Thanet council plans to make a bid to the Government’s Levelling Up fund for a Margate Digital educational and industry training site primarily aimed at 16-19 year olds.
The project is to be delivered by EKC – which has campuses including Broadstairs College -working with The Margate School.
EKC Group is proposing to deliver more than 1,500 m2 of cutting edge, industry relevant training space with aims to work with more than 200 learners in its first year of operation – primarily 16 to 19-year-olds.
The campus will offer a range of qualifications including T Levels, HNDs and HNCs. East Kent College says the ‘Margate Digital’ campus will be a specialist industry-focused college purposefully positioned in Margate. The Group says delivering the campus in the High Street will also provide footfall and repurpose the town and use large vacant properties that are not attracting retail.
A report to Thanet council Cabinet members explaining the project says: “Their vision for the centre is to:
- Influence the future through creative thinking and technology, exploiting the point at which these sectors meet and overlap;
- Inspire a diverse range of people into these rewarding sectors through a variety of access points, learning modes and career-relevant courses;
- Be agile and future-facing, ensuring everything is highly relevant and anticipates industry need;
- Provide industry-ready graduates of the highest calibre.
“The aim for the centre is to deliver transformational benefits for Margate including:
- Inward investment from companies eager to access skills;
- Raising aspirations for young people in the area;
- Education acting as the golden thread in weaving together industry and learning;
- Adult retraining opportunities ensuring upskilling and reskilling;
- The centre will also support small and medium businesses with support in digital marketing.”
EKC Group proposes that The Margate School, an independent not-for-profit liberal arts school based in the town’s former Woolworth building, will take 500 sq m of space.
The report adds: “Together they will offer a new design-based postgraduate and professional development provision there, with expanded Fabrication Laboratory (FabLab), VR and related knowledge exchange facilities.”
A Levelling Up fund bid for Ramsgate of up to £20million has already been set in motion. This bid will form part of the Ramsgate Future scheme which ties together all the various funding pots and regeneration schemes for the town.
The bid will mainly focus on smaller transport projects, town centre and high street regeneration; and support for maintaining and expanding cultural and heritage assets. Transport investments could include public transport, active travel, bridge repairs, bus priority lanes, local road improvements and major structural maintenance, and accessibility improvements.
It could also include upgrading eyesore buildings and dated infrastructure, acquiring and regenerating brownfield sites, investing in secure community infrastructure and crime reduction, and bringing public services and safe community spaces into town and city centres.
Cultural investment could be maintaining, regenerating, or creatively repurposing museums, galleries, visitor attractions (and associated green spaces) and heritage assets as well as creating new community-owned spaces to support the arts and serve as cultural spaces.
However, the area can submit more than one bid and the Margate proposal is being backed by North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale. The bid would be used to build on the Margate Town Deal which has already had a £22.2 million grant from government confirmed.
The report to Cabinet members, who will discuss the proposal at a meeting tomorrow (June 17), says: “The timescales are incredibly tight, with a deadline of submission on June 18.
“This submission of a bid to the Levelling Up Fund for Margate is strongly aligned to the Margate Town Deal, and builds on the proposal for education, skills and employment pathway opportunities in the Margate Town Investment Plan.
“This funding will support the delivery of a state of the art digital skills and training provision in the town centre which will undoubtedly support the whole district’s economic recovery and levelling up of its communities, both in terms of training opportunities and pathways, as well as increasing footfall in the high street. “
EKC’s chief executive Graham Razey was the Margate Town Deal Board chairman until stepping down from the role in March.
Thanet has been identified as a priority one area in the Government’s Levelling Up Prospectus. While the fund is open to every local area, it is especially intended to support investment in places where it can make the biggest difference to everyday life, including ex-industrial areas, deprived towns and coastal communities.
In April 2021 Thanet had an unemployment rate of 9.7% , which was an increase from 2020 when it was 7.4% and an increase from April 2019 when it was 5.3%. The claimant count for out of work benefits in April 2021 in Thanet was 9.7%, in Kent it was 5.9%.
The report to Cabinet members says: “In order to make a significant step change for the whole of Thanet, the most deprived places in the district need regeneration support in order to ‘level up’. “Margate has a significant opportunity through the Margate Town Deal, it is therefore proposed that to build on this investment, a bid for Margate Digital should be submitted to the Levelling Up Fund. “The investment opportunity across Thanet is significant, and will benefit Thanet’s communities tremendously in this period of recovery required due to the Covid 19 Pandemic.”
A previous request to include Broadstairs in the Levelling Up bid was rejected because the town is ‘not deprived enough.’
Broadstairs councillor Ruth Bailey had put the suggestion forward, saying Viking Bay is a tourist hotspot but visitors are confronted with the reality of a “decaying” chalet block, “embarrassing toilets” a lift that needs replacing and a lack of modern facilities.
She hoped that, as Thanet as a whole was named as a category one candidate – in the most need- for the fund, Broadstairs could form part of the bid with plans for a longer-term solution for the Viking Bay lift and a major regeneration project for the seafront.
Former Thanet council Cabinet Member for Ramsgate Regeneration, Cllr Rick Everitt – who was in post at the start of the process and has overseen its progress until a change of administration this month – said: ““In the case of the Levelling Up bid, we chose Ramsgate because we can evidence the relatively high level of deprivation in the town – issues we are already addressing in Margate through the Towns Fund award. This doesn’t mean that we are ignoring the fact that other parts of the district would benefit from investment, but the government expects us to target this bid to support regeneration where it can have the most effect.”
Cabinet members are expected to approve submission of a Levelling Up Bid for Margate and this will be signed off by the council chief executive and council leader Ash Ashbee. UPDATE – The bid has been confirmed to be for £6.3million.