Cafe, restaurant and apartments plan for former Western Undercliff cafe site

How it would look MBW architects

Plans have been submitted to demolish the derelict café and toilets at the Western Underciff in Ramsgate and build a five storey building with ground floor cafe and outdoor seating, ground floor public toilets, eight apartments and a fourth floor restaurant.

The application, made by Maidstone-based Western Undercliff Ltd follows the purchase f the site at auction in 2018.

The site was sold by Thanet council at auction for £100,000.

A  fundraiser had been launched by The Hideaway – made up of members from the Western Undercliff Regeneration group – to buy the site from Thanet council as a community asset. But Thanet council  turned down a £50,000 bid from the group.

Undercliff Cafe.

The property was won by the Maidstone-based buyer who said the aim was to build something “new and shiny” in its place.

The plans, drawn up by MBW architects, reveal a building with “a stepping form” to allow for all apartments to have terraces or balconies as well as a top floor viewing terrace available for restaurant guests.

The “ship” shaped build will have green copper on the front elevation and light coloured stone at the base and rear.

The roof, which will be visible from the cliff top at Government Acre but will be below the cliff level, will be finished with single ply membrane and 40mm beach pebbles as ballast.

There will be no additional parking with residents and guests expected to use spaces at Royal Harbour Approach and Royal Esplanade above. Disabled parking will be available on street at Royal Harbour Approach with level access to the building as is currently provided. Some 19 bike spaces will be provided

It is planned for the apartments to be put on sale and for the restaurant and café to be let with the public toilet managed and maintained by the café proprietor.

Planning documents state: “The design of the building is innovative and contemporary but respectful of its sensitive coastal location. Each floor of the building is set back from the west elevation to create a tiered effect and will take the appearance of the bow of a ship. It is proposed that the main building material will be copper and concrete. Solar shades will be metal. Glass balustrade and aluminium windows will be used.

“The site itself is unique, occupying a sea front location between Western Undercliff Beach and Royal Esplanade above. A critical driver of this submission has been the optimisation and regeneration of this sustainable located brownfield site to provide a landmark building and ‘destination’ restaurant, to not only support the function of the beach, but reprovide a valued community use.

“The scheme, if approved, will provide an economic benefit through the re-instatement of the cafe use and new ‘destination’ restaurant, which will bolster local tourism provision at the Intermediate Beach, as well as supporting beach’s function. The provision of new housing also plays an important role in supporting wider economic growth, together with short-term construction employment and that of associated industries.”

Café opening hours are planned to be Mon – Sun (inc. Bank Holidays) 10am – 4pm and the restaurant Wed – Sun (inc. Bank Holidays) 11:30 – 3pm and 7pm – 11pm.

The derelict café and toilets at the site were constructed in the early 1960s and extended in 1965. In 2014 the café premises closed when the building became contaminated with raw sewage from a burst Southern Water rising sewer main.

The application can be found on Thanet council’s planning page, reference F/TH/20/0920.


  1. Good to see more inward investment into Ramsgate despite the threat of cargo planes flying overhead from 2023. Leisure and tourism respecting the natural environment are the future for Thanet not an unneeded airport which will fail to survive assuming it ever opens. Let’s hope this development goes ahead as the Western Undercliff could do with these long missing amenities.

    • I agree that the inward investment is desperately needed. However, the airport has already been proven and passed by PINS as a local, regional and national need, as a dedicated freight hub. It’s called an NSIP (Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project). Also, RSP own it and intend to reopen it, regardless of the result of the current judicial review going on, especially as it has been granted aviation only status in the new local plan.

      • RSP’s DCO was granted by, in effect, Grant Shapps who rejected the werecommendation of the planning inspectorate. Why did he do that when their decision was based on facts and evidence? He certainly wasn’t making a fact-based logical decision.

    • The need for another airport in the south east was not proven and the government planning inspectorate PINS recommended against granting development consent for that very reason amongst a number of others. Sadly they were overruled by a junior transport minister. However as the business case for Manston was always so marginal and now made much worse by massive available capacity at better located airports we can fully expect this project to fail either before it opens or shortly afterwards. Such a shame that years will be wasted in the meantime. The Western Undercliff deserves this new development and the sooner it is built the better for both residents and visitors alike.

      • I agree with all you say Thanet Businessman, lets hope the Judicial Review Crowd Funding (pledges at present over £78,000) will get this stupid airport decision thrown out! This development is better than the existing, but one drawback is the lack of close parking!

    • A great design and a plus for the Western Undercliff area. Peter Checksfield spot on as regards the lift. Maybe the planning officers could look into a section 106 Agreement for this and other officers and Agencies look into the lifts viability and of course security to limit misuse and vandalism.

    • The Lookout Cafe has a passing trade of dog walkers and cyclists and so on. I don’t think this new cafe at the bottom of the cliff will have any impact on the cafe at the top.

  2. I think the cafe will be at the bottom but a restaurant on the top. It is a strange place to have this development with the main docks access road right in front but they have done this sort of development elsewhere and it seems to work. Maybe Ramsgate is getting something decent at last along with the other seafront development on the other side of the harbour. Just need some investment in the shopping area of town to go with it.

    • So it is. It will encourage people without cars to come and live there, and that can only be a good thing considering the damage cars do.

  3. It’s an odd location for residential property. I am assuming the only vehicular access will be from the tunnel end and that the barrier down by the harbour will remain closed. I don’t think any residents will be parking at the top near Government Acre as they will have to then walk down the slopes to get to their flat.

    The tunnel has frequent closures for maintenance which would mean issues with access for residents as well as emergency vehicles etc. I’m sure all this will come out as part of the planning considerations but it’s definitely not a place I would want to live.

    Ditto the restaurant. Very little walk by trade unless it is a particularly hot day and a pain to drive to if the barrier remains closed.

  4. I am of the opinion that flats need parking…..dont they? They will probably be rented out as prime holiday homes. I’m not particularly in love with the design either.

      • Unless you can do your shopping easily by foot, you will need a car! The nearest store will be Waitrose, which won’t be easily accessible by foot, not carrying shopping anyway!

        • Rucksacks.Shopping trolleys.
          Waitrose isn’t the only shop in Ramsgate.

          Ramsgate centre is less than a mile from the Western Undercliff- I’m sure most people can manage to walk there and back.

        • I regularly shop at Waitrose. I don’t have a car, so I walk and carry my shopping. According to Google maps, I live as far from Waitrose as the proposed flats are. So yes, it’s perfectly possible to manage without a car.
          But if you really, really must have a car, there are no parking restrictions along the whole length of that road.

  5. The need for something where the toilets and cafe are situated is indisputable. There is a real need for something, particularly in the peak of summer. The original buildings were appropriate when the ferry port was in operation and their design was more utilitarian then aesthetic. This design seems to miss the point altogether. The site is not really appropriate for residential. The tunnel road is for heavier traffic, and the chances of someone wanting to live permanently on that site seems unlikely. They are more likely to be sold as buy to let or holiday flats, which means that they are not a long term investment in to the area. It looks like the developer has seen the Blueberry Homes development on the East Cliff and wants some of the action. Not great!

  6. Will make a great look out for plane spotters so they can watch low flying aircraft approaching into Manston Airport.

    • Yet surely this is because the investor with imagination and willing to take the risk on the site was from outside the area, the building was sold at auction any local could have bought it.

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