Controversial plans to build a 124 bed hotel on Margate seafront have been approved by Thanet council.
The six storey hotel will also contain a gymnasium, meeting rooms, a shop or café with frontage onto Marine Terrace, a restaurant and bar at the ground floor and a rooftop bar.
Plans were brought forward by Margate Estates, the parent company for Dreamland, and recommended for refusal by planning officers who argued the design compromised views of the Grade II* listed cinema building and were at odds with the town’s Seafront Conservation Area aesthetic.
Under the proposals Ziggy’s rooftop bar and an adjoining empty building will be flattened. It will also use the space at ‘Godden’s Gap’ where the amusement arcade stood. The four-storey Mr G’s arcade burnt to the ground in 2003. Some 120 firefighters tackle the blaze at its height.
The rooftop bar will be set back from the main building line and partially enclosed. It will be constructed of lightweight glazing, giving the impression of two stacked glass boxes.
But councillors voted unanimously against the recommendation arguing the economic benefits to Margate and Thanet were too important and that the unlisted buildings were not of historical significance.
Councillor Iris Johnston said: “We need more hotel beds in this town and need them throughout Thanet. It’s a bland looking building (hotel plans) but in keeping with 1824 façade that I fought to preserve.”
Aidan de Brunner, Dreamland, says the development would be a “catalyst” for regeneration. He told the packed chamber: “We have tried to be sympathetic…when I look at the CGI what you can’t get away from is the overbearing presence of Arlington House.”
He added: ““Dreamland is turning away business because there is nowhere to stay; there are no quality hotels – the nearest 120 bed hotel is 15 miles away.”
He argued for the need for Margate to become a year-round destination with visitors coming to spend the weekend to compliment day trippers which helped contribute to the isle’s £4.2m tourist trade.
Liam Nabb, speaking on behalf of Margate Conservation Area Group, argued the plans could be much improved and that a better proposal could be put forward. He said: “I am speaking against this application on behalf of CAAG. It’s harmful to Dreamland’s cinema-if there’s to be a hotel, let’s insist it’s a good design, Margate deserves better.”
Mr Nabb argued there was no evidence support the size of the development following a series of proposals for larger hotels passed but then not developed leaving eyesores such as Hoser’s Corner. He also suggested refurbishing Nayland Rock would be a better solution.
Historic England opposed the plans saying they were concerned by the loss of two unlisted buildings “which make a positive contribution to the character and appearance of the conservation area and by the scale of the development which does not “respect the prevailing height of historic terracing it echoes and harms an appreciation of the prominence of the cinema and its frontage buildings.”.
Margate Estates says the project is expected to create 62 jobs within the hotel; 103 direct construction jobs over three years and 52 indirect construction jobs across the region over three years.
Cllr Ash Ashbee told the chamber that in an area of deprivation the district should be welcoming outside investment.
Margate Estates is the parent company for Dreamland after investor Arrowgrass Capital Partners bought out the shares of former park operator Sands Heritage Ltd.
Arrowgrass has invested millions in the site, including bringing the company out of administration, re-landscaping the park, rebuilding the management team and creating new music and wedding event spaces.