Sunday 27 February 2011

Margate the ideal spring break

Margate is in the news as a recommended seaside get away.

Escape to the seaside

When the Turner Contemporary gallery ( opens in Margate on 16 April, it's set to do almost as much for the down-at-heel seaside resort as Tracey Emin has. After checking out the exhibitions, take a wind-blown stroll along the pier for a beer at the cafe at the end, then delve into the town's idiosyncratic attractions, such as the Shell Grotto ( and the Mad Hatter's Tea Rooms(01843 232626). Book a night in one of the area's fabulous new boutique B&Bs, such as The Reading Rooms (01843 225 166,, doubles from £135) with elegant white rooms in a Georgian townhouse, or stay along the coast in Whitstable at the gorgeous little Front Rooms (01227 282132,, with doubles from £99).

Friday 25 February 2011

Camera Obscura events come to Margate - Candlelit tours of the Shell Grotto

How exciting. A lovely series of events to come to Margate. As part of the international Obscura Day on the 9th of April, two Margate venues will be holding special events. Billed as:

"A day of expeditions, backroom tours, and hidden treasures in your hometown"

There will be events on at Substation:

On Obscura Day Limbo Arts will be opening its project space, housed in one of the first electrical substations to provide domestic power, for a one-day exhibition of photographs documenting locations in which extra-terrestrial and unexplained activity has been said to occur. This exhibition will be a pre-curser to Limbo’s upcoming program, "Art Lands On Alien Landscape".

The project space at the Substation appears to be in transition – gallery lighting and whitened walls with the imposing industrial structure of the room contrast with the transformers, rectifiers, and switchgear once stood. Taking our cue from this sense of transition we wish to use the space to explore liminality."

And The Shell Grotto:

Explore the mysterious Shell Grotto of Margate by candlelight.

The Shell Grotto is one of the world’s most mysterious places: a series of underground rooms and passageways covered by 2000sqft of exquisite shell mosaic. Discovered in 1835, nobody yet knows who created it, although there are many theories surrounding its origins. Is it a pagan temple? A meeting place for some secret cult? Since its accidental discovery visitors from all over the world have been intrigued by the beautiful mosaic and the unsolved mystery.

On Obscura Day come and explore the grottos mysteries by candlelight on four small group tours

More info:

Do we want a 5 meter high Buoy on Margate Seafront?

**25th April**

This letter was sent to "Your Views Page" [Isle of Thanet Gazette | Thanet Times | Thanet Adscene]

New camp for the old buoy?

I've attended all the consultations possible on what should happen to regenerate the Margate seafront, in the run-up to the Turner opening. I don't remember anyone suggesting the need for a 5 meter high buoy on the roundabout, blocking the view of the sea as you come out of the station. So I can't understand how placing the buoy here could have got on the top 10 environmental improvements.

The Gazette (11.02.2011) reports Councillor Martin Wise saying: "there are two camps of people in Margate -the art people and those that see it as a seaside town".

Perhaps the situation is a bit more complex.

For simplicity, I'll put myself in the camp of the seaside town believers. Resources should be dedicated to making the seaside more usable to the town. For example, the harbour needs to be dredged, getting rid of the stench of rotting seaweed. The bathing pools need to work, so people can swim in them safely. The mess on the seafront between Margate and Cliftonville needs to be cleared up. Facilities need to be installed so that swimmers can lock up their belongings while swimming, and shower afterwards.

The plan to place a useless buoy on the Tesco's roundabout proves there is a camp in Margate that is neither "seaside" nor "arty".

Liam J. Nabb
Hawley Square, Margate"
Placing the 5 metre buoy there will cost public money. We have not been told how much? But we have been told there are no funds for Margate Caves or Margate Museum and perhaps there are projects you know of that are more worthy. Should you wish to find out, you could ask your local Councillor. Should you wish to make YOUR views known, write immediately to or go to and put the reference TH/11/0047 Land on the South Side of Marine Terrace. Remember, you need to add your name and postal address, or your comments are invalid.
Below are the comments submitted by the CAAG – Margate’s Conservation Area Advice Group
"This seems to be an inappropriate setting for modern industrial navigation aid.
Placing a massive buoy in this location will interrupt Margate's characteristic sea view that has greeted travellers since the Grade II Listed station was built.
The view of the listed Buenos Aires Terrace, as seen from all along the marine drive, will also be spoilt. The View of the station will also be interrupted. Including the view from the Turner Contemporary and the Stone Pier.- hardly a good idea in the run-up to the opening of the new gallery. Interrupting views of key listed buildings will have a detrimental effect on the Conservation Area.
The proposal does not preserve or enhance the appearance of the Conservation Area and therefore should be refused."

Monday 21 February 2011

The old Lyon Tea Rooms and Pizza Hut building proposed to be flats

The building at 40 High Street, used to be a Lyons Tea Room has a planning application to convert the whole building to residential flats. The applicant refers to this seafront side as 'the rear'. The last incarnation as a commercial entity was as the Pizza Hut. It seems a very shortsighted application with a loss of crucial commerical space that would be ideal as a restaurant.

40 High Street is to the left in this picture

The plans can be viewed and commented on at the website:
Application number: F/TH/11/0085

The applicant's Design Access Statement claims:

"All attempts at marketing the G/F A3 unit since March 2008 have failed...In essence, it is considered by the agents that at 59m2 the unit is too large to be viable. There is, however, a demand for smaller A3 units. In order to maximise the use of the building, it is therefore proposed that the G/F A3 unit be split into two parts: a new 2 bed flat to the rear facing the sea (accessed off the side stair serving the 1/F accommodation) and a new smaller A3 unit directly accessed from the HighStreet, using the existing entrance.

it should be noted that the majority of the properties along Marine Drive in the locality have residential usage at this floor level (i.e. 1/F level off Marine Drive). There is therefore a clear precendent for residential use...

The proposed works will turn a large vacant retail unit for which there is no market into a smaller more marketable retail unit and an attractive large residential unit."

Wednesday 16 February 2011

At last a brighter future for 19 Hawley Square and The Theatre Royal

Very good news for the Theatre Royal and for Hawley Square. The bid has moved forward for the Theatre to extend and hopefully acquire and renovate 19 Hawley Square.

Number 19 Hawley Square, was a handsome Grade II listed end of terrace Georgian building sitting on the corner of the square right next door to the wonderful Theatre Royal. Number 19 is owned and managed the housing association Orbit.

19 Hawley Square used to be the London Hotel and served the Theatre. In recent years 19 has, despite its listed status fallen into almost total dereliction in recent years. We understand the sizer of the flats proposed by Orbit fall below their own minimum space standards and makes the process of applying for planning permission a precursor to selling the building on with planning for flats.

Orbit came out with planning applications last winter to convert it to 13 1 bed flats and a bedsit with floor space of 26 square meters, no windows in hallways, kitchens and bathrooms and expecting people to walk refuse down a meandering corridors into the basement.

Plans can be viewed and downloaded from: and searching for the application references:
11th January 2010 L/TH/09/1040
11th January 2010 F/TH/09/1047
24th June 2010 F/TH/10/0429

The proposal intended knocking down the Victorian addition in the garden, building over the entire garden with a full height mock Georgian extension to squeeze in the remaining flats. Just what Margate needs I hear you cry, more 1 bed flats too small to swing a cat in and in true bad old days tradition, a bedsit no less! Perhaps taking inspiration from Margate's bedsit tradition that the council are working to erradicate!

So let's hope this works out for the Theatre Royal who would really benefit from increased space and it would be a sustainable use for number 19.

Monday 14 February 2011

Be my valentine, Arlington House

Before we get to the end of valentines day, we're squeezing in some love for one of Margate's most iconic buildings.

Arlington House isn't going to be knocked down. We think it is often misunderstood.

Happy Valentines, Arlington House. Some of us love you and we appreciate your finer points. Teak, brass and marble interiors anyone?

Designed by Russell Diplock Associates and built by Bernard Sunley, Arlington was a high spec building. No doubt some might question building such a thing on the seafront, as they do now regarding Tesco. But one thing is for sure, the specification of Arlington is not something the new Tesco seeks to emulate. You can't get rid of it, so why not enhance it? Do it justice, not try to erase it by covering it in guttering and plastic windows.

Happy valentines, Arlington House, from secret admirers.

Window sills that slope downwards that no water collects or birds can gain a footing. The new proposal will see the windows replaced with plastic, pushed out to the edge and guttering attached. Very little consideration has been spent on the refurbishment, it's first in its entire life.

Current planning permission application is available on UK planning. Search for application number: F/TH/10/1061

Tuesday 8 February 2011

Last minute meeting called : Margate Museum's Future

No idea why it was necessary to call such a last minute meeting in the afternoon midweek to discuss something as important as the future of The Margate Museum.

This came through from TDC's Sharon Sebastian on the ever confusing Creative Margate gmail address. That's Creative Margate (TDC, KCC, MRP) not Margate Creatives (the group of Margate based Creatives) btw.

I'm particularly worried by the suggestions to move the archive to Maidstone!

Margate Museum can hopefully get some force behind it like the Margate Caves group and take things forward. After all isn't this supposed to be the era of Big Society? Safeguarding the contents will be the first task.


Dear All,

Further to our most recent conversation, you may be interested to hear that a meeting has been called by museum volunteer Christine Luck tomorrow afternoon at 2.00pm in Margate Museum.

This will provide an opportunity to continue the discussion started on the 24th January (notes of which are attached). [I've pasted it below to save you opening a Word doc. Ed].

Many Thanks

Sharon Sebastian


How can we best utilise Margate Museum? Notes of a Meeting held at Winter Gardens Jan 24th 2011

Conversation initiated by Christine Luck

Notes taken by Sarah Wren

  • Museum closed for 2 years due to resources
  • Now being opened occasionally by volunteers
  • Use the ‘youth cult’ theme? Eg the clothes of youth cults displayed in the museum
  • Is the museum the right building – is it DDA compliant? Is it the right place for historic archive – space for research?
  • Current building connected to Margate’s past
  • Is the current building fit for purpose?
  • How do we engage people with the museum eg artist in residence
  • Need to look at the museum in a new way – not about stuff in cases
  • Paper-based archive is currently poorly stored/taking up too much space
  • Picture archive owned by council - remove from museum and store elsewhere or sell them?
  • Need to work out which parts of the collection could be interactive or are too precious to handle. Use other techniques - video, new display methods, need a donation box.
  • Margate Museum Trust – this the starting point?
  • What about resources for insurance, heating, staff etc.? £3 per head not going to cover costs.
  • Need a new model of finance / operation – look at current good practice
  • One museum for Thanet?
  • Archive – move to Maidstone/KCC or to Whitfield? Is this too far to go?
  • Annual themes – manageable/achievable
  • Estimate £1m to re-build current building. Big commitment.
  • HLF bid? Who writes the bids – the new Trust??

  • Do guerrilla stuff/events that build support/engagement and underpin the need to raise funds (eg calls for submissions that bring the exhibitions to life).
  • Can we put an extension on the current building?
  • Need a designer to design the space?
  • How do we resolve the current lease issue etc? Being restored in April 2011?
  • Real issue with funding. Only income generator is archives.
  • How can we utilise Margate museum?

  • We all want the Museum open
  • Secondary considerations – What is the content? Is the current building appropriate? Where does the archive go?

Next steps: Set up trust

Guerrilla projects to create/generate interest

Fund raise – duty to trust

Turner Contemporary opens on 16th April 2011 – can we set up Trust by then??"

Friends of Margate Caves website is go!

How fabulously fast these good people have worked to get a website up and running and also fully constituted. Check out:

We also received this info from the group:

"Please circulate to anyone whom you think would be interested in the future of the Caves.

Good evening everyone,

Over the past three weeks, I've been struck by the number of people I've met who have enduring, visceral and tangible memories of being inside the Margate Caves. I've met people who've returned to Margate/Cliftonville to live and who visited the caves every time they came to Margate/Cliftonville as children on holiday and even now still regret their closure in 2006. The scientific, geological, historical and cultural heritage of the Caves needs to be conserved and it is because of this that I am forwarding the following information from the Friends of the Margate Caves.

A message from the newly formed "Friends of Margate Caves"--

Thanet District Council has submitted a Planning Application to build houses on part of the Margate Caves site. The community reaction to this application has led to the formation of "The Friends of MargateCaves" (FOMC).

The FOMC have two aims:

• To safeguard the Margate Caves and gain recognition for the heritage site as one of national interest and importance

• To re-open Margate Caves as a prominent, popular, public amenity for the benefit of all who visit or reside in Margate/Cliftonville/Thanet

There’s strength in numbers so please join us! We’ll send you regular email updates on the latest Caves news and FOMC activities. Simply email Please make me a friend in the subject line.

The website for FRIENDS OF MARGATE CAVES is now up and running. Please consider leaving your comments, suggestions, memories and a donation to the FOMC

The Friends welcome any and all contributions. The issue of building houses on the Caves site has been simmering for a while and despite assurances that the plans were on hold, everyone has been amazed to see that very recently TDC cleared the land, chopped down tree(s) and poured concrete to seal off the main entrance to the Caves.

The current TDC planning application flies in the face of the results of its own Margate Caves Consultation (2009). Over 90% of respondents opposed the sale and development of the site. Specific concerns voiced included infilling of any part of the Caves and the potential loss of a tourist attraction for the town. Representations included one from Margate Civic Society and a petition of 2,592 signatures.

The Caves are an important and fascinating part of our area's tourism offer. Their potential worth is far greater than that of seven poorly-designed houses, which would be built immediately adjacent to a conservation area. With Margate on the brink of a bright new tourism future, FOMC believe that this is an ill-conceived proposal that will extinguish any hope of the Caves being re-opened as a tourist attraction.

If you would like to read the application, you should go to:

and search for application number: F/TH/10/0546

If you would like to object to the application, click the "Comment on Application" button.

You will need to complete your name and address. Then click Object to the proposal.

There is also a Save the Caves Facebook Group"

Spread the word!

Monday 7 February 2011

Nice article on Turner and Margate from Will Gompertz at the BBC

"Margate doing a Bilbao

The sun was brilliant, the light fantastic, and there I stood in amongst it. At the end of last week while others toiled under leaden skies, I'd taken off for brighter climes.

You have to travel to find such locations, where sun and sea unite to reveal colours that are normally hidden. And I had travelled. To the place that Turner loved more than most, for the light it gives (and for his host): a place where the French would visit and mingle with other metropolitans who too were "en vacance". Not that I expected to see them on my trip, but I hoped the sun might shine.

And it did: in buckets and spades. But then, that's Margate for you.

Admittedly it's a town that has been struggling with its image of late. Once a popular seaside resort, many holidaymakers now consider it a last resort. They say cheap flights and package holidays did her in, but Brighton, Hastings and North Berwick are all doing okay. The truth is Margate went out of fashion and stayed there. And without the free-spending tourists to put a smile on her face, she became depressed, which was bad because nobody wants to holiday with a misery.

So in an attempt to cheer the old port up, the council have "done a Bilbao". That is built a funky modern art gallery in the hope that fortune will favour a brave contemporary design. It's a bold move, but is it a wise one?


Turner Contemporary
, as the David Chipperfield-designed building is known, is a success inside and out. But then what would you expect from one of the world's most gifted living architects, who on Wednesday evening will pick up the highly-prized RIBA Gold Medal at a ceremony held in his honour. You only have to look at his portfolio of cultural projects on his website to know the man and his practice would create something special. Which they duly have while delivering the Holy Grail for any art-gallery-as-urban-regeneration-project: and that is a building you'd travel to see regardless of what it contains."

Sunday 6 February 2011

The state of the seafront from Margate Harbour down to Palm Bay

slipway to the seafront

I have long been distressed at the state of the seafront walkway from behind the Harbour in Margate down to Palm Bay. It is a disgrace. It also doesn't appear to get cleaned at all. I went down over a few days and photographed the same dog crap, broken glass and litter that just didn't get cleared up. There are also hardly any bins to speak of and some people have started rigging up their own by tying up carrier bags on the railings at the entrance to the slipways that take you up to the main road at the top by the Lido. These unfortunately end up bursting with dog crap and just left hanging there. Which leads me to question:

What is the cleaning rota for this public walkway?

Why are there so few dog poo bins?

Is this part of the Viking Trail? If yes, this is a disgrace? There is a sign directing the Viking Trail users to divert down to this stretch of seafront while works are being undertaken at Turner. So are we really directing tourists and visitors down this stretch of seafront?

Don't get me wrong, this bit of coastline is magnificent and it should be one of our best assets. Visitors to the area are walking along here to Broadstairs. Isn't it shameful that they have to navigate 20 minutes of filth before they get to North Foreland?

How much nicer wouldn't it be for the user of the jet ski, Palm Bay if this stretch of seafront was maintained?

Can we really be serious that we'd rather spend money on hoardings for private properties along Margate seafront, or paint the lighthouse stripes and place large maritime buoys on the roundabout in front of the station (more info to come on this later)? This area deserves to be just as well maintained as the seafront at Birchington along to Minnis Bay. We will never increase all round family usage of this area if it left in such a mess.

I'm going to continue to photograph this area to see how long it takes for it to be cleaned.

broken glass left for days

walkway behind the Lido littered with dog poo and glass

The view from the Lido to Walpole Bay

The walkway next to the Lido

Behind the Lido

Dirty beach at The Lido

Thursday 3 February 2011

Margate Conservation Area Advisory Group praised in new English Heritage publiction

English Heritage have published a new publication: Valuing Places: Good Practice in Conservation.
Our very own Margate CAAG gets a mention as well as a nifty picture of TDC Conservation Officer Louise Dandy and Margate Renewal Partnership's Derek Harding gets a mention too. Check out section 4, page 12.

Ironically, the feature centers on the newly created Dalby Square Conservation Area. But soon after it was designated there was all the hoo-hah over the loss of the green space at the top end of the square to not very nicely designed houses.

The publication is available as a pdf to download from here:

Plans for Arlington and Tescos

Plans are now online for Tesco's at Arlington. You can view at TDC's offices or online at UK Planning.
Search under the application number:

The plans are quite big so might be better to view in hardcopy. I'll comment back when I've looked in more detail.

In the meantime, TDC's press dept released a joyous press release about the site. No mention of the impact on local businesses, traffic, visual impact of such a huge store in close proximity to Margate's main asset, the main sands. Let's not forget the impact of supermarkets on towns.

Sent: Wednesday, February 02, 2011 10:50 AM
Subject: Plans in for new superstore in Margate

Plans have been submitted for a new retail superstore next to Arlington
House in Margate.

The application is for a superstore, which would be built on the
existing car park. A total of 409 new parking spaces would be provided
at the ground floor level, with the store located above. Because the
shopping area is at the first floor level, the building includes a large
front lobby to enable customers to get to the store, and a raised
platform for lorry deliveries. Neither of these are usually required
with ground floor stores.

The shopping area of the store is similar in size to the existing Tesco
at Manston Road, Ramsgate. In total, including delivery areas and the
entrance lobby, the store would be 7,565 square metres.

The store is expected to bring 300 jobs to the area, according to
information submitted as part of the application.

The application also includes improvements to Arlington House,
including new windows, repairing and treating the concrete panels, new
lighting and a roof canopy on top of the building. The existing retail
units in Arlington Square would be demolished and replaced with new
shops, cafes, restaurants or bars, with a hotel above. The ground floor
of Arlington House would become either shops, a cafe, restaurant, bar or
community facility such as a doctor's surgery.

Details of the application are available on the council's website using
UK Planning under reference number 10/1061. The plans can also be viewed
by visiting Thanet's Gateway Plus in Cecil Street, Margate from 9am to
6pm, Monday to Friday, with extended opening until 8pm on Thursdays.
Thanet's Gateway Plus is also open from 9am to 5pm on Saturdays.

The deadline for comments to be received is 28 February 2011. Comments
should be sent to The application will
be considered by the council’s Planning Committee in spring 2011.


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

Tuesday 1 February 2011

Pfizer's closure comes as a big blow

Oh bugger. Pfizer's research center in Sandwich closing comes as a big blow for the area. Others have covered it better than I can.

So what's that big road for that they're constructing out to Pfizer?

Other places in the world also suffered when Pfizer pulled out. Such as New London Conneticut The now infamous case went all the way to the US Supreme Court Kelo v City of New London was a landmark case. In the end Pfizer left a desert in it's wake after they then pulled out of the area.

Perhaps we should also be wary of jobs promised at the airport and whatever happened to the number of jobs that Thanet Earth would bring or China Gateway for that matter.

Margate & Cliftonville praised for work on Conservation Areas

Nice to see some praise coming Margate's way. I was a founder member of the Margate Conservation Area Advisory Group.The wonderful sounding CAAG. Hopefully the roll out of Conservation Areas in Cliftonville will help to preserve some of its fine buildings and green spaces. We meet once per month.

Do get in touch if you would like to know more about the group or get involved.
"A seaside town in Kent has been praised by a conservation body for its attempts to preserve its historic character.

English Heritage (EH) said Cliftonville in Margate should be seen as a benchmark of conservation success.

It said volunteers had worked with the district council to set up a conservation area and make "dramatic improvements".

Derek Harding, a director at Margate Renewal Partnership, said preserving its character attracted investment.

He said: "Much of the historic townscape of Cliftonville is intact. The quality, scale and setting of the buildings present some real opportunities."

The town is singled out in a new English Heritage guide called Valuing Places: Good Practice in Conservation Areas.

The report said one in 13 of England's 10,000 conservation areas were threatened by neglect and decline."