Plans to create new restaurant building with yoga studio on Viking Bay in Broadstairs have been submitted to Thanet council.
Funicular Coffeehouse owners Justin Van Oortmerssen and wife Annita Gkioka want to create a specialist seafood restaurant in the area which is currently the ‘disused’ Waterloo shelter and former Funicular lift entrance. Both existing structures will be demolished to make way for the new build if planning approval is granted.
The couple opened the Funicular Coffeehouse at the site of the former seafront shelter and toilets in 2018 after buying the property at auction for £350,000.
It had been owned by Thanet council and was put up for sale as part of the authority’s asset disposal programme.
The restaurant proposal on the remainder of the couple’s site will retain the use of the Victorian cast iron pillars which will sit in front of sliding glazed panels. The restaurant will have a roof garden which will be dressed with local flora to encourage birds to nest as well as providing rest to migrating birds. The design also includes 14 outdoor picnic style benches on the beach in front of the property.
As part of the development Mr Van Oortmerssen is asking for the removal of the beach huts in front of the property.
Earlier this year a row broke out about the siting of the beach huts with Mr Van Oortmerssen saying there had been an agreement with the council that if the site was used for a commercial purpose the huts would be moved, half prior to the 2018 summer season and the remainder before this year’s season.
The requested removal, which resulted in some huts being shifted, angered a number of hut owners who said the proposed plans would mean they lost their own view of the sea.
The new planning application says: “This proposal requires the appropriate arrangement to be made by the council so that the 18 existing beach-huts will be permanently removed from in front of the entire premises and in their stead the positioning of benches will create seating which is sorely lacking on Viking Bay.
“The precedent has already been set by the Kent Surf School for the removal of beach huts from in front of business premises, and more recently, the Funicular Coffeehouse. It is expected that the council would understand that a development of this scale is only financially viable if the beach-huts are removed from in front of the entire premises.”
Talking about the restaurant plans to The Isle of Thanet News earlier this year Mr Van Oortmerssen said: “The only way it is worth the further investment is if the beach huts are not in front of us. No-one is going to enjoy a prime seafood dish while staring at the back of a hut.”
The couple, who moved to east Kent after Annita took up a Clinical Neuropsychiatry PHD and lecturer placement at Canterbury university, plan to create some 15 jobs within the new restaurant.
In a design document it states: “The proposed restaurant space and shared yoga space above will provide employment for kitchen staff, waiters, bar staff, cleaners, yoga instructors and management for both entities. Considering the location of these establishments it is thought that both would operate year round as they would not rely solely on summer Holliday trade. This would mean that employment would be year round and not solely seasonal.”
The site is also on the entrance area for the disused funicular railway lift. The cliff railway was built in 1910 by Messrs R Waygood and Co and was the second steepest and shortest cliff railway in Britain. It has been out of service since the early 1990s after a storm led to the destruction of the original roof upon the promenade housing, allowing water into the electrical equipment below.
The planning documents state: “The disused shelter and derelict Funicular station are considered non designated heritage assets. While it is understood that these structures are considered to have architectural value, it should be considered that the shelter is structurally unsound as the brick retaining wall has broken and is pushing the cast iron posts over. There is also a severe lean to this retaining wall.
“Both these factors mean that this structure is not fit for any use and should be replaced with a structure which utilises the salvageable parts in a way that enables them to be preserved. As it stands there is the possibility that this structure could collapse which may damage the cast iron posts rendering them useless and lost for good.”
The document states the development aims to preserve the elements of the existing structure which have architectural value and are salvageable.
Mr Van Oortmerssen adds: “Our proposal will enhance Viking Bay’s reputation by replacing the eyesore of a site with a carefully designed space that would become a destination for visitors.”
A decision on the application is yet to be made. Comments can be submitted on the council planning portal, planning reference F/TH/19/1572