Thanet council could put the Fort Road Hotel in Margate up for sale after 22 years of the property laying empty.
An option to put the building on the council’s asset disposal list is to be discussed by Thanet council Cabinet members at a meeting next week.
The hotel was compulsorily purchased by the authority in May 2010. Initial plans for the site were for a boutique hotel.
In 2011 more than 20 informal enquiries from developers, hotel owners and architects were made to TDC in relation to the property. A planning application to turn it from bedsits to a hotel was granted with the aim of linking its regeneration to Turner Contemporary.
In a TDC report at the time it stated: “ The Fort Road Hotel (previously the Fort Castle Public House) is one of the last surviving buildings in the area today that the artist JMW Turner would recognise. Turner spent 15 years ‘weekending’ in Margate with Sophia Booth (whose house was opposite) and, as a noted drinker, it seems inconceivable that he did not visit the establishment.”
The property is listed on maps of Margate going back to 1821, although it may be older.
TDC also installed a neon advertisement on the roof proclaiming ‘Iconic Site’ and said plans were for it to be turned into: “as a small, twenty-fi rst century character hotel with up to twelve rooms and a restaurant; which would help address the shortfall of quality hotel accommodation in Margate.”
But although a formal advert was published in October 2011 and 30 application packs for the project were sent out, none were returned to the council.
A mixed use hotel and restaurant scheme was drawn up by Guy Holloway Architects but TDC decided it was not suitable.
In 2015 an expression of interest was made by the Pollock’s Toy Museum Trust. The idea was for the Trust to house its collection at the property and open it as an attraction. However, at a council meeting in April of that year it was decided that the building should be converted into social housing flats.
A budget of £950,000 was agreed for the conversion. A further budget of £63,750, was set aside for costs of statutory compensation following the CPO. An allowance was also made for costs of £29,447 incurred prior to April 2015. Further costs for the building, totalling £77,009 have been incurred by TDC to date.
The social housing plan also failed to get off the ground. According to TDC documents , initial feasibility work was completed to assess the likely cost of refurbishing the building for housing purposes.
Outline designs were prepared for potential options to provide 4 or 5 flats, with estimated costs ranging between £874,000 and £1.18million.
The report says: “None of these options are affordable within the current budget. Including the costs to date, the lowest cost option would total £1.1million, averaging £276,000 for each of the 4 flats. In comparison the HRA new build programme is costing around £204,000 per home.”
Compensation and costs were inally agreed and settled on 6 July 2017.
Cabinet members will now discuss three options for the site, either to carry on with the plan to convert to social housing flats; demolish the building or add it to the asset disposal list for sale on the open market.
An officer’s report to councillors say the conversion option would be too costly. They state: “There are significant technical issues with this option including the proximity of neighbouring buildings, the lack of outside amenity space and the condition of the structure of the building.
“These difficulties have been considered in developing outline costed proposals. To proceed with this option, an additional budget of between £64,000 and £370,000 would need to be allocated to the project.”
The option to demolish is also not recommended. The report states: “Although not listed, the building is within a conservation area and considered to be of heritage significance. Demolition would require planning consent. It would however remove a derelict building, considered by some as an eyesore.
“It is estimated that the cost of demolishing the building would be around £100,000. Further costs would be incurred to convert the site into a usable public realm space. The council has further been advised that demolishing the building and clearing the site would devalue the sale price. The reasoning is that it is better to sell a site with an established use rather than a clear plot, particularly in a conservation area.”
The recommendation is to put the property on the asset disposal list to be sold on. The report says this would put money back into council coffers and mean regeneration for the site.
Some £810,048 currently earmarked for property costs could be used to provide new build homes instead and cash from a sale would be used on other council capital projects.
The meeting will be held at Thanet council on Tuesday, October 3 at 7pm.