Friday 28 February 2014

Open letter to Councillor Julie Marson and Laura Sandys MP from Councillor Will Scobie

I think this is the first open letter and guest blogger I've featured here on Margate Architecture. Following the debate last night across the council chamber regarding the proposed Cliftonville Conservation Area roll out. Councillor Will Scobie has penned an open letter. oh, and congrats to Will and Jodie on getting married!

p.s. Please do pop in to tomorrow's Margate Neighbourhood Plan Forum public meeting:
Cliftonville Community Centre, St Paul's Road, Cliftonville.
Details here:

Open letter to Julie Marson and Laura Sandys – Conservation areas in Cliftonville

Dear Julie and Laura,

I would like to suggest that we meet to discuss the issue of conservation areas in Cliftonville so that we can work together on this important issue. I have been a vocal supporter of conservation areas in Cliftonville since I was elected to represent the area in May 2013. I think that by working together we can make sure that we have a scheme that protects the historical beauty of Cliftonville. The motion that was presented by Julie at the meeting of Thanet District Council on the 27thFebruary unfortunately failed to get cross-party support for the scheme. We have the opportunity here to change that.

I feel that we mostly agree about conservation areas in Cliftonville and that a meeting would allow us to form a common position. Unfortunately in modern politics we spend far too much time talking about the things we disagree on rather than focusing on areas of agreement. This open letter is an attempt to try and get past this.

The areas that we disagree on are over the extent of the conservation areas and whether this can be done at once or phased over time. I am happy to discuss both of these issues. I did not support Julie’s original motion that proposed going beyond the English Heritage appraisals because we were presented with no evidence that residents wanted it extended to these areas. Nor were Council members provided with any factual evidence of the need to conserve these additional areas. However we can certainly discuss this and I will listen to your ideas. If there is a desire from residents for their area to be included, or if there is a factual case for it to be extended to other areas, then I am prepared to listen and talk about this openly.

Similarly I am also happy to discuss whether the conservation areas should be brought in at once or phased. I opposed them being done simultaneously because after speaking with Conservation and Planning Officers at the Council it became apparent that we not have adequate resources to do this. My worry would be that this could impact heavily upon conservation work taking place elsewhere in Thanet and potentially be very costly if rushed. If you have a proposal on how we can deliver conservation areas simultaneously with the resources available then I am prepared to listen to your views.

I hope that you will take me up on my offer because if we can agree a common position then it will send a clear message that politics in Thanet is changing. It will also allow us to deliver something incredibly important for the people of Cliftonville. I hope that we can put party politics aside for the good of Cliftonville.

Yours sincerely,

Will Scobie.

Kent County Councillor for Margate and Cliftonville and Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for South Thanet.

Monday 10 February 2014

Act today to save Thanet Press from demolition

*News Update Feb 14th 2014*

I received a letter from the Council that once again new files have been added on February 12th to the application for comment.

So everyone who has already commented will have to comment all over again.

Which begs the question why new files are being allowed to be added to the current application after the receipt of extensive comments?

Is the developer simply countering the submitted comments with new files? 
Time for Thanet Council to require the developer submit a new application. 

Check out the new files on

The proposal to demolish the historic Thanet Press buildings in Union Crescent in central Margate has been revised. 

Today is the deadline for comments. The proposal, by GTL Property Management Ltd, is for the erection of 2 x 4 storey buildings  and 1 x 3 storey building to accommodate 70 one and two bedroom flats.

I've been rather snowed under, so apologies for the lateness of this post. 

So, if you think there is a better future for this central light industrial site, nestled in the midst of Margate's Conservation Area and surrounded by Listed Buildings, please share this to your contacts.  

Here are the grounds I think worth commenting on myself. To comment, go to 

Ref: F/TH/13/0538 and C/TH/13/0539

Make sure you comment on both applications.

- This is a key existing light industrial site, ideally placed in Central Margate to take full advantage of the available Regional Growth Fund loans in the East Kent Area. The loss of this site that could create and support employment and enterprise is unacceptable. The site is unsuitable for the creation of such a high number and high density of residential dwellings. 

- The structural engineer’s report confirms that the building is sound and could be reasonably reused and potentially extended, albeit with some minor remediation measures as recommended by the environmental report.

- The conclusions of the historic report are contrary to the good evidence the historic assessment (at the beginning of the report) presents of the importance of Union Crescent in Margate’s history and this appears to be biased in favour of those commissioning the report.  

- I would strongly disagree with the report’s statement that, "The horizontal rhythm reflects the Georgian terrace opposite”.  The inset vertical expression of the stairwells fronting the main Union Crescent facade is completely inconsistent with the Georgian character of the buildings opposite, and in general, and the overall proportion and hierarchy reads as a very poor pastiche.  The proposed use of stucco rendered corbels and reconstituted stone demonstrates that the building would be of insufficient material quality.  

- The proposed PPC aluminium sash windows are of very poor proportion and would not successfully emulate their Listed neighbours.

- The proposed design is of very poor quality, in a location where there is no precedent for housing of this scale, nor evidence of housing ever existing on the site, directly facing buildings of significant historic interest on all sides.  

- The proposed scheme does not enhance the Conservation Area and would certainly be a detrimental contribution to the street and the town.  For reasons of height, mass and bulk and potentially sunlight/ daylight impact to the neighbours the design remains inappropriate.  

- The fact that the existing 19th Century buildings on the site were not Listed by English Heritage is insufficient justification alone for demolition within a conservation area.

- The loss of the site’s employment use in the town centre remains a concern.  There has been interest in this building commercially that has been dismissed by the owner in favour of this proposed change of use.  The proposed change of use is contrary to local planning policy.

- The overlooking of the properties to the north of Hawley Square, with the overbearing scale of the proposals that face onto a narrow back street, is wholly unacceptable, to what is such an important Georgian square in both national and local terms.  The proposed building facing onto Prince’s Street is significantly taller than the existing massing and goes against the historic grain of the conservation area.

I hope that the council will see fit to refuse this application and encourage the applicant to more sustainably reuse the site and maintain a commercial use.

Further notes:
Historic Significance Appraisal Report
Since the last time the application was submitted a, Historic Significance Appraisal Report has been added to UK Planning. It was for this reason, that Councillor Iris Johnston sought for the application to be brought to Planning Committee rather than be decided under delegated powers. The Planning Department had it recommended for refusal. 

The report gives an enlightening and useful description of the Georgian residential buildings to Union Crescent , including outlining their importance and significance and their Listing status. This adds further weight to the argument that the proposed buildings, with their poorly considered elevation treatment and massing, will serve to de-value the setting of Union Crescent and its contribution to the Conservation Area.

The report contends that the scheme will have a positive contribution to the setting, however it will not. It does not ‘complete the classical composition’ as the street was never conceived as such. As the report outlines, the Thanet Press site has never contained buildings of a massing as proposed, and the street frontage has never been built up to such an extent. The design, particularly the proposed materials and detailing is poor and does not reflect that found on the adjacent buildings.

The loss of versatile commercial space will be hugely detrimental to the local area and the long term future of the town. A truly vibrant streetscape is created by a mix of uses and occupants, and refurbishment of the existing buildings for commercial use is the best way to achieve this.

Structural Report
The structural appraisal clearly states that the existing buildings are in a sound condition and re-use, even extension would be possible. From a sustainability point of view, such re-use is the most effective way forward and will use far less embodied energy than demolition and new build. The council should be taking a forward thinking approach and encouraging the re-use of existing structures.

Hazardous Substance Survey
The existing buildings were found to contain asbestos in parts, however the report states that ‘contamination in general is minimal and localised’. Any future development of the site, be it refurbishment of existing buildings or demolition with new build will have to deal with this so it neither supports nor opposes this application. What is clear is that it is possible to safely clear the existing buildings of hazardous materials and refurbish the existing buildings. There is no case for demolition on contamination grounds.

The Thanet Press site represents an important opportunity for sensitive regeneration of the existing buildings to create a new vibrant commercial space in the heart of the town. The existing buildings have a versatility of use and interest of form that the proposed scheme fails to deliver and I urge the council to refuse this scheme.