The Broadstairs Harbour & Seafront CIC will finally take ownership of the Old Lookout and Stores from Thanet council on February 8.
The freehold will be transferred as part of the council’s asset disposal programme. The application was made by the community interest company in May 2018 to list the building as a ‘community asset’. The transfer marks the end of a long process to purchase the freehold and secure the buildings future for and on behalf of the community.
BH&S CIC came together in 2015 when a group of boat owners from the harbour, business owners and other residents looked at Viking Bay as a whole and felt that any structure owned or controlled by Thanet council was at best run down and shabby and at worst derelict or under threat of collapse.
The old lookout and stores fell into the latter category and needed immediate remedial repair to stop it collapsing. The group, with the blessing of Thanet council, set about repair work and raising money and paying for the re-painting of the main centre stairs down to the bay. Members also organised for many tonnes of sand to be removed from the harbour to enable boats to continue to moor there.
The Old Lookout and stores remained the first main priority and under ownership of the CIC will continue to require ongoing repair.
The building is known by many names including the Old Lookout, the boathouse, old wonky, the harbour master’s office and the lifeboat house. It has seen many local and visiting characters come and go through its doors over the years, such as Jack Croom, Frankie Jackson, Arthur Pay, former Prime minister Ted Heath and Charles Dickens.
The building featured in work by author Charles Dickens entitled Our English Watering Place, which was an opinion of Broadstairs by the writer during his visits. He observed the comings and goings of the harbour boatmen and wrote: “a curious bunch who seem to do little work and stand around chatting in their harbour building.”
On behalf of all seven directors of the CIC, directors and secretary Andy Rogers (pictured) said: “This marks the day our community can feel safe in the knowledge that an iconic building will remain a part of the bay and be kept in the condition it deserves.
“Our CIC will run the building in a way which pays for itself through rental collection from the storerooms and shop as well as donations and 100% of that money will go back into the constant repair the building requires.
“Our interest and work, as we have already shown, extends right across the bay and now we have secured the old lookout and stores, we can again start to look for other projects. We come together as local people who care about our bay and through charitable donations and volunteer work achieve what TDC is unable to with its financial constraints.
“We would like to say a particular thank you to Andy Burbridge of Burbridge’s Timber Merchants, who continues to support the CIC. Andy has shown an immense amount of generosity in his donations of materials and this must be applauded publicly.
“ A thank you also needs to be extended to all the public donations we have received over the past few years which have not only paid for material such as paint but for the legal and other fees associated with purchasing a building.”
If anyone wants to get in touch to ask questions, suggest projects or donate money the group’s website www.broadstairsseafront.co.uk contains a contact email and details about the CIC.