Project MotorHouse may be forced to walk away from its eight year bid to renovate and refurbish the West Cliff Hall if Thanet council does not carry out major structural repairs which could cost over £1.5million.
The authority discussed and then agreed to put the historic site on the open market, as reported by The Isle of Thanet News in June and July.
Project MotorHouse, headed by Ramsgate resident Janet Fielding, has been working since 2009 to acquire and renovate the West Cliff Hall to create cinemas; theatres; bars; restaurants, offices and youth facilities.
But the group says the site, which has been empty since the closure of the Motor Museum in 2005, is now structurally unsound after years of deterioration.
Three years ago, TDC and Project MotorHouse jointly commissioned a surveyor’s report which found that not only is the steel frame of the building severely corroded and needs replacing, but the outer walls are resting on wet masonry with no other support.
The project had to get the site propped as the building supports the main road to the harbour and the first 40 metres of the West Cliff Promenade.
Ms Fielding said Project MotorHouse has already spent money on lawyers, asbestos removal and propping, fixing the garden walls, vat specialists, various surveys, a construction industry project manager and designs by award winning architect Guy Hollaway.
But if Thanet council does not replace the severely corroded frame then the multi-million pound plan to revive the site will be over.
She said: “We are walking away unless they do the frame of the building.
Holding up the road
“The beam that is holding up the road is severely rusted. The one that is holding up the prom is much worse. It has actually corroded away and it wasn’t even propped until we got in there.
“It is supporting the main road to Ramsgate Harbour on the corner outside the Churchill Tavern. That road is used by more than 2 million vehicles a year – cars, lorries, coaches and buses.
“Water has been pouring into the building for a very long time and Project MotorHouse has propped extensively inside but there are now quite a few no go areas that are too dangerous to enter and the whole building is a hard hat area.”
Estimates for the work are £1.5million to fix the frame and the same amount to fill the site in.
A Thanet council spokesman said: “Although Cabinet has approved the disposal of this asset there is currently no timescale as we are evaluating the most appropriate method of disposal. The council did enter into an option agreement with Project MotorHouse in October 2013 for a scheme which became incapable of implementation and has subsequently expired.
“Project MotorHouse, along with any other interested parties, are welcome to submit their interest once the council has finalised the process for disposal.”
The property is the latest added to the list of those the authority wants to sell to help pay for continued investment in council assets.
The disposal of the next round of assets, first discussed in April, will provide income and cut council maintenance costs.
Last September Cabinet members agreed to the ‘accelerated’ sell-off 22 sites.
The sell-off was aimed at saving £100,000 by this April. Thanet council wants to save £200,000 per annum over the following two years with more disposals.
Read here: From concert venue to dilapidation
As a relative newcomer to Ramsagte I have tried to understand the council’s policy towards Ramsgate, and specifically, PMH. I believe the council is responsible for maintenance of the road. I understand that to do basic repairs will cost £1.3 million; to include restoring the frame to the building will cost £1.6 million. For a relatively small amout of money, the council is turning its back on a project which seems to me to be really worthwhile. The photographic work produced , under the aegis of PMH, by a section of Ramsgate young people who needed a helping hand….and got it….was impressive. Is TDC going to pay someone to take the building off their hands? Are they going to do the repairs to frame and road, and then try to sell it? Who to? How much for? Do they hope Bretts will, eventually, incorporate it into their aggregate business? What is their plan? How can we get TDC to think rationally? Answers on a (sadly, very small) postcard please.
To save money the TDC could try paying officers less than officers from larger councils are awarded. Why keep engaging Directors on super deals ?
It is reported that 5 officers (directors) are earning more than 538,000 per year. We have a completely inexperienced council to run things and a leader who blames everyone else for mistakes made by an administration he was a member of !
It would be another travesty by local councilllers if this iconic building is not restored for public use.
Councillors will be held to account for their bad decisions and failure to support local infrastructure.
Come on TDC start looking to the future and create a town we can all be proud of.
It can be fix https://youtu.be/BMvaZa9Z9o0