Thursday, April 24, 2008

Time Running Out For Margate Traders

At last! Serious and objective reporting about the dire state of Margate! Yep, it took intrepid, investigative reporter Rolf Harris to get to the bottom of things - Margate's dying on its arse. On his Made in England art show on BBC1 last night, the Aussie ocker said the town looked 'mostly shut' and one young Margatonian he interviewed commented: 'It looks like a shanty town.'

But believe it or not the worst is yet to come. Word has reached the old Eastcliff lugholes that no fewer than six retail outlets in and around the Old Town and Lower High Street area have pulled the plug or are planning to, citing the shambles that's being made of road works over there as the final nail in the plywood coffin. Work to widen the pavements in the Lower High Street was apparently completed at one stage, only for the road to be dug up again a week later. A further consequence is that the car parks now appear to be closed during shopping hours, and some poor souls who've braved the trip and parked up early have subsequently found their vehicles shut in for the day. What a bloomin' performance!

Meanwhile the upcoming Margate Rocks arts festival has had to be subsidised to the tune of £10,000 I hear, as no organisation in its right mind could be found to sponsor it, leading indirectly to the cancellation of the popular, environmental and locally-based Sea Art project. And talking of subsidies, how do you think the Turner Contemporary Project Space (the old M&S to you and me) has been drawing, er, sell-out crowds of 153 visitors a day? Yes, you guessed it, by bussing art lovers down from Medway - for free!

Update: My spies tell me that at TDC's annual staff meeting this afternoon at Margate's Mike and Bernie Winter Gardens, Tory leader Sandy Beach kicked off proceedings with the good news that Thanet is 'totally different' from four years ago (quite!) and that he only had to walk around the Old Town to feel 'very proud of the work that's been done down there'. The strategic aim is, apparently, 'to have the best seaside towns in England by 2020.' And John Bunnett, Acting Chief Executive, described the operation of Margate Library Thanet Gateway Plus as 'absolutely superb!' Hmm.

28 comments:

Ian J said...

I just can't find the words to express my discust at TDC, God what a bunch of no hopers,

For gods sake can nothing be done about the brain dead bunch of dross currently filling up useful space in the council office building.

Anonymous said...

Gawd blimey ECR

I hear that M&S shop has now doped i mean dropped in significant value, so that's local value added tax then LVAT not unlike the LDF!!!

By the time they build the Turnip centre it will have almost cost the LVAT payer some £30 million smackeroonies more.

Only in Thanet could the National audit office defend such farcical and fiscal incompetence.

Peter Checksfield said...

C'mon then Richard, let's have the names of these forthcoming closures! : (

There ARE lots of rumours flying around, & I'm sure (or I HOPE) some of them are untrue: I work at The winter Gardens, & one of the customers the other day said to me "I hear this place is closing soon..."

Incidentally, one young lady interviewed by Rolf said how things were so much better in Margate 5 years ago...who'd have thought then that things could get (much) worse!

Anyone got a cheap flat I can rent in Ramsgate instead?

Anonymous said...

Good for TC if they are running a shuttle service, i don't mind that, it shows a bit of forward thinking. They come, they spend.

Eastcliff Richard said...

Well I have these rumoured closures from a source very close to the horses' mouths. Whether stated intentions become reality is, I agree, another thing, although I gather two of the six are already closed or almost closed. Apparently things really are in a desperate state over there. I can't name names as people are planning their exit strategies and those need to remain confidential.

Peter - I'll rent you the east wing here at the old cliff top mansion if you promise to put up some of your pictures!

Michael Child said...

best i can do click here poor Margate I just have no idea

bertie biggles said...

I have been saying for months that the January to end of March period would 'see off'struggling businesses in Margate and it gives me no joy to witness this has happened. Sadly, the decline will continue into the summer as the spiral into decay gathers momentum. We have not reached 'rock-bottom' yet and I dread to think what Margate will be like come November this year.

Anonymous said...

I left a link here recently regarding an indoor beach in Japan. Okay, thats not going to happen here but the idea could be adapted to the old Cliftonville pool as an indoor pool with a spectacular sea view, resturants and linked into the Wintergardens. The restriction on traffic to the town centres since the 1970s has caused problems. Marketing put into the ease of the Thanet Loop bus service would help, my wife, who gave up with driving over ten years a go, is an expert on bus times and I have used them myself to go into town. One of the best parts is being able to see from the digital display at the bus shelter how long until the bus arrives. Marketing also put into making people aware that money paid into local business is good for the local economy as opposed to the multi-nationals. I was not against Westwood Cross because it bought shops here that we didn't have and helps keep people in Thanet and attracts people to it. I have lots of friends in Deal, Dover, Herne Bay who come to Thanet for this whereas before they would have gone to Canterbury, however, if I want food for my goldfish I may go to a local shop instead of picking it up in Tesco. If I want some apples or spuds I may go to a local grocer. I think for our overall good people need to put a little effort in themselves and spend a few £s in local shops where before they would not. Broadstairs and Ramsgate are better off than Margate because they appear to have more historically obvious places to visit whereas Margate seafront has always been about thrills and entertainment. Concentrating efforts on the Old Town area and Harbour is a good move. I would prefer to see the seafront road moved behind the seafront buildings and a plaza and grassy area set up along it. I believe a couple of very good quality attractions is better than a large ageing fun fair now, the population is getting older with a falling birthrate. I can see this where I work, I am now 42 and 22 years a go there was a large influx of young workers into where I worked (including me). That same influx of young people has not occured since, merely drip fed and I am sure us baby boomers born in the mid 60s kept the economy afloat with a knock on in the early to mid 1980s only to be blighted by our parents taking advantage of rising property prices which sapped our income in the 1990s. Just some thoughts, I must be getting on as I'm rambling......

Anonymous said...

p/s go to Michael's bookshop instead of Waterstones, it offers stuff you will not see in the latter. Shame about the Albion Bookshop shutting, though atleast the second-hand section is staying which I can spend hours in.

Anonymous said...

Whitstable, Herne Bay, Sandwich, Deal, Folkestone, Hythe - they are all in the same general part of the country yet they all seem to be doing much better or at least they do not look nearly as shabby and run down - why?

Peter Checksfield said...

Because none of those had to rely as much on day trippers & holiday makers.

Eastcliff Richard said...

Strange that no councillors have commented on this. I know the Tories are under orders to steer clear of giving my blog any 'credibility', but I'm surprised to see Labour sitting there like stunned mullets too. I think we should be told!

Mrs T.P. said...

I first visited Margate in the early 1990's, bought a flat there in the late 1990's, lived there and finally moved to Ramsgate in 2004.
I have to agree with those who say Margate has gone down hill - continuously.
5-6 years ago I was full of optermism for the place because it couldn't get any worse! How wrong I was. Shops, arcades, cafes along the front were shabby - but at least they were open! Like so many other new comers to the area, I also expected the Turner Centre to open in 2004!

I must mention now the price of Car Parking. If I ever thought of going to Margate to part with my pennies the prohibitive high cost of parking does put me off. If I have to pay £1.30 (or whatever it is) for 2 hours I want to be going somewhere quite special.

Anonymous said...

Like Canterbury. And the parking there is cheaper.

Ken Gregory said...

Come on Richard, No orders have been given about your most excellent web log.

Canterbury parking was not cheaper last week when I was there. Depends where you park. Long stay, short stay, on street etc.

I have to say that it is not the council's wish to damage the town centres. The damage is done by those who choose not to shop there, and by the high ground rents on the shops.

A part of the problem is that transport is cheaper now in real terms, and so shoppers no longer vote with their feet, but with their car.

Westwood Cross is accused of having 'Free' parking. The stores up there have to pay business rates on the car park, this is passed on to the customer by way of increased prices. (and before anyone says it, No thanet District Council does not get thate rate, it goes to central government)

Eastcliff Richard said...

Thanks for popping on with your comments Ken. Now, has anyone got the Labour view? And in the interests of balance, are there any Lib Dems out there????

Anonymous said...

Maybe The Monster Raving Loony Party would be more appropriate.

Eastcliff Richard said...

Seems like I'm the only Lib Dem in the village.

Right, here goes. I'd make it free to park in our town centres for one hour only and strictly enforce all restrictions. Same rules for Westwood Angry. I'd beef up public transport and allow buses and taxis through our town centres and introduce more bus, taxi and bike lanes with cameras to enforce. If the money could be raised I'd propose a shuttle tram service direct from Margate to Ramsgate via Westwood. Maybe with a spur to Boredstares if they're lucky. If there's any way to persuade the gov to lower business rates and create special development areas I'd push for it, and see if there was some way to persuade landlords to lower rents through tax incentives. I'd drop the Turnip Centre right now, and try and persuade KCC and SEEDA to invest in a series of smaller leisure projects around Thanet that would attract visitors and bring our towns back to life. Finally I'd be lobbying hard to attract the right kind of inward investors to our beautiful little chalky mound - environment, leisure, tourism, that sort of thing. That little lot should get all our town's economies going.

There. Can I be Mayor of Thanet now please?!

Anonymous said...

To be fair, all factions of our press have covered the decline of Margate, it wasn't Rolf that broke any stories there.

It's just that he had a BBC film crew with him to garner more attention.

Eastcliff Richard said...

Um, I would beg to differ. When BBC South East report from down here they often seem more than willing to swallow the council line about how marvellous it'll all be once it's finished. At this rate it'll all be finished pretty soon, but not in a marvellous way.

Anonymous said...

The only LibDem in the village has missed a trick .. They are building a £120 million university at Hasting. If you had one of those you could become the top dog in media studies and put up a few students in your East wing.

Eastcliff Richard said...

I'm off to Hastings! Hurrah!

Anonymous said...

Can someone please tell me which planet Ken Gregory is on?

Westwood Cross is 'accused' of free parking? It is free! You park, browse shops, spend nothing, and have not paid a penny for the privelage!

The small difference is that you PAY to park in Margate, but there are no shops to go and look at! Most of the High strret has moved to Westwood!

Those are not fanciful ideas, those are facts!!

Shops need customers! And customers want shops!

AZIZ_AZWOZ said...

There is already a University in Thanet and a bl**dy good one, I'm all for a bit of Media Studies, p'haps in the Margate Centre for Media.....what happened to that I wonder?

Eastcliff Richard said...

The Margate media centre now seems to be just another place for TDCers to hold interminable meetings in.

Aziz_Azwoz said...

I went to a lecture at Broadstairs CCCU where a bloke from TDC gave a talk called 'Margate is my Milan' or something like that. He stated that the council would be looking for a private owner to take over the old Dreamland Cinema complex and running it as a entertainment venue. When I pointed out that this would then put it into direct competition with the Winter Gardens and as a tax payer I was not too happy about this he seemed a bit recicent. I think that the writing is on the wall for the poor old MWG as no one will develop a venue where the local council can undercut it by using counci taxpayers cash.Therefore it will have to go.

Anonymous said...

I own an established retail business in central Margate, and yes if we survive to November it will be a miracle, at the moment closure does seem a reality.Trade is very bad and Tdc have done nothing to help the town centre ie putting up parking charges yet enyoying free parking themselves etc. Other towns have business managers employed by the council to consult with local businesses and promote their high streets, Tdc only appears to want to drive local business away and takes no interest. They should visit London where Councils actively promote local high streets, for example they provide flags above local shops advertising how good the value local traders offer.

Anonymous said...

Vistors want someting to do, when they visit Margate, they now leave disappointed as there is simply nothing to do, no shops, no entertainment.How does this seaside town expect to survive with on offer at the present? It attracts the national press in a very negative light, and this also damages the town.