Saturday 22 November 2014

As Hornby vacate Thanet why do we need their advice?

An article in today's Guardian features Thanet based business Hornby moving out of its base of 60 years and follows on with the woeful news about the struggling Margate economy.
You might be interested to know that senior executives of Hornby take up places on the boards of both
Thanet Regeneration Board (you have to actually click on Frank Martin's name to reveal he's from Hornby) and the Destination Management Plan Steering Group (Nick Cole representing the Thanet Business Group is Vice Chairman). 
Now we hear Hornby are upping sticks out of Thanet completely [edited to add: the Guardian article states they may keep their visitor centre in Margate], just as Thanet District Council release their
draft Local Plan which earmarks large scale development and expansion of the Westwood Ward. That's Westwood Cross, folks with infill of housing all around it on empty brownfield sites on all sides, and includes land that was once prime agricultural and ended up as EKO
The Financial Times reports that Hornby:
"announced an annual pre-tax loss of £4.6m and renegotiated its debt. Two months earlier, it issued its third profit warning in less than two years following prolonged problems with a Chinese supplier and adverse foreign exchange movements."

Do we need this kind of regeneration advice for Thanet?

There are no small business reps on the Thanet Regeneration Board. Why? I've asked and have never been given an answer.

So, here's to another positive piece in the national media about Margate struggling, when in reality, there are many small businesses collectively expanding.

The times they are a changing.

Wednesday 5 November 2014

'Stylish' Walpole Bay Cliff Lift Grade II Listed

What a marvellous bit of good news to come home to this evening! English Heritage have approved my application and have designated Walpole Bay's 1934 Art Deco cliff lift at Grade II.

The Advice Report from English Heritage states:

"The Cliff Lift, Queens Promenade is a stylish 1934 Art Deco style concrete cliff lift which survives externally unaltered. It is an example of a very rare building type of which only four examples nationally are currently listed and the published criteria state that these are 'generally listed'. It is comparable with an inter-war cliff lift at Ramsgate which is listed at Grade II. It is part of a series of seaside structures in Cliftonville ranging in date from the early C19 to the 1930s, most of which are listed. It therefore meets the listing criteria for its building type."

The Cliff Lift now joins the recently designated Walpole Bay Tidal Pool at Grade II. Along with the rejection of the de-designation of Walpole Bay for bathing, the future for bathing at Walpole Bay looks ever more secure. If the Walpole Bay Swimmers keep at it they'll still be swimming at Christmas. 

In recent months, residents rallied and undertook the hard work of organising and painting of the lift's sadly dilapidated facade. The indefatigable Kate Harrison, while working as a Community Organiser for Locality, came across local painter and decorator Mark Johnson-Cooper who was eager to work to improve local historic buildings and get them looking better. They got others involved locally. The team was made up entirely of volunteers. Funding for the painting project was through the Community Organiser project and the Margate team that were in place at the time. The Margate Community Organiser team was the result of local residents successfully applying to Locality.
Transformed in 2014:

Photo Ian Venables
There is a dedicated Facebook Group for the lift. Join!

The listing now opens the door for further funding opportunities for this stretch of Cliftonville seafront. It's one of only four listed cliff lifts nationally. Taken out of service in 2009 when Thanet Council closed it, I hope that the dream of the lift working again and enabling easier access to and from the lower promenade can soon become a reality.
Walpole Bay Tidal Pool
Cliftonville has so many beautiful assets from the era when Britain proudly invested in building facilities for people to enjoy bathing along this unique stretch of coast. Protect them, love them and the community will flourish. They lie on the walking route from Margate Harbour along to the jewel in the crown of Thanet's beaches, Botany Bay and on to Broadstairs. For the last five years this has been a really popular pastime for our guests at our B&B throughout the winter months as well as the summer. This route aka, Cliftonville is the crucial link between the towns of Margate and Broadstairs. It's a place in its own right. Where else can you ride an art deco lift down to a 4 acre tidal pool at the end of your road? Viva Cliftonville!

Sunday 2 November 2014

19 Hawley Square break ins

In the last week, we've sadly had to report a spate of break-ins at 19 Hawley Square. The building is Grade II listed and was, in better days,  The London Hotel. The building had previously had been sold to a housing association, then later becoming part of the portfolio of Orbit South. I've previously reported about Orbit South's failed attempts to get planning permission for conversion to tiny one bed flats and bedsits that were below their own minimum space standards. The purpose they stated at meetings with residents, was to obtain planning permission before selling on the property for the benefit of Orbit South's overall portfolio. 

Thanet District Council purchased back the building in 2011 from Orbit South for £75,000 to "bring a derelict building back into use and allow the Theatre Royal to expand its operations."  Earmarking 19 Hawley Square for the Theatre Royal has been the Council's stated intention for quite a few years. However, these intentions seem to have been ongoing for years and all the while a Grade II listed building is falling into ever greater disrepair. The building has substantial water ingress and dry rot. It's clear this situation shouldn't be allowed to continue indefinitely.

One has to wonder why Orbit South, allowed the listed 19 Hawley Square to fall into such a serious state of disrepair knowing its status as a designated heritage asset. The public may well now ask themselves how this affects Thanet District Council, who by buying the building have taken on the responsibility of the consequences of neglect. Depressingly, this was my post on the news of the Theatre's plans for the building back in 2011 and also Orbit South's Managing Director, Vivien Knibbs, also 2011. 

This is the third Grade II Listed large scale Georgian building on Hawley Square that is standing in a sorry state for years, exposed to the elements with seemingly no end in sight. 47, and 48-49 have both stood like gaping teeth having suffered arson attacks.
But these are Listed buildings. There is legislation to enforce their upkeep and protection from willful neglect. They are, by way of their listed status, eligible for funding. The Council purchased 19 Hawley Square in a bad state of repair and in the ensuing years the condition has worsened through lack of maintenance and repair. 

The Council list the property on their asset list:
19 Hawley Square is item 712, and is curiously listed as 'freehold and occupied'! The building has been empty for years.

Returning to this week's spate of break ins.

Worryingly, at the beginning of last week, children were seen entering the building at night with flashlights. This poses an obvious health and safety risk given the poor state of the building.

Today, two men were seen entering the building with a metal crow bar. They'd climbed up the scaffolding and entered through the easily accessible windows on the first floor.

Police attended and later this evening a Thanet Council Building Control Officer. The police contacted the company advertising on the scaffolding as responsible for security. The company stated their alarm, which didn't appear to work, was in place to protect the scaffolding and not the building.
Tonight the rain continues to fall into the buildings left with insufficient roof coverage.
Some may wonder how the Council's planning department can require of the public a standard of care for heritage assets in the face of this ongoing situation?