Thursday 3 March 2011

Orbit South Housing Association Vivien Knibbs speaks out for Margate

In today's Guardian, Vivien Knibbs, Managing Director of Orbit South Housing Association has defended Margate's honour in response to the lazy article from Tom Dykoff I reported on last month. We also reported on the plight of Orbit owned 19 Hawley Square last month. One hopes that a bright future will also await for that building.

"Your article on Margate poignantly highlighted the significant challenges the town faces (Fun is running low. Now Margate has a dismal new claim to fame, 19 February). But claiming that "Margate may be the saddest of all" Britain's seaside towns suggests an inevitable decline which is simply not true. I firmly believe Margate has a great platform for renewal and regeneration.

In particular you describe the high street: "So forlorn is the town's retail centre that a group of A-level students walk around with clipboards, marking off the closed shops as part of their geography coursework." However, over 15 new boutiques, galleries and cafes have opened in the old town over the last 18 months.

Margate has much going for it. The location of this original seaside town is excellent. Its beautiful, sandy beaches and stunning architecture set it apart from other coastal towns. The sense of community is strong and the local authority and other agencies, including my housing association, have a deep and long-standing commitment to further regenerating the area. Crucially, there are significant and exciting plans already in place to attract new investment.

In 2009 the High Speed 1 rail link enabled commuters to travel directly to London in just under an hour and a half, and firmly placed Margate at the gateway to Europe. This has opened up the town and we're excited about what this may bring with regard to people relocating and an increase in visitors to the area.

You rightly highlighted the opening of the £20m Turner Contemporary in April, citing Jane Holbrey's comment that "the Turner gallery has been a real draw … but I think [artists and galleries] started moving in before then because of the beautiful surroundings and architecture." This is only part of the picture.

Thanet district and Kent county council plan to buy and refurbish around 300 properties with targeted investment on a street-by-street basis. This will particularly start to reverse the impact your report cited of "the handsome Victorian townhouse hotels in the Cliftonville area [which] were carved into bedsits".

[Ed. This is 19 Hawley Square, which Orbit has proposed carving into tiny 1 bed flats and a bedsit]

Our housing association owns more than 2,800 homes and is committed to providing 300 new affordable homes over the next seven years, as well as offering training and apprenticeship opportunities to local residents.

This partnership approach is part of a long-term regeneration strategy – in collaboration with local and central government agencies and private investment – which is set to revive Margate. Shopkeeper Tamburlaine Robb-John says in your article: "There are a lot of doubters in the town but I'm hoping it will be the start of the renewal." Margate's greatest asset is its people, who have a growing sense of optimism about the future of their town.

There are no quick fixes, it will take time. But don't write Margate off just yet. We know this once-great town can grow, thrive and eventually flourish. Visit Margate for yourself and you'll see the changes that have already taken place."


  1. "In 2009 the High Speed 1 rail link enabled commuters to travel directly to London in just under an hour and a half" ... which is around 10 minutes or so faster than previously (Margate to London Victoria), hardly a significant change that will make any big difference.

  2. And lower the price of tickets so poorer people can commute to London and I am sure they can make it a bit faster.

  3. This woman and her organisation have a "deep and lasting commitment" to profiting from the misery of the poor. They are committed to shipping in more of London's flotsam to "enhance" the area's social problems. With the £400 a week cap on Housing Benefit in the great Wen we will soon be seeing a new tide of filth on our doorsteps. It will still take them nearly two hours to get here, because the north kent line is a decrepit Victorian shambles. We have enough unstable nutters already- in the asylum that is TDC. Look at those gurning loonies in the Gateway. The staff are worse than the "clients". If they swapped outfits the service might be better! I reckon Turner should have a mass barking and gurning "installation". Lets ask her Knibbs to open the screamfest.
    Tomlinson will hand out the prozac and Martin Wise will club the participants into submission. Tea and biscuits will be served in the £21,000 Beverage Interfacing Centre. "Simon Says" Moores will be MC. Maybe a grant will be forthcoming from the Martin Wise Environmental Clubbing Fund. Contact Gurning Officer No 2 at Gatepen for more info.

  4. Video of Brighton and Clintonville.

    How Clintonville could look if the buildings where painted and plants planted.

  5. Broadside - think you're the unstable nutter, I'm surprised you can actually get up in the morning with your miserable attitude.

  6. TDC must have drove him/she mad.

  7. £400 per week will comfortably get you a place to rent in South East London so why would they come to Margate. Just more scaremongering I am afraid and just how does Broadside cope with living here, assuming he does, and, if he doesn't, it is nothing to do with him.

    I say him on the basis that no self respecting woman would give herself a name like Broadside, or broad anything for that matter.

    I think Margate is starting to look a lot better and long may it continue.

  8. 300+ new affordable homes what are they for?

  9. This woman is such a hypocrite. Her comments are completely at odds with the behaviour of her organisation.

    Many of Margate's ills are caused by problem families who were shipped into the area in the past. I'm all for affordable housing for working people but Orbit suggesting they are contributing to regeneration? Don't be ridiculous.

    Orbit's behaviour over 19 Hawley Square is an absolute disgrace. Not only have they allowed an important building (which is carved up) to delapidate but they have the audacity to want to build more rabbit hutches on the site.

  10. People should want to come here and live because of the natural beauty and the fine Georgian / Victorian architecture painstakingly built in a great way. If people came here for that reason they would take more pride in there building because they love them, some people have done this.

    They should not come because it’s cheap or directed here because it’s cheap, due to the oversupply of little boxes or little converted boxes.

    And I heavily stress that there are no jobs for extra people on a low wage there’s not enough for the people here already, 3000+ unemployed. People on a low wage will not be able to commute to London to get a job because it is too expensive so they will be trapped, in a box and miserable.

  11. Agree, far better to be trapped in a box in Thamesmead or Abbey Wood and still with no jobs. No sunsets, sea views and a better chance of being mugged!

  12. Thamesmead, Abbey Wood and I think your referring to the big two council estates.

    Nearest train station is plumstead.
    22mins to London bridge day travel card £7.00 makes more Economic sense.

    The odds of getting a job are greatly increased in the London area.

    Are you comparing Margate to a council estate it's not one.

    I am for council estate but there has to be a balance and economically viable.

  13. The HB cap is a fact,not scaremongering at all. Slumlords are buying up more real estate down here in anticipation of the coming exodus. Besides, the London Boroughs are still getting financial incentives for each individual they "transport" to Thanet. This is undoubtedly concentrating the social problems here (yes and they were screaming abdabs again this evening). Richard Samuels commented on this in Thanet Extra last November, shortly after the cap on HB was announced. The gist of his comments was that "we can't cope with the people we already have". Never having lived in south London I cannot comment on the charms of the place(!). However on the numerous occasions that I have passed through on the coach (which takes only slightly longer than the train) I have had the feeling of looking through a glass darkly. Give me Thanet anyday over that squalid third world dystopia. At least we have fresh air here and fabulous beaches. We are not scrambling on the rancid, teeming dung heap of the Great Wen. I'm with Cobbett there. Mind you in the 1820's he described the labouring classes of Thanet as "beggarly in the extreme", so not much change then! No wonder smuggling was such an important supplement to their meagre incomes. No, we still have a lot to be grateful for: many fine buildings, spectacular landscapes and a rich , though neglected heritage. My nom de guerre is Broadside because I aim to shatter the timbers of the opposition ie TDC. They are the public face of the same old crowd who have always run Thanet. I know lots of people who bought here a decade ago and are tired of waiting for change. Many of these people are on the brink of selling up because they just cannot believe the talk of a Margate revival anymore. They are only waiting for "the bubble" of delusion and hype to swell and increase the property values. Then they will jump ship with great haste. I am not so pessimistic. I do think things will get better, but it's going to take several years. The town has always lived on the summer season and winters here are long. There is one asset which could be a moneyspinner: Manston. The airport has great potential as an air-freight hub. It could employ thousands. With mining ,fishing and farming gone or in steep decline we must have other areas of out-of season employment. We cannot all work for TDC (God forbid!) and this is never going to be Metroland. How much is a season ticket now? £3500? More? If Samuels says we need people with disposable incomes there must be decently paid local jobs. Jobs that don't involve covering the island in windfarms. I shall linger in Margate for another year or so. A decade is enough. Unlike a lot of the natives I have the luxury of an escape route, both physically and mentally. I could leave town but I prefer to stay and watch the danse macabre. But not forever. My extensive library is a consolation and a hindrance. Moving will be a nightmare upheaval. So I remain here, for now, in this old Georgian manor with my garden and cast-off moggies. Margate is around me, yet mercifully remote. When the governing class is so corrupt and the underclass so revolting it is "pleasant through the loopholes of retreat to peep at such a world". That is how I cope. Perhaps after this I should change my name to Pimpernel. Actually I am doing rather more to facilitate the "revival" than my insular pronouncements suggest. Baroness Orczy would be proud. But we are up against a deadlier foe than the agents of The Terror; we are fighting TDC and the Freemasons. Even Gaddafi is an amateur compared with these crooks. Mmm, farewell then Broadside, hello Pimpernel. Until the next time. As Jack Dee said "Thanet is home to 28,000 odd people"...I am merely one of a very barmy army. Come on then, give me a broadside Anon, I can take it.

  14. Welcome back ECR!!!

  15. Broadside, I was actually with you for a bit there until you brought in freemasons. How the myth of some all powerful secret society lingers like a latter day Hell Fire Club.

    You are obviously well read and I would have thought capable of perceiving that masons are but a declining gentlemen's club, scratching around to attract a few to their dwindling numbers. Now largely abandoned by those of real standing. lest they themselves become labelled by the ill informed, they are in the main dwindling groups of aging men of an earlier life, a bit like many WWII veterans clubs and societies.

    The days when kings squared the lodge are long gone along with the influence and control they might once have enjoyed. Blame civic figures if you like but, don't look for mythical power and influence in the funny handshake fraternity. These days there is more influence in the local Gay Pride march organisation.

  16. Vivien Knibbs should be ashamed.
    Organisations like Orbit (owners of 35,000 dwellings) are circling over Margate like vultures. They are after the big profits from social engineering. If people like Vivien Knibbs have their way, the industries that thrive on deprivation will prevail over those that need regeneration. Margate will re-enforce it's reputation for benefits by the sea.

    The Index of Multiple Deprivation report 2007 reveals that Thanet’s most deprived areas are Cliftonville West and Margate Central. These areas have double Thanet’s overall unemployment rate, triple the Thanet's rate of males on job seeker’s allowance, almost double the KCC average of lone parents, the highest rate of children in households with no earner. Margate Central and Cliftonville West account for 12% and 16% of recorded crime in Thanet, but only have 5.5% and 3.8% of Thanet’s population.
    The unemployment rate in Margate Central and Cliftonville West is14 %.

    This devastating situation is the result of decades of social engineering -London Boroughs shipping people on benefits out to Thanet.
    The decline of the town, often been blamed on cheap flights to Spain, was made irreversible by the benefits by the sea industry.
    This lined the pockets of the the old guest house owners who could make easier money renting rooms to vulnerable people on benefits as bedsits rather than competing for tourism.

    Now it is high earners like Vivien Knibbs that want to line their pockets. There is no work, so the people they attract will remain unemployed, Although London is relatively near, the commute is far too expensive. A 2nd class season ticket is £4376 - £58490 -on top of that you'd need a London travel card.

    A report by the housing charity Shelter and the Chartered Institute of Housing claims that government plans to overhaul housing benefit would price low-income households out of a third of local authorities in England, pushing them into areas of high unemployment.

    I sat around a table at a meeting last year with Vivien Nibbs . She kept her eyes on the doodles on her notepad, not once looking the residents she was addressing. She arrogantly denied the facts put in front of her and kept repeating that Orbit act responsibly and need to make a profit.
    The issue was 19 Hawley Square. Orbit was given a Grade II listed building for around £8000 by the Council. Orbit chucked out the residents and left it empty for years. The once grand London Hotel became an eyesore on the beautiful tree-lined Georgian Square. Doors and windows were left open, the whole building was flooded. After a few years the building was in a sad state.

    Orbit stated they need to make a profit on every building they own. Maintaining a Grade II Listed Building was not economically viable (although a legal obligation). Their declared strategy is to get planning permission to demolish part of the building and cover the entire garden with a new building containing 1 bedroom flats and a bedsit. All fell far below Orbit's minimum standards. But that didn't matter because they had no intention of building the proposed slum, but to sell the site on to a developer for profit.

    The building had been earmarked for use for the Theatre next door which desperately needs to expand. Orbit is looking to get maximum profit.

    Orbit's plans damage Margate's regeneration by creating the slums of the future and hindering the cultural redevelopment.

    Vivien Knibbs should indeed be ashamed.