‘Pedestrianise the high street to save Margate businesses’ says Fez boss

Fez micro-pub owner Phil Evans

By Jodie Nesling

A Margate publican has reignited calls to pedestrianise the lower High Street in a bid to encourage European-style, ‘café culture.’

Phil Evans, owner of quirky micropub Fez, says outdoor space for drinking and eating could transform the area and encourage footfall along the entirety of the street.

He said: “I see people visit the town and stop at the seafront,  their eyes are not directed up to the High Street as there’s always traffic and congestion. Drivers speed up there and we have witnessed many accidents at the junction of New Street – especially with delivery scooters.

“Having tables and chairs outside will create a buzz and atmosphere that’s akin to European cafe culture. We need as much help as we can get at the moment. Not being able to open and then the price of beer going up by as much as 42% in some cases has been tough.”

Phil, who taught ceramics at the University of Creative Arts in Canterbury, took on the popular hostelry in 2015 after being made redundant and has since attracted legions of tourists and regulars alike.

As with many in the leisure trade the small business has suffered during lockdown – especially with no outdoor seating space. He said: “I look at the bottom on the High Street and there are eight businesses selling food and drink that could really benefit from having tables and chairs. We just want it to be the same as the top half so delivery and emergency vehicles can still access the area.”

The move has been mooted several times over the past decade and was also part of the projects looked at by the Margate Town Deal, which recently secured £22m Government funding to regenerate the town.

Part of the The Town Investment Plan submitted to the Government echoes traders’ feedback and states that despite a large area of Margate being coverable within a 15-minute walk “connections around the town are not always clear, simple, or inviting.”

Thanet’s 2019-2020 footfall survey reveals the most high traffic areas are Marine Drive, the High Street and Northdown Road, with footfall from the station along Marine Drive increasing over the year. Northdown Road and the town centre areas are currently disconnected. 

In  2010 Kent County Council commissioned the Jacobs Report which sought to examine how to make the town more pedestrian friendly and foregrounded many of the concerns which have been raised again recently. Currently the Town Deal has earmarked some £5m for infrastructure projects which may include pedestrianisation.

But Phil says launching a petition would help keep the project alive and in the minds of the authorities despite the move being seen as favourable.

He explained “Everyone I have spoken to including the council has been really supportive but we started the petition to get things moving. I first had 600 signatures on a paper version but have since found out it needs to be online.”

The Fez re-opened last month and Phil is keen to welcome back punters and live music nights. To sign the petition visit facebook.com/Fez-Margate-1004144649627700

43 Comments

  1. The upper half of Margate High Street has been pedestrianised for years, and that hasn’t kept businesses afloat.

    • Indeed – town centres attracted shoppers because of the likes of Marks and Spencer, Woolworth, British Home Store, Littlewoods, etc. (and historically Bobby’s and Lewis & Hyland). The smaller shops were then able to feed from the footfall to the larger stores.

      Then somebody thought it would be a good idea to build a shopping centre at Westwood Cross to stop Thanet Shoppers from going to Canterbury for the larger chain stores . . .

      • It was a “perfect storm” for Margate High Street, as Dreamland also closed around the same time as Westwood Cross opened.

    • Yes, they forgot to also keep it clean, free from yobbos types & encourage businesses to actually be there rather than Westwood or elsewhere.

  2. The High Street is finished as a retail venue so perhaps Phil Evans has made a good point here.
    Leisure and even art based attractions may well be the way to go, the Turner influence is not to be under-estimated.

    • “The Turner influence” is often OVER-estimated. Certainly, the High Street is in far worse shape than even 10 years ago.

      • We should also bear in mind that parking near the High Street is already lousy (few in their right mind would risk the multi-story car park at the other end).

        • Peter, you do know that the Turner Contemporary isn’t the Government. The decline of our High Streets might have something to do with a decade of successive Conservative governments……don’t you think?

          • Gary, you do know that I was responding to Ton’s mentioning of The Turner Effect?

            As for blaming the Tories, THE biggest sudden change to many peoples shopping habits was the closure of 1000’s of post offices in 2007-2008 – under a LABOUR government. I was looking at a 20 year old map of East Kent earlier today, and saw at least 30 villages that had a PO (and therefore a village store) at the time, places that now have nothing.

        • I’m new to the area, are you on about the car park off of Herbert Plane? If so, why? I’ve parked in their a couple of times and not had any issues, is there something I should be worried about?

      • Yeah we have been through some huge changes. A big problem for margate town as well has always been people having to play cat and mouse with parking inspectors. Having parking inspectors hungry to give tickets has contributed towards the demise of our high streets no doubt. Short term parkers who know what they want dont want to have to pay for tickets or risk fines. What they gain in tickets they lose in council tax of empty shops from shoppers ran out of town

        • Those parking wardens are too busy collecting tariffs at the high street meters than to go along the seafront and catch people parking on yellow lines, corners, ZigZag lines, loading bays and pavements. Easy life for them when not seen doing their jobs properly.

    • Previous to whom? Our current government? Many Post Offices were moved to other buildings (Margate’s move to W.H. Smith being a prime example), but that’s not quite the same as closing them all together – particularly in locations that have nothing else.

      • Well, as Tony Blair (Labour) was PM from 1997 to 2007, and was replaced by Gordon Brown (Labour) from 2007 to 2010, there was NO Tory government “Just before 2008”. So if you want to blame the Tories you’ll have to try harder… (incidentally, everyone seems to assume that I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Tory, but I’ve voted for everyone from UKIP to the Green Party and pretty much everyone in between – including the Monster Raving Loony Party!).

          • The MP you quoted is also a liar if he/she’s claiming that the figure was 3000.

            I’m not saying Post Offices didn’t close before then (of course they did), but I do know for certain that the mass closure was in 2007-2008.

    • Give the folk trying there best a chance and pedestrianise the lower high street…..as it is it’s far to narrow for the vehicles that fly up there…. surely it’s worth at least trying.

  3. Possibly the most influential group of people to ‘get on board’ are People Dem Collective who are getting the old Primark building regenerated. With their influence something may be done?

    • You really think that’s going to revive the High Street? If anything it will put the majority of people off (me included).

      Back to Phil Evans idea: the biggest problem with trying to create a “cafe culture” in Margate High Street is that we have a vast seafront, a harbour arm and a quaint(ish) old town just around the corner. Why would they want to sit in the High Street instead? (Those who wanted to revive Arlington Arcade had a similar idea, but again it is doomed to failure because of what is around the corner).

    • . . . and exactly what kind of demographic and how much footfall with what extent of disposable income is that going to generate ?

    • What influence do they have in reality? A bunch of woke, virtue signallers, with chips on both shoulders, pushing their extremely niche agenda/vanity project, which is dividing people instead of uniting them-in a run-down town which is 95% plus white.

      They may have a lot of pull with the art crowd & council who love using groups like them for brownie points & saying how right on they all are & getting grants, but in terms of dictating policy it is highly unlikely-especially seeing as how the council & the Town Deal are about as diverse as every other virtue signalling how wonderfully diverse they are-always overwhelmingly rich, middle aged-old aged, private sector poached men & women. Last we heard hadn’t they been given an office in Dreamland after Eddie Kemsley & her buddies voted herself four million in grants? Primark is likely not of any interest now.

  4. Has the owner of the fez not thought his good friend who owns quility court been the cause of the decline for businesses in the lower high street as that is an open space should not have been closed in the first place. I am in favour of pedestrianising the whole are the biggest problem is the ignorance of all delivery drivers from KFC and dominoes pizza occupying the pavements. And speeding taxis along new street.This has been going on since years past before you opened your pub.This was going on when your premises was a card shop nothing new.

  5. I don’t think any drinks or plates would stay on the tables anyway as the hill has a fairly steep incline. You will need more than a wedge under two table feet to keep them upright.

  6. If he’d like more bums on seats he could look at larger premises, it’s not like there’s a shortage.

  7. Brilliant idea make the whole of the High Street completely pedestrianised, and the end of New Street to. Then watch them try get deliveries. Or does he think that his deliveries should be still allowed? How long will it take his tables to slowly right spread across the road? I can see KFC etc. pushing their deliveries all the way up the hill from the harbour area.

  8. Retain car parking but remove car parking charges and install electric car charging points then footfall and duration of stays will dramatically increase. If the new big tech taxes cover the likes of Amazon, then that too will bring shoppers back to the High Streets of Thanet.

    • Fine, as long as it’s an even playing field. When Westbrook Cross has free parking (as well as better shops, cleaner pavements and more security), then our High Streets stand little chance.

  9. Would it not be better to wait for full details of the street scene changes ,that are going to be part of the 22 million grant to margate ,to be released before proposing more changes or is this a bit of prior warning for what is already on the cards?
    As for the traffic issues cited, thats got nothing to do with the roads , purely a result of the way they are used, in the absence of any attempt to control the irresponsible nothing much will change.
    As for the upper high street, that’s become little more than an open air urinal frequented by extras from a zombie movie, in no small part created by TDC’s policies (selective licensing in cliftonville and engaging paramount for emergency housing) which have concentrated far too many of lifes less fortunate/more problematic in a small area.

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