Proposals to make a £6.3 million bid to government to fund the creation of a Margate Digital educational and industry training site have been approved by Thanet council Cabinet members.
It will be delivered by EKC Group – which has campuses including Broadstairs College -which will also match fund the project.
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 deliver a range of qualifications including T Levels, HNDs and HNCs. East Kent College says the ‘MargateDigital’ 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 utilise large vacant properties that are not attracting retail uses.
But the proposal for a late second bid to the government Levelling Up fund was criticised by Labour councillor Rick Everitt who said it would be highly likely to impact on the £20million bid being put forward for Ramsgate.
Cllr Everitt, who had headed up the Ramsgate proposal until a change in political leadership at Thanet council earlier this month, said although he supported the Margate Digital idea he was dismayed at a report on the proposal only being published yesterday with the bid deadline being tomorrow (June 18).
He also said the Labour group had not supported a second bid because of the huge amount of work needed in a short timescale meant focusing on the Ramsgate proposal was the best option.
He added: “It’s not really the council’s bid at all.
This is a proposal from the MP. I have no problem with Roger Gale over that, he is entitled to lobby for his constituency, that’s his job. But it is the council’s job to balance the risk of opportunities for the whole of Thanet.”
Cllr Everitt said the second proposal placed a “clear and obvious risk to the Ramsgate Levelling Up bid.”
He said council was told that the fund would be oversubscribed and so it was best to focus on one bid and accused Cabinet of taking no heed of that advice.
He also raised the possibility that funding would be taken away from the Ramsgate bid to pay for the Margate Digital proposal.
Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economic Development Cllr Reece Pugh said “all of the bids will be first class,” and said an accusation of the Cabinet not focusing efforts was “disingenius” and it was an opportunity the council would “be mad to turn down.”
Cllr Bob Bayford, Cabinet member for special projects, said although the bid “has got Margate on it” it will benefit young people from across Thanet.
He added: “This is a co-operative bid in many respects rather than an opposing one.”
Council leader Ash Ashbee said Cabinet members had spent “long hours examining this bid” and had also given “full consideration” to the Ramsgate bid.
She added that every constituency MP was entitled to put a bid in for the fund and each would be examined on its own merits.
She added: “This is very exciting and I think the youth will benefit greatly for the whole of Thanet. This is not just about Margate it is just that the premises happens to be in Margate and it is an ideal premises to launch this fantastic and exciting project.”
Cllr Ashbee said she hoped Thanet would be successful in both bids.
Cabinet members approved the submission of the Margate Digital bid.