The dilapidated Fort Road Hotel in Margate will be returned to hotel use with a restaurant if Thanet council grants planning permission.
An application has been submitted to change the use back from one of multiple occupancy and to add an extra storey with a sunken roof terrace,
Applicant Mr Gidley is also proposing a replacement entrance canopy and timber windows at the property which has been empty for some 25 years.
The former Fort Castle pub was put on the market by Thanet council as part of its asset disposal programme. It sold at auction in June for double the guide price of £180,000.
A design document drawn up by Fleet architects says plans are to: “Reopen Fort Road Hotel as a characterful small hotel including 14 bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms.
“Within the large basement will be an additional self-contained suite, in addition to stores for the hotel and kitchen.
“An additional third floor, with a large roof terrace, will be added to the building at present roof level to contain 4 of the 14 en-suite bedrooms. The proposal also introduces a new staircase and a passenger lift to improve access to the upper floors.
“The ground floor will be returned to its former use as a dining room serving guests and visitors.
“Our intention is to retain internal features, such as hearths, to grant character and emphasis the scale and former uses of the spaces. Interventions for the hotel are characterful but contemporary without resorting to pastiche.”
The building requires extensive works and is currently in very poor condition on the verge of full decay.
The report says a site visit encountered “areas of collapsed floor” whilst “the upper staircase had collapsed and was blocking the ground floor staircase access.”
The application adds: “The proposed hotel within this historic building will in part address the lack of good quality hotel accommodation in Margate. The proposed works will respond thoughtfully to the heritage of the building and wider area.
“The aim is to retain as much of the existing fabric as possible. For instance, the plans reuse existing window locations only. Bringing the building back into use is a crucial opportunity to preserve the asset and prevent it falling into further disrepair.
“The proposed change of use back to a hotel will be a welcome one in Margate, as will the rescue and restoration of an iconic existing building.”
It is proposed that drop off for hotel guests will be on Fort Road to the front of the building. For suppliers this will be along the side road – Fort Mount.
A decision on the application is yet to be made.
The journey to renewal
The hotel was compulsorily purchased by Thanet council 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-first 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 initially agreed and settled on 6 July 2017. Thanet council agreed to sell the site in October 2017. It went to auction in June 2018.