Blog: A progress report on the Margate Town Deal projects

From Cllr Duckworth, Cabinet member for Regeneration and Property at Thanet District Council:

I took on the role as Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Property, following the Local Elections in May. It’s a subject that I’m very passionate about.

One of the things I’m committed to is making sure that local people have an understanding of some of the major, government funded regeneration projects happening in Thanet.

If you want to get up to speed on where we are so far, we recently published a general summary of progress across all of the Margate Town Deal projects. You can read it below.

We will be publishing future blogs that will specifically focus on one of the Margate Town Deal projects. There are so many great things happening in Margate (and Ramsgate) that will have positive knock on effects for the whole district and all of its residents.

If you’d like to be among the first to know new news about these exciting projects, please sign up to the mailing list by emailing margate-town-deal@thanet.gov.uk.

I hope that you’ll feel much more well informed about all that’s in the pipeline and that you’ll stay with us on this journey as we work towards achieving our project milestones and head for completion in 2026.

It’s not an overnight fix but looking to the future, I feel optimistic that we’re going to achieve fantastic things.

Cllr Ruth Duckworth

Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Property

Golden opportunity to make Margate a better place

The Margate Town Deal is an exciting, long-term programme of government funding. It has the potential to transform the town and improve the lives of all its residents.

Our Town Deal journey started in 2019. This is when Margate was one of 101 places invited by the government to develop a Town Deal proposal. Support would come from the £3.6 billion Towns Fund.

The Margate Town Deal was awarded in March 2021, totalling £22.2m. It was developed with input from the people of Margate. This was to ensure the proposed projects (officially called Interventions) would reflect the needs of the local community. It has been a long process. We had to complete detailed technical documents on each of the interventions. This was to prove to central government that the projects would give value for public money. After the government awarded the funding, we then had a year to get all the information together.

In total, there are four Interventions. They support the growth of a creative community, coastal wellbeing in and around Cliftonville, active movement in the town and improvements to key heritage assets.

To give the Interventions their official titles:

  • Scaling Margate’s Creative Production and Skills – £8.9m
  • Coastal Wellbeing – £3.55m
  • Active Movement and Connections – £5.3m
  • Diversifying Heritage Assets – £4.3m

The funding is public money and must all be accounted for to government. We know that there is a huge amount of scrutiny of these projects. And that people want to understand exactly what the funding is being used for.

We want to do a better job of letting everyone know about what’s happening behind the scenes, even when it’s not very exciting. Managing a project of this size and scale is no easy task. The most important thing to date has been getting the roadmap right. By doing so, we can be sure of how we’re going to achieve our goals. We also need to take another look at some of the projects. This is because rising inflation and access to construction materials is affecting costs.

Project planning isn’t particularly interesting to look at though. It may seem as if not much is happening because there isn’t anything much to see. Rather like the gliding swan – there is a lot going on beneath the surface. Much of the work until now has focussed on spreadsheets, project management, reports and timelines, but that is changing. You will begin to see the projects take shape as we get to the delivery stage.

As well as projects that are being managed by Thanet District Council there are also things that other local organisations are working on. The projects all need to be completed by 2026. That’s what we have agreed with the government and we’re very much on track to meet that deadline.

So where are we with everything?

Intervention one: Scaling Margate’s Creative Production and Skills.

Firstly, we have now set up a charitable trust which acts independently of the council or Town Deal Board. It will buy or take long term leases on buildings in Margate. It will then lease or rent space in them, to people working in the creative sector. Having access to supported workspace will give these businesses more security. It also means they can grow and plan for the future. Thriving businesses benefit the town’s economy and improve employment opportunities. The Margate Creative Land Trust will also work towards helping the broader community to be a part of the arts and creative sector. There will be opportunities to understand more about businesses in the creative sector and ways to consider all the jobs that could be available.

Secondly, the Grade II* listed Theatre Royal Margate is in disrepair, which led to its closure in April 2022. We have organised a condition report which gave us a full independent assessment of the structure of the building, the state of repair, maintenance issues and any defects. The most urgent of these repairs will be completed in 2023. Most of the £2m funding allocated through the Margate Town Deal will be used to help secure more funding from other sources, with a new vision (in development) and use of 19 Hawley Square to support theatre operations and business plan. We have taken on a theatre historian and conservation architect to create a detailed heritage significance statement, paid for by securing £10k funding from Theatres Trust. This will explain what makes the building an important historic asset and why it should be conserved. It will help us make the case for funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and other bodies.

Intervention two: Coastal Wellbeing.

This will see a £3.55m investment in projects along the Cliftonville coastline. This includes spaces for physical and wellbeing activities, improving access to Walpole Bay and improving facilities at the Bay.

There are outline designs for the Skatepark site, and a design team is developing the proposals for new beach facilities at Walpole Bay. Engagement with the public and other local stakeholders around the early plans for Walpole Bay will take place soon. You can find out more about this project in our Newsroom.

Intervention three: Active Movement and Connections.

This is about making the town easier to navigate, especially if you’re walking or cycling. We’ll be working with Kent County Council as some of this may involve changes to the way the road is used.

Intervention four: Diversifying Heritage Assets.

The focus is on the long term future of Margate’s two largest leisure spaces; Dreamland and the Winter Gardens.

At Dreamland, the Town Deal funding will kickstart the refurbishment of the sea-facing Sunshine Café and cinema building. The specialist work required for the renovation will need millions of pounds. The rest of the funding needed will come from private investment. Studies are now underway to establish the best way to make it a workable consumer events and hospitality space.

At the Winter Gardens, we commissioned, and have now received, a number of important site reports and surveys. This means we have a detailed understanding of the condition of the building and clarity on what it is going to cost to secure its future. In August 2023, a specialist marketing agency was appointed to help promote the Winter Gardens. The goal is to attract investment proposals from organisations with the experience and expertise needed to make the venue a successful leisure proposition for Thanet. We recently included the Winter Gardens in the considerations for our Evening and Night Time Economy review. There were roundtable discussions for people working in the sector as well as general public meetings. The results of that study will be published in the coming weeks.

Progress won’t happen overnight. The aim is that everything we do helps to improve the economic fortunes of the local area in the coming decade. The projects we put forward for funding are sizable and tangible. They have the potential to truly transform the town of Margate and the district more widely. Our ambition is that all this public funding will help to attract even more private investment for Margate.

If you would like regular updates on the Margate Town Deal, please email margate-town-deal@thanet.gov.uk. We will add you to the Margate Town Deal mailing list.


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