Work starts to create Margate Digital campus at former Marks & Spencer building

The former Marks & Spencer building in Margate

Work has started on the former Margate Marks & Spencer building to create a base for the MargateDigital project.

The £750,000 project is being led by Thanet council following a grant from the Government. The grant was made under the Towns Fund from the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Margate was one of more than 100 towns in England given a share of an £80million pot to kick start regeneration projects.

The money will be spent on removing asbestos and renovations to the roof of the building. The project is due to complete by Spring 2022.

The preliminary work lays the foundations for the MargateDigital project,  after its bid to the Levelling Up Fund was successful. The £6.3m bid includes match-funding which will bring the 53-57 High street building back into use as a specialist industry-focused centre on the high street.

Thanet District Council, in partnership with the EKC Group and The Margate School, aims to  create 2,000 sq m of cutting-edge, industry-relevant training space which will focus on digital technology.

The shared space will link with local businesses, and TDC says increased footfall will enhance the town centre, making it more attractive to residents, visitors and businesses.

The campus will deliver a range of technical qualifications, including specialised T Levels in Animation, Architecture, Programming, Coding, Graphics, Marketing, TV and Film, and offer progression to Level 4 and 5 provision by introducing new Higher Technical Qualifications, supported by a government-backed brand and quality mark to meet the higher-level skills of industry.

The Margate M&S has been shut for some 14 years. The building freehold was bought in 2006 by Thanet council for £4.5 million with grant funding. It has since been used by Turner Contemporary and then Store 21 until its closure in 2017.

Cllr Reece Pugh, Cabinet Member for Economic Development at Thanet District Council, said: “I’m delighted to see work commence on this building, which comes hot on the heels of the successful bid to the Levelling Up Fund. Together with the EKC Group this building aims to create 2,000 sq m of cutting-edge, industry-relevant training space which will focus on digital technology. The project also incorporates The Margate School, which will offer Higher Education provision focused on Art and Design and provide a range of industry support.

“Starting to prepare the building is a crucial first step in realising this project which will have a huge impact on the town, linking local businesses and helping to increase footfall on the high street. I’m looking forward to following its development as it becomes a prominent building on Margate’s highstreet once more.”

The current work is being delivered by Kent-based construction company, Bauvill.

A Bauvill spokesperson said: “Bauvill are thrilled to have been awarded this contract and honoured to be part of the foundational renovation programme led by Thanet District Council. Bauvill were recently accoladed as a Top 100 Sustainable Growth company in Kent, coupled with the recent award of this project in Margate is testament to the company’s vision and dedication to providing Kent’s built environment with exceptional local construction services. We look forward to working with Thanet District Council on this project and supporting the future growth of Margate’s high street.”

Margate was visited recently by the Government’s High Street Task Force which is providing support to towns across the country. Initial feedback from the visit confirmed that key buildings, such as 53-57 High Street, will play a big part in the reimagining of the high street in Margate.

Local businesses who would like to tender for contracts as part of projects focussing on regeneration in the district, including those that make up the Margate Town Deal, should register with the Kent Business Portal where business opportunities or tenders will be advertised.


      • I completely agree. Why on earth would young people choose to study in Margate High Street where there are so many other good options nearby ?. A ludicrous waste of taxpayers’ money.

        • Not at all, just a former Margate High Street shopper who knows what would and wouldn’t bring me back… but instead of criticising others, tell us what is YOUR idea for enticing back shoppers.

          • Who me? Move away from trying to make the place an arts hub, and instead concentrate on good food – greengrocers, delis, fishmongers, etc. It also needs decent parking facilities though (the recently demolished Fort Yard would make a great car park).

            The above applies to both the lower High Street and the Old Town. As for the upper High Street, anything beyond McDonalds should become housing.

          • Also more of those low budget shops like The Works and Poundland. The arty crowd might hate ’em, but they bring in the shoppers A shame Edinburgh Woolen Mill went, as I used to like that).

          • I think a big problem is margate and ramsgate towns are full of alcoholics and drug addicts. You can’t go through without hearing someone shouting, coughing their guts up or asking for money. The other big problem is ticket guards literally chasing business out of the town. There is a big retail market in people who wanna stop for 15 minutes and get something they know they want, but rather than play cat and mouse with ticket guards would prefer to go up westwood. Thanet council need to see the bigger picture with that. Places you mention like the works are already in the town

          • Well you clearly don’t go to margate high street often as you suggested ‘the works’ would save it when there is already one there. Always someone shouting on that high street and if you think it’s not full of drug addicts I would just say take a stroll up the top of the high street

      • Sadly, nothing will revive high streets. The concept is dead. Some people may want the local feel and approach, with independent greengrocers, delis etc., but not enough to meaningfully sustain businesses in the long-term. I would love it. I shop locally and prefer it. But, the overwhelming majority want quick, easy and cheap. That last point is particularly important, because many people absolutely need cheap, and that is completely understandable. A shop at Aldi, for example, is infinitely cheaper than artisan butchers, fishmongers and farm shops.

        Supermarkets and online retailers such as Amazon have cornered the market. They have taken advantage of outdated tax systems in this country and others and transformed retail forever. Is it right? Legally, yes. Is it moral? Absolutely not. Is it good for society? I’d argue not. But, we are where we are with it now.

        Just look at Canterbury. It is dead. Look at Bluewater!!! The big out of town shopping centres were blamed for killing high streets. Now they’re almost as lacking in retailers as the high streets they replaced.

        When government gets a handle on business rates and modernises the tax system in the UK then, and only then, will high street retailers stand any chance of competing with the online retailers.

          • Are they largely thriving, though? That is the question… Yes, they are better than others locally, but is it enough in the long-term? Also, do we know what percentage of the businesses on those high streets own the properties they operate from outright? I don’t know and I’m not speculating, but the cost of rent and business rates is so vast that it makes most small, high street businesses economically unviable…

            We are definitely in agreement here, I would love to see a return of the high streets. I used to love Christmas shopping in Margate, Canterbury etc. It felt very special as a child. Now, I actively avoid Margate High Street, as it is just too depressing.

          • And Herne Bay! Wonderful shops and so many are independent.

            Thanet Council should encourage local traders by giving them a cut on business rates for the first year rather than have empty shops!

          • Yes Ruth, Herne Bay’s Mortimer Street has actually improved in recent years, with former charity shops becoming real shops again. I enjoy visiting about once a month, particularly on market day.

          • There may well be a need for local shopping, electric vehicles are not going to be cheap and the days of every family having a car or two could well be over in 20 years or so, i’d expect an increase in the number of tesco metro’s etc as the years progress and out of town centres changing (if they survive at all)to more like showrooms for internet delivery companies

          • I’ve said it before, but people used there cars a lot less when there was a shop in every village and they weren’t forced into cars (it is a very brave person who tries walking from Manston or Acol to a shop and back!).

    • That’s because they own the building – paid a lot of money for it then left it to rot for years

  1. I think it would be more practical to have refurbished working toilets on the seafront instead of eyesore reportable’s. Fixing the seating in the 2 Victorian shelters as well.

  2. I don’t suppose that anyone in TDC own or has interest in any of the companies doing the work or in the school? Just it’s that is usually the case with our political leaders.

  3. It really does seem so very comvenient that a building purchsed by TDC for4.5 million and unused for 4 years is tobe used for this venture, some sort of attempt to make some sort success out of another poor tdc decision. Is it possible to determine the overall cost to the council taxpayer for this project? In the event the project makes a surplus is there a financial mechanism for the council to recoup some of its investment? Is the use of the building being used as the matched funding in its Leveling Up award deal? Has Digital Margate actually put anything of its own into this?

  4. Anmd I thought work was supposed to have commenced on Waterloo Day last (18 June) – the Town Deal Board never seem to have discussed the Project (judging by the Minutes.) Would it be too fanciful to see occupation in time for the Platinum Jubilee ? In any event the re-imagining of the High Street making use of all our ‘creatives’ bodes well – and local tech firms should be pleased to see a potential recruitment source (and local youth have a reason for ‘investing’ in Thanet.) Upwards & Onwards !

  5. Dream on Ruth! Margate will never be like Deal as the demographic is totally different and does Deal or Herne Bay have a Westwood X locally?
    The residents of Margate want something for nothing and are not bothered about a local butchers etc!

    • I didn’t say Margate would be like Deal!!!
      I said something similar will happen meaning more shops opening as to closed shops

    • Patrick, yet Broadstairs is just as near Westwood Cross as Margate. I guess the big difference is that Broadstairs has never relied on large shops, which quickly abandoned Margate as soon as W/C opened.

      • Not wishing to sound like a snob but the people in Broadstairs appreciate local shops compared the most of the people in Margate.
        I fear Ruth lives in cloud cuckoo land.

      • I think another problem with margate compared to broadstairs is that from its tourism days its over subscribed with retail space. Not many places of margates size essentially has 2 towns to fill with margate and cliftonville and a whole big seafront while competing with a shopping centre

  6. Interesting to see the Margate School included in this, especially as it’s only a five-year-old company, with no capital, and an annual profit under £20k.
    Margate. On their web site,, they claim to have created 31 full-time jobs, and having “revived a key building on Margate’s High Street”, neither are evident, particularly on their stated earnings. Earlier this year they were looking for a photographer for their graduation event via Facebook, but expected the successful candidate to work for no fee.
    There’s a sense of deja vu to this announcement. There was a similar scheme involving the old Cobbs bank in King Street, which was renovated, lavishly decorated and called the Margate Media Centre.

    • The Margate School link is revealing. Its pretentious jargon – ‘TMS has developed flexible, non-linear inspirational and aspirational pathways to entrepreneurial success for creatives and their businesses’ – suggests there’s more than a touch of the Turner about it.

      • I agree. It’s meaningless, especially compared to a proven track record and wider public recognition for what they do, and effectively undeliverable in any hard form. I’m surprised such “box ticking” can attract funding.

  7. As far as Ramsgate is concerned: in response to a comment that the town was dead, someone posted on the WLR fb page a list of more than 20 “High Street” businesses still in Ramsgate, from Waitrose to Poundland and everything in between.
    I do ALL my daily/weekly shopping in Ramsgate. I visit WWX once or twice a year for stuff like cement.

  8. I understand and agree with some of the complaints but a majority of the so called ‘artsy people’ that I have met and know in Thanet can afford to out price others because they work in the tech industries mentioned above. If the centre is done right with some accessible training/courses for local people of all ages on low or no income, then this could offer them the opportunity to earn as much as those that can afford to train and live in the cities. Not sure about the companies/school involved but hopefully they will make it inclusive for everyone in Thanet.

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