Project MotorHouse will ditch West Cliff Hall scheme if council does not replace corroded frame holding up main Paragon road

Damp and deterioration inside the West Cliff Hall

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.

Wet masonry

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.

Guy Holloway design

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.

Photos PMH

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.

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“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 sell-off

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.

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