Objections lodged over ‘community housing hub’ plan for former British Legion club site in Margate

Former Margate RBL Club building

Numerous objections have been made to Thanet council over plans to convert the former Royal British Legion Club building in Margate into a temporary specialist community housing hub for those made homeless.

The property is due to be a mix of seven emergency bed spaces and rooms for  homeless households, and a community hub for Rise clients (Rough sleeper Intervention Support & Empowerment).

Planning documents say building owner Paramount Independent Property Services LLP is working with Thanet District Council and the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government to provide the hub.

Paramount Independent Property Services LLP (PIPS) is a specialist provider of accommodation services, working with councils in Kent.

The site is earmarked for use by a number of other services, including probation, The Forward Trust, Porchlight, Salvation Army and community groups such as the Windmill Project.

The British Legion club shut in 2018 and the property was sold at auction. At that time there was planning permission to convert the upper floors into four self-contained flats. An application for conversion to 8 flats submitted last year was refused due to its unsympathetic design qualities.

A part-retrospective application has also now been made for internal works, some of which have already started.


But there have been dozens of objections lodged with the district council over the plans.

Margate Conservation Area Advisory Group say the property is “unsuited to the proposed use and is not capable of providing the type of accommodation this vulnerable community deserves.”

A list on concerns from the group includes work starting prior to any consent being “illegal,” inappropriate materials being used on a Grade II listed property, a ‘temporary’ change of use becoming permanent and: “The temporary community of people living in a 7-Bedroom hostel deserve a level of dignity and privacy which this building cannot accommodate. For example, You would expect private outdoor garden space (there is none) with a common room I living room overlooking it Yet there is no garden, or common room proposed, and the cooking facilities are cramped.”

Other objections raise concern that the property is opposite Holy Trinity & St John’s Church of England Primary School.

One business owner in the area filed a lengthy objection, saying: “This is the wrong location to invite clients that are described as ‘increasingly complex.’ (I) agree with the parents of this school and others concerned that the risk of incidents outside the school will increase risk to the school.

He adds: “There is a spark that could become a real community here We have been waiting out these past couple of years but this scheme will seal the fate of this conservation area as a twilight zone, with architectural heritage desperately at risk.

“Given consent, the scheme WILL push away owner occupiers and longer term tenants who are already exasperated by the street drinking, drug dealing, rubbish and general neglect. Yet more rental properties will be created if properties don’t sell. This will put off newcomers. Building improvements and maintenance will be a financial loss and will allow existing and future absent landlords to continue with the lack of interest in these buildings.

“This is entirely the opposite of the commitments made in the Local Plan to preserve and enhance heritage buildings and their settings, Support strong healthy communities, Facilitate improvements within areas characterised by poor quality housing and poor physical environment, Ensure that new development is of the highest quality and enhances its local environment and Reduce opportunities for crime and fear of crime, Support the social, economic and physical revitalisation of Margate and Cliftonville west

“What is really frustrating is that the number of objections submitted is not an accurate reflection of the real feelings that people have or would have for this scheme. Many people are unaware of this proposal despite being likely to be significantly affected, including residents very close by, regular passers-through, school users, parents of the new September intake and users of local nurseries that would be considering this school.

“Anyone that hasn’t heard on the grapevine or via facebook as Coronavirus has distracted many, caused much stress and has significantly reduced the number of people out and about

“If this had been publicised openly and clearly and if this area had an established residential community such as Birchington, there would be far more comments against these applications.”

Operational plan

Paramount says  lead officers for the building will arrange a meeting with local residents to “understand and resolve any concerns expressed during the duration of the project.”

In operational documents submitted with the plan Paramount say the hub will have full time dedicated staff, supplemented by a local Paramount Task Force.

It adds: “Beyond this we have a dedicated support team to enable residents (where necessary) to develop skills to manage their money and tenancy, with the ultimate goal of them re-entering the private rental market.

“Our support service has an excellent track record of working with those in our properties to achieve independent living, with residents able to take control of their role as a tenant, and to become able to sustain a tenancy.

“The Community Hub looks to offer a holistic service which provides the skills and resources to aid a resident’s journey to finding a permanent home. This can include access to vital aspects of day to day life, such as their local health services.”

Council conservation officer

Thanet council’s conservation officer says works undertaken have ‘caused harm’ but she considers them to be ‘reversible.’

She says: “Ultimately what was proposed previously and implemented now is largely unacceptable. That being said, although there is harm in the works that have already been undertaken, they are to a degree reversible within the context of the listed property and enable the building, on a short term basis, to be used for a community led purpose.

“If this application was to be approved it should be done so on a conditioned basis for a set length of time with all elements removed from the property after that length of time, with the walls and surfaces made good following the removal.”

A decision has not yet been made. Find the application on Thanet council’s planning portal, Ref F/TH/20/0797


  1. Well that’s the thing with planning applications the council and others give objections often for the sake of objecting. So normally what then happens to these properties is they catch fire and end up looking a mess for years. Like numerous of other eyesores in Thanet that have mysteriously caught fire. On average it takes at least 5 years for a developer to obtain planning permission. Hence the government say they want to change the law. I know of one person locally who has built a two bed extension with garage without even contacting the council let-alone asking for planning permission.
    It sounds like that the British Legion building will end up a doss house. Which is very near to another Doss house called TDC.

    • TDC is not a “doss house”. And where is your compassion? Ever been homeless? Where is your imagination?

    • “Most planning applications are decided within eight weeks, unless they are unusually large or complex, in which case the time limit is extended to 13 weeks. The authority should be able to give you an idea about the likely timetable.”[https://www.planningportal.co.uk/info/200232/planning_applications/58/the_decision-making_process/5]
      So, not quite 5 years.

      • As ever what the rules state and reality are very different, an 8 week determination period is only likely to be met in the very simplest of cases, more usually the council will ask the applicant to agree to one or more extensions in order for the application to be processed properly. The applicant can choose to gamble on not accepting the extension, however if not completed the application will be most likely refused and so the applicant has to start again. But by agreeing to an extension the council cannot be seen as having failed to meet the 8 week period.
        Much of themproblem lies in that the application fees are set by central gov. and historically have never been enough to cover the actual cost ( the idea being that planning is a function of local gov and so should be largely funded by,local gov.) but withvthe ever growing pressures of the money available planning depertments are underfunded.

  2. It shows you what kind of world we live in today I only hope they don’t become homeless themselves.They seem to tar homeless people with the same brush.People are entitled to a roof over there head some are families with children some time ago people objected to the old new street school into a similar place for homeless. There has not been any trouble or problems their as it is managed on site.Stop objecting to everything in Thanet life moves on.

  3. I’m am surprised that the Royal British Legion were ever allowed to erect the terrible looking porch on the front of a Grade11 listed building. Where were the planners then.

  4. The main bones of contention

    Paramount are the councils service provider for emergency housing and already place problematic people in the area (they won’t place people in the selective licensing area as they don’t want the hassle of meeting the requirements)

    The works that started during lockdown had nothing to do with the submitted application at the time.

    The works are entirely in connection with the retrospective application, which they claim are in line with TDC’s requirements. So effectively TDC have been complicit in assisting a commercial partner to ignore planning and listed building legislation.

    TDC did nothing about the state of 18a and the years of drug related antisocial behaviour until there was a “firebombing” at the property.

    There has been no consulatation with local residents. Councillor Whitehead has failed to respond to her constituents enquiries. The new application was only seen by a local resident who’d seen a new application notice put up outside the building.

    People that have bought listed properties in the area have had to jump through endless hoops to be able to improve them to the councils satisfaction. The photos on the application show that no such efforts have been made in the building.

    This part of margate central is hardly well to do and has many issues, one of its main plus points is its architecture and conservation area status.

    Quite why this building has been chosen for its intended purpose is unclear, one of the many empty properties in the upper high street would be far less disruptive to local residents and not deter investment.

    The management plan from paramount suggests that access to and from the building is controlled , so is it some sort of secure premises? As it seems very unlikely that the residents will be forced to stay inside if they wish to leave or entry refused if they are intoxicated or involved with drugs.

    There is no indication of how temporary the facility is to be.

    Whats the point of planning and listed building legislation if TDC (who are meant to enforce it) if the council itself runs rough shod over it.

    By all means propose the facility and the associated works but do so via due process not sneak it through the back door under the cover of covid and council connivance.

  5. Local chap. Thank you enlightened me as to what has gone on behind the scenes as it were.. I do know that the so- called “children homes” in Thanet have been a constant pain to the police because the kids come and go as they please and are for ever going missing. They are very vulnerable to others who may have ill intent. Most of the children come from out of area of Kent. If the British Legion building is going to be run like the children homes are run I can well understand the objections.

  6. Well done paramount and TDC more spaces like this are needed for the homeless. Let’s hope no-one that has given all the negative comments ends up homeless and ever needs a space like this

    • Here here well said, the property would be perfect for the use which has been put forward, but as usual the I don’t want it on my doorstop brigade are up in arms. By having this service the vulnerable people who don’t want to be homeless and want to get back on their own two feet can get the help they need, let’s just hope the planning committee do the right thing for a change.

  7. Junkies knocking on your door at night withtheir absurd stories asking for money, the endless scooter drug deliveries, people” looking for their lost cat” in your garden, arguments and screaming in the street, fights, the rubbish dumped where ever is the most convenient. Drug users puking in the street having taken their substance of choice. People urinating by the side of your front steps. Until you’ve witnessed the behaviour on your door step perhaps its better to take a wider view. Helping people is not a problem , but when they have no intention of behaving like a civilised being it is.

    Of course nobody wants that next to them. Whats wrong with using some of the many disused buildings in the upper high street.

    But the biggest issue is the way the council have gone about it, totally underhand and flagrantly ignoring planning and listed building regulations to do so.

    Do it properly or not at all.

  8. Nobody is saying this service is a bad idea or that the intended audience aren’t worthy of help. It’s all very well jumping on the ‘yes in their back yard & aren’t they all horrible’ bandwagon but I do wish that people would refrain from comment and judgement without properly understanding the subject. I wonder how many of the critics have based their opinion on full knowledge of the proposals, what has been happening and the realities of the area.

  9. Paramount helped my autistic grandson, he was told to leave the family home after his mum passed away last October. He didn’t know how long he would stay in the flat he was given as it was only temporary. He was in it for a month, he now has a permanent flat with the Council. If it hadn’t been for Paramount, he could have been on the streets. There are too many people who have to live on the streets, most, through no choice of their own. Paramount need our backing, not objections, they want to help these people.

    • Paramount are a commercial venture primarily interested in the revenues they can generate. In 2018/19 they were paid just over 2 million pounds by TDC alone.
      The next highest figure was Medway at just over £850,000 in the same period. In total they took around 5 million from kent councils.
      The numbers rather suggest that TDC is an enthusiastic user of their service. A particularly problematic tenant actively engaged in the drug trade was eventually evicted by the landlord in Addington Street only for TDC/Paramount to put them into a property less than 100 yds away, from which their trade continued unaffected. The area is part of one of the most deprived wards in the south east, it needs help to improve it not make it even less desirable.
      How much more will be handed over to provide a hostel? For how long? What precautions will be in place to ensure tenants cause no issues? How many on here remember the nightmare that Surrey Road endured when the Leslie hotel was the councils emrgency housing?

  10. Comments about planning permissions has anybody seen any legal planning applications outside the three properties in Cecil Street opposite the council offices one on the corner of Union crescent the property next door and the former condition club. I believe Tracy Emin has bought them what are they going to be used for that part of Margate central is in the conservation area more accomodation for DFLs.obviosly not for long suffering local people who need housing after all we are all commoners. Not related to royalty.

  11. When I lived in London I lived in a housing co-op flat. Why do so many people seem to think that everyone from London is either ridiculously well-off or completely impoverished?

    • Probably because those that come to live in thanet generally fall into those two categories ie,

      Londoners that have decided to sell a london property and buy in thanet, whilst not millionaires they’ll often turn up buy for cash and have plenty left over by local standards.

      Or they are those displaced by the lack of social housing in london and placed here by their previous boroughs housing team as the private rented sector here is so much cheaper, they have few links with the area often don’t want to be here , again often have problems finding work (as do too many locals ) and are also those that are generally difficult to house.

      Of course there are those that fall in between, but in my experience the above two groups represent the majority

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