love.
For a small, decrepit and very deprived town - according to the government's Indices of Multiple Deprivation, it is among the most deprived towns in the country - Margate has been much in the news of late. First there was the long-running gallery saga over Turner Contemporary - so called because, according to Ruskin, JMW once said that the "skies over Thanet are the loveliest in Europe". Would it happen? In 2006 Kent county council, which is funding the space, dropped Snohetta & Spence's original design for the building after costs spiralled to more than £40m (the foundations for Chipperfield's new, cheaper design were finally sunk earlier this year). In 2008 there was the arson attack at Dreamland, Margate's famous amusement park, a fire which destroyed sections of its beloved Scenic Railway (the oldest operating rollercoaster in Britain and the first to be listed - Grade II - by English Heritage), and which effectively closed the doors of the park, in its current incarnation, for ever. In recent months there have been other, smaller fusses: over attempts by contestants on The Apprentice to rebrand the town; over a campaign to list the Victorian Nayland Rock shelter on the grounds that TS Eliot wrote some of The Wasteland there ("On Margate Sands./ I can connect/ Nothing with nothing"); over a snobbish piece in the Times which called Margate a dump.
Through all of this, Margate has struggled on, doing what it does best - fish and chips, Mr Whippy, cheap lager - and trying hard to ignore the fact that 8.5% of its population claims unemployment benefit (double the national average), or that vacancy rates in its high street hover at 33%. If you believe the press, the town's more discerning residents and business people are playing a waiting game, hanging on until Turner Contemporary finally arrives, and a whole new lot of visitors (for which, read: middle class visitors) appear in search of art and crab sandwiches. The question is: can they be sure that this is a game worth playing?
Will people come and, if so, how many? What will be the knock-on effect? Will hotels and restaurants boom? How many jobs will be created? Nothing is certain. For one thing, we're now in the middle of a recession so severe that public investment in culture is regarded as marginal at best. For another, people are increasingly chary of white elephants. They look at, say, The Public arts centre in West Bromwich which cost £52m to build and whose gallery closed before it even opened, and they wonder: why not spend the cash on schools, or housing, or a business park instead?
Not that Margate is the only one. Pre-recession, many south coast resorts made culture a cornerstone of their hopes for regeneration. In 1968 three-quarters of us still took a holiday at the British seaside. By 1999 that figure was 44%. No one goes to the coast in a charabanc for Wakes Week (or whatever) any more, the thinking went; we must give them new reasons to come instead: literary festivals, all that. Better still, let's put up something big and iconic for them to gawp at. Architecture! Out came the chequebooks, up went the cranes. In Bexhill the restoration of the De La Warr Pavilion will now be followed by the 'next wave': a raft of controversial landscaping measures on the promenade. In Hastings planning permission has been granted - despite vigorous local opposition - for a gallery, designed by HAT Projects, to house the Jerwood Foundation's 20th century art collection (Jerwood is funding the gallery; Hastings borough council will fund improvements to the immediate vicinity). In Eastbourne the Towner Gallery, whose collection includes work by Victor Pasmore and Vanessa Bell, has moved to an £8.6m building by Rick Mather. In Folkestone, already home to a literary festival and a triennial, a sleek new £4m performance space has just opened, Quarterhouse, designed by Alison Brooks. Even Deal has a new architectural jewel: a cafe at the end of its pier designed by Niall McLaughlin Associates.
But back to Margate, where I am standing in the cold and soft drizzle. I have an appointment to see Victoria Pomery, the director of Turner Contemporary. First, though, I am going to look round. Let's see. The further I walk, the more boarded-up shopfronts I find; and yes, there are lots of signs offering cheap booze, breakfast all day, and all you-can-eat buffets. Nevertheless, Margate is invincibly lovely. It has the second oldest theatre in Britain, the Theatre Royal, which is exceedingly beautiful, and which is now run by someone very imaginative (his name is Will Wollen). It has a terrace of houses, recently restored, which looks just like New York's Flatiron building in miniature. It has the mysterious and beautiful Shell Grotto, a (Grade I listed) series of subterranean chambers whose walls are decorated with 4.6m cockles, whelks, mussels and oysters, and yet whose purpose, 174 years after its discovery, remains obscure. (Is it a pagan temple? A Regency folly? I don't know, but I love it either way.) It even has a nice old-fashioned hotel, the Walpole Bay, with its 1927 Otis trellis-gated lift servicing every floor. Not to mention fresh shellfish, which I buy from a family-run shack by the harbour, and scoff with a wooden fork. Does it really need a swanky art gallery, or would it be better served by a little love and attention, a decent marketing campaign, and some passionate word of mouth?
Victoria Pomery is well aware that some people think Turner Contemporary is being "beamed in": that it will arrive, as if from outer space, and lead an existence completely separate from that of the town. But she believes the naysayers are wrong. "Good art should be seen and experienced by everyone, whatever their circumstances," she says. "Kent, perhaps because of its proximity to London, has always suffered from not having a cultural infrastructure."
The seaside, she points out, was always at the forefront of experimentation - in architecture, for instance, where modernism reigned - even in earlier centuries. "Margate was the first town in Britain to have bathing huts. So why shouldn't it now have a building designed by one of our best architects? We have a tendency to look back, to look at old photographs of Margate, all those visitors. But the world has moved on."
But is Turner Contemporary sustainable? Can she be sure it won't end up being another white elephant? "Yes, I can. We've done a huge amount of work on things like business planning."
However, she won't let it be responsible for solving all Margate's problems. "It is easy to say: this will regenerate the town. I don't think you can say that. One building isn't going to do it. The content has got to be right."
This is an understatement. Although some (borrowed) work by Turner will always be on display at Turner Contemporary, it has no collection. Yes, its educational work in the community, with schools and local artists, has already been running, very successfully, for some time. But its reputation in the wider world will stand and fall on its exhibition programme. The odd Turner aside, will Pomery really be able to get her hands on enough good work to continue to attract visitors?
At the moment, however many exploratory studies people carry out in advance, it's difficult to prove that this stuff - culture as regeneration - really works for the simple reason that it's a long process, and most seaside towns are at the beginning of their journey. Still, the evidence is mounting that, done the right way, it can make a significant difference to a place. Folkestone, another once glorious seaside town that fell on hard times as visitors abandoned it, is having significant success with its programme of cultural regeneration, although, unlike Margate, it worked hard at a grassroots level before it started indulging its edifice complex (and Quarterhouse is relatively modest in size, sitting snugly on a town street).
In 2003 Roger de Haan, whose family business, Saga, is based in Folkestone (he sold it in a management buyout in 2004), established the Creative Foundation for the specific purpose of using the arts to regenerate the town. The Foundation established a Creative Quarter, refurbishing old buildings and leasing them to creative businesses and individuals. It also helped to establish the town's first higher education courses and, last year, its acclaimed Triennial. "Our project has already created or sustained 200 jobs in the creative industries, and hourly earnings, which used to be 15% below the national average are now just 2% below," says Nick Ewbank, the Foundation's creative director. "In terms of more anecdotal evidence, significant local employers, such as Holiday Extras, tell us that cultural regeneration has made it easier to recruit and retain staff."
Ewbank thinks that big iconic buildings work better in cities. "Our first priority has been to make Folkestone a better place to live. Education is at the heart of that. If more tourists come, too, that's a happy byproduct. But this is a long-term commitment. These are 125-year leases at zero rent." His advice to other towns: "It's not that there is a finite capacity for museums and galleries; it doesn't work like that. But you need to trust in local communities to be distinctive. It's not about parachuting stuff in. Nor is it about copying someone else's model."
The experts perkily use words like "social enterprise", "hubs" and "aspiration". But even they accept that this trend is ridden with bear-traps. "Projects have got to stack up financially," says Sarah Gaventa of Cabe (the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment), the quango which advises the government on public space. Cabe runs a programme called Sea Change, which makes grants to seaside resorts want to use culture for the purposes of regeneration (the final wave of grants will shortly be announced, by which time the DCMS will have handed out up to £45m). "There needs to be a legacy. We don't want to create white elephants. So councils have also got to think about how people are going to get there, where they're going to stay, and eat."
David Powell runs a company which advises towns on cultural regeneration and will shortly publish, with Professor Fred Gray of Sussex University, a report called South East Coastal Towns: Economic Challenges and Cultural Regeneration. Powell says: "One of the difficulties of large capital projects in small places is that they are a big flame which burns brightly, and takes all the attention away from other things. People assume that by its mere presence, it characterises change. That isn't necessarily so. For the cost of three triennials in Folkestone, you could probably build a decent-sized gallery. The question is: would you want to?"
I ask both these experts what they think - to take just one example - of the Jerwood project in Hastings. Gaventa believes it will work because it has a collection. "It's an organisation of national quality; it's not like building a museum then looking round for bits of old fishing equipment to fill it." Powell is more hesitant: "There is a feeling of it having been: plonked." In this context, I think that the collection-less Turner Contemporary, for all that I wish it well, is going to have to tread carefully. When David Chipperfield told locals he'd changed the roof of his design from flat to pitched, the better to reflect Margate's architectural heritage, the crowd clapped. But a pitched roof is not going to seal the deal - with locals, or with visitors - in the long term.
In all these towns, even Folkestone, with its billionaire, public money is being pumped into cultural ventures, and outsiders called in to help. Is there another way? Perhaps. From Margate, I go to Littlehampton where, two years ago, Jane Wood and her daughter Sophie Murray opened the East Beach Cafe in a building that everyone says looks like a piece of driftwood, designed by Thomas Heatherwick. Since then they have taken over one further cafe, and opened yet another - the West Beach Cafe, designed by Asif Khan. Jane has also bought the last remaining 19th century warehouse on the Arun estuary, thus saving it from almost certain destruction (she is going to convert it into flats). They are also spearheading fundraising for the town's plan to install the longest bench in the world on its prom. Jane and Sophie are not experts - or at least, they weren't when they started all this. They just love Littlehampton, where they have long owned a "very grotty" holiday flat. Sometimes, love is all you need - assuming the nice man at the bank will also lend you some money. "One day Sophie heard that the chap who had the little kiosk here [East Beach Cafe] had got planning permission for a 96-seat burger restaurant," says Jane, from behind the most fantastic sunglasses I've seen since Sunnie Mann died. "It really was going to be a horror: like a public lavatory. We love this beach and, for us, it was like seeing a tree cut down. We felt something would be lost for ever. We had no alternative but to buy the business. People say we were brave but to us it wasn't brave; it was completely logical."
The deal signed, the family sat at their kitchen table, and talked about what they were going to put there. Jane met lots of architects, but Heatherwick, a product designer, best grasped the brief. "He didn't want to put up a great edifice for the glorification of his name. He spoke of prospect and refuge."
He got the job. When Jane and Sophie reapplied for planning permission there were no objections; they did a lot of public consultation: people saw that, however outre, it would be good for the town. The previous owner's application had received several hundred objections. A year later the story was repeated all over again. This time someone was going to put up an ugly burger bar on West Beach. So Jane and Sophie stepped in.
"We're a business!" says Jane. "We're not rich philanthropists. So the cafes must make money. But even so, we have given something to the town: some quality architecture. This place really belongs to the beach."
The knock-on effects have been amazing. They have created 40 jobs at peak season, and Jane believes the cafes have "totally changed" the kind of visitors who come to Littlehampton. Because the food is good and affordable, the cafes are used by local people, too. As a result, Jane and Sophie are in demand: other towns seek their expertise. But Jane has strong views. She looks at the plans in places like Margate and Hastings and wonders if they aren't an "imposition". She and Sophie are "addressing a need" - in this case, the need for decent food and somewhere to shelter from the squally weather - rather than stimulating one. "People ask to pick our brains. Well, you can't do that! I don't mean that rudely. You need something that's right for your town. You can't plonk anything, anywhere."
We talk about the Dreamland project in Margate: local enthusiasts have been buying up heritage pleasure rides - most recently, Blackpool Pleasure Beach's Junior Whip - and are now raising money so that Dreamland can be reopened as the world's first amusement park of historic rides (the Deco cinema will also be restored, as a museum of street style). Last month the Dreamland Trust was awarded £384,500 by the Heritage Lottery Fund for its development plans; as I write, they await a decision on a £4m application to Sea Change. We both love this idea, born of local enthusiasm and pride. It seems to belong to Margate already - a privilege its new gallery will have to earn.
Perhaps it all comes down to what you call culture. I can think of few things lovelier than looking at a tempestuous Turner sky in the place where he painted it. But I also think that old wooden rollercoasters count as culture, too - not to mention fish and chips and mushy peas and Tizer. These things are part of who we are. They make our lives better, just as art does, and theatre, and music. To combine them, then, is very heaven. For our battered seaside resorts, all 250 of them, this must surely be the future.
After we finish talking, Jane drives me over the Arun to the West Beach, and deposits me in her other cafe for lunch. When I arrived the sky was grey, and the rain soon soaked into my sandals and my silly summer coat. Now, though, as if by magic, the sun has come out. I order fish and chips and a cup of tea, and then a scoop of homemade strawberry ice cream, and I sit in Asif Khan's airy wood and glass box, with only the sound of the sea and one elderly couple (it is early for lunch) for company. It's the British seaside as I always dream of it: the view, so cleverly framed for me by a bright young man barely out of architecture school, and the batter on my haddock, so light and so crisp, are each as delectable as the other.

For sale: 2-3 Market Place

Offered as two lots. Shops on the ground floor with space above.Was previously supposed to be live work. These are lovely Georgian buildings sitting at the heart of Margate's Old Town on the pedestrian section of the street.

Guide price £60,000 - £90,000
Result: £80,000

For sale: 7 & 9 King Street

Back to the auctions in London. This is the sale of a Georgian building in Margate's Old Town. It's a great shop.

Guide price £40,000 - £60,000

Monday 14 June 2010

Margate's Indian Princess Becomes Ambrette

I had held off from discussing it online, but it seems ECR has beat me to it. So Margate's The Indian Princess restaurant has become the Ambrette. I'm a bit old fashioned and name changes take a while for me to get used to. So will reserve judgement to see how it goes. But hey, I'm fast becoming an old fogey!

Check out the new Ambrette website

Public Realm Seafront Consultation

During the last week, the architectural firm, Jacobs, have been in town canvassing opinions on what should become of the public realm environment along the seafront from the railway station through to the Turner Contemporary site.

Now, this is not the first time that Jacobs have worked on schemes throughout Margate and Cliftonville. Previous exercises, funded by KCC, covered Hawley Square, Cecil Square, Cliftonville. What seems to be happening now, is that in the final rush to the Turner opening on spring 2011, that the seafront needs to be tarted up quick.

But is this the right thing to do to limit discussion to the seafront?

And what are the implications for Margate and Cliftonville if the emphasis is only on connecting the two bookends between the station and the Turner Contemporary?

I attended a couple of days of consultations held at the Media Centre where we were asked to discuss the themes of the following words: beautiful, sustainable, affordable and connected. No explanation was given on where these four words had come from. We were asked to limit our discussions to the area outlined on the maps, that being from the station through to Turner.

But there was a sense of deja vu. Afterall, this and many schemes have been consulted and consulted again. Can't someone just do what was suggested before? And what about many of the examples put forward by the groups being outside of the public realm eg. lack of enforcement of planning laws in terms of signage and of lack of respect for the defined Conservation Area and listed buildings. One only has to look at the gaping hole left by another burned to the ground building along the seafront that no one in authority has made anyone rebuild.

And what about CABE's warnings and their reports of not putting all the emphasis on large flagship projects and their positive hopes for Margate and Cliftonville's potentially fine residential communities that deserve better routes and connectivity.

Many people voiced concerns that are perhaps out of the remit of the consultation, but nonetheless are important matters to consider. That of the possible impact on the town and the beach of Tesco setting up a supermarket.

What about the very real risk of daytrippers picking up a carrier bag of shopping and heading for the beach, consuming said bag of goodies and then having no need to further explore the town's shops and cafes?

Then potentially leaving all their rubbish behind them on the beach and heading back home, having not had the need to go any further.

What about the range that a large multi-national like Tesco sell?
How will this affect the last few remaining shops we have in town? The camera shop, the children's clothes shops?

Weren't Tesco supposed to be the only hope for the renovation of Arlington House? Tales were told by residents that Tesco will no longer be forking out as initially thought on the Arlington House and the shops on the street level.

Is a Tesco at the seafront really the best we can do in terms of regeneration for the town? One presumes it has been thought out the impact a major supermarket like Tesco will have on independent shops has been thought out. One would imagine we have learned the lessons from Westwood Cross.

And what impact will their deliveries have and where will all the extra traffic go?

The biggest obstacle to Margate achieving it's potential is probably the thundering A Road that runs along the seafront. For people to enjoy Margate's fine sands and views, take a stroll, enjoy a bite to eat, the main road must go. But will it? I doubt that this project is looking to achieve something so radical and will probably concentrate on the appearance of what is already there.
To find out more about the consultation and to give your opinion, contact those nice people at Jacobs

So, does anyone remember the previous consultations?

Friday 11 June 2010

Tracey Emin tells of life as a homeless teenager in Margate

Emin states the importance of community in relation to the concept of home and security. Ironically, community and security were found for her in London in a building called Arlington House, not Margate's very own Arlington House. Time spent at 17 years old in a Margate bedsit were not so fondly remembered.

Saturday 5 June 2010

Turner Contemporary pressure TDC to sort out stinking seaweed problem

Reported in This is Kent, Turner Contemporary have urged TDC to sort out the stinking seaweed problem.

Would be nice if we had the working harbour, some fishing boats and no smell.

Why can't this be sorted out?

Friday 4 June 2010

Event - Tim Spencer exhibition, The Margate Harbour Arm Gallery, Saturday 5th of June

Digital photographer, TimSpencer, is showing a collection of recently worked images in a new exhibition entitled 'about MARGATE' - a series of pictorial representations based on observations made during the three years since he moved from London to Cliftonville.

This is a new perspective showing diverse elements of the beautiful area around Thanet. With a fresh vision, Timhas framed captured moments in that ever-changing relationship between the seemingly permanent and the ostensibly transient.

Tim was born in 1956 and moved from Sussex to London in 1975. Upon completing university and, after 2 years in video production, he joined a local newspaper group and then went on to work as a free-lance photographer for more than 20 years.

Amongst the professional commissions he accepted, Timtook photographs of Prime Minister Tony Blair, Rock legend Mick Jagger and Microsoft founder, Bill Gates.

"The advent of digital photography and computer-based processing couldn’t have come soon enough for me!" says Tim. "The efficiency, the capabilities and the working environment, when released from the dark-room, are fantastic."

Tim moved to Cliftonville in March 2007 and recorded his first year in and around Thanet through a daily photographic blog entitled 'new2margate'. Some of these images appear in the show.

The exhibition 'about MARGATE' will be open at The Margate Harbour Arm Gallery for one day only on

Saturday 5 June 2010
11am - 7pm (free)

There is a preview on

Friday 4 June 2010 (by invitation)

The Margate Harbour Arm Gallery can be found between the new Turner Contemporary Building and the Stone Pier Lighthouse.