Fundraiser to bring back cafe, toilets and other facilities to the Western Undercliff hits target

Western Undercliff by Brian Whitehead

A campaign to raise funds to bring a community café, toilets, lifeguards, benches and other improvements to the Western Undercliff in Ramsgate has hit its target.

A fundraiser was launched in July as part of a bid by The Hideaway  – made up of members from the Western Undercliff Regeneration group – to buy the former café and toilets from Thanet council as a community asset.

The group had a £6,000 target and has raised £6,330 with the crowdfunder and through a stall at the Addington Street Revival Fair. The cash will be match-funded, making a £12,000 pot.

An art, raffle and quiz night at Churchill’s  Tavertn also raised nearly £1500 and more funds came in from a Westwood Cross casino night. A further £1,150  has been banked and further funds are still coming in.

Funding will be used for everything from admin and company set up costs to engineer reports and architectural designs to overhaul the café building as well as funds for other improvements to make the artificial beach a family spot with proper facilities.

Undercliff Cafe.

The toilets and café have been shut since the property was severely damaged in October 2014 as the result of the failure of the main Southern Water sewer.  Following the clearance of contaminated waste from the site it was found that the foundation slab of the property had been fractured, damaging the structure of the building.

Thanet council had planned to demolish the site in 2015. It was then put on an asset disposal list that year but later withdrawn.

It was put back on the asset disposal list following approval last July to sell the site off. The group then filed an expression of interest.

Now the fundraising bid has been successful The Hideaway members will look to establish a co-operative society and offer community shares.

A spokesman for the group said:By establishing a Cooperative Society we can issue shares in the company so that it can be owned and run by the community for the community. We predict high levels of demand due to generous tax relief  as well as a stake in the future of the Western Undercliff.

“In parallel, the Community Business Fund will match a further 75% of the cost for capital spend. A crowd funding campaign has already successfully raised £6,000 (with a further £6,000 being matched via the Bright Ideas Fund) to pay the Community Shares Company to support the share issue and our bid for funding.

Western Undercliff Photo Western Undercliff Group

“The Community Shares Company has successfully raised over £7 million for a host of similar projects in the past, and feel that the nature of our project which seeks to regenerate communal facilities and breathe life back into a neglected part of the coast, is highly likely to succeed in securing a grant. We are looking to redevelop, and to fund capital expenditure, to renovate the catering facilities and toilets which will be made available to the public.”

The stretch of beach used to boast chalets, showers, toilets, the café and shelters but the building of the Royal Harbour Approach road and tunnel, officially opened in 2000, saw the end of all the amenities except for the café and toilets.

The area is still popular with families because of the small bays enabling parents to keep an eye on their little ones but has no facilities at all.

The area is base for community groups including the Western Undercliff Regeneration Group (above) and members of the Addington Street Community. It was also used in 2015 for  the revived Ramsgate Sprint motorcycle event which attracted thousands of visitors.

As well as toilet and café renovations the group hopes to get a lifeguard reinstated at the beach.

The group also hope to hear from anyone who would like to get involved in fundraising or who has knowledge of setting up community companies. Contact the Western Undercliff facebook page here.