Plans to build a temporary ‘floating’ wooden structure inside the Newgate Gap seafront shelter in Cliftonville are awaiting decision from Thanet council.
The application has been lodged by arts charity Stretch which took on the structure as a community asset transfer from Thanet council last year.
The organisation works with marginalised groups to deliver art projects.
The ‘art box’ proposal is due to be in place for up to two years and has been designed to create the illusion that it is floating.
Dean Stalham, from Stretch, created the design, overseen by architects, and says it will have seating, flower boxes and a regularly changing art exhibition featuring local people and artists as well as by people from hard to reach groups.
He said: “I moved here four years and am a former prisoner, I have never hidden that fact. I am now a leading community arts leader that has worked on national and international art projects designed to helping to bring people to share in the joy of art.
“I lived for two years just yards from the Newgate Gap shelter and hated seeing is demise and dereliction. it really saddened me.”
Dean, who has worked for Stretch for eight years, says the charity wanted a base in Margate due to the town’s “national status as a safe haven and hub for the arts.”
In 2018 the structure had been earmarked for demolition but Thanet council reversed that decision following a Save the Newgate Gap Shelter campaign.
The shelter was then subject to a building control notice and in October 2019 the roof and seating were removed. The same month it was listed for asset disposal by Thanet council.
Four expressions of interest were received, including community group the Friends of Cliftonville Coastline. The Stretch bid and five year plan was chosen by the council to take on the shelter. That bid included proposals to create the first national museum for ‘outsider’ art via projects with groups such as prisoners, ex-prisoners, rough sleepers, mental health groups and young people in care,
However, the current art box proposal has prompted 11 objections to be lodged with Thanet council.
One objection raises concerns about due diligence during the asset disposal process, whether the structure will remain in public use rather than being a ‘private closed gallery space,’ and asks why “TDC were no longer prioritising the need to return the shelter to its historical condition and usage (having previously stated that this was the priority aim of transfer).”
Another objection raised fears of the structure becoming victim to arson or attracting flytipping while others raised fears that the shelter would not be renovated and would become boarded up like the Fort Hill structure.
One objection states: “What I want and expect to see in this area of historical importance is our shelters preserved and maintained for posterity, not the desecration of a heritage building and the erection of a wooden box in its place. I find this particularly galling as Birchington Parish Council – along with help from KCC, TDC (ironically) and volunteers – is currently renovating and repairing nine sea shelters , restoring them to their former glory. If they can do this, why can’t Margate?”
Dean says the plans are for publicly accessible features and art exhibitions to be in place until permanent plans for the structure can be carried out. Permanent proposals include “a sensitive rebuild and an outsider arts trail, workshops and exhibitions.”
Dean said: “The main plans cannot be put into place for two years. I came up with the idea for the art box, a temporary wooden box within the derelict structure that remains.
“From the road and from the sea walk it would appear to the eye that the box is floating. This reflects the look of the floating boats in the sky.
“The box will have chairs all around it with flower boxes -I won a silver medal at the 2008 Chelsea Flower Show and was featured on Gardeners World by Alan Titchmarsh -so I know about gardening and the aesthetic qualities of the right flowers and shrubs.
“The art box will be covered from top to bottom, on all sides with art every day for two years. The art will be on vinyl posters. From the sea walk and road it will be visually amazing.
“The change of art will be made every three weeks. so it will be an everchanging landscape. We want people to walk up to it and be amazed.
“The first showing on the art box will be posters we had produced by JR’s Inside Out Project of over 70 Thanet based artists who love and support us. The second exhibition will be Everisto- Boyce and his ‘Amazing’ collection, that is featured and sold in Turner Contemporary. Imagine walking your dog or jogging or cycling and coming across that!
“Art is the winner and we are sure that whatever we do with the space it will be amazing and an asset to the area and its immediate surroundings.”
Stretch founder Carlotta Allum previously outlined main plans for the shelter, saying: ““Stretch would like to open the first national museum for Outsider Art. The site has such an unusual and brilliant position we want to make it an iconic addition to the Margate art scene. Every year we would commission an “outsider art walk” of outsider art works and sculptures from Turner Contemporary along the sea front and up to the site.
“The vision is that the rebuild will be sensitive to the original features and incorporate as much of the roof and iron work as is safe and possible, ideally some of the original seats or a row of seats to take in the view at least, in a modern twist on the original pavilion design.”
A decision on the application is yet to be made. It can be accessed on Thanet council’s planning portal. Reference F/TH/20/1593