Campaigners demand end to ‘unhygienic’ eyesore at Duke Street ‘tree’ plot

The Duke Street plot

Campaigners and local businesses say rubble and rubbish are strewn across a Margate Old Town site which once was home to a mature Sycamore tree, birds and pollinators.

The Duke Street plot was the focus of a campaign at the beginning of this year to save the tree from felling as the site owner readied to develop the plot.

The tree stood on the site of a proposed development for a four-storey property with five flats and a commercial unit which was given planning approval in 2018.

But since the tree was brought down in May there has been no progress on site which now is waterlogged and has nothing more than the rubbish and a portable toilet in place.

Save the Duke campaigners, who occupied the site for several days in a bid to save the tree, say many promises were made by Thanet District Council and the owner of the now barren site that new saplings would be planted and jobs and housing for local people would be provided.

But, as yet, residents and businesses close to the site just have a view of the mess and the portable toilet.

Campaigners trying to save the tree including Dosh Archer (right) Photo Carl Hudson

Tree campaigner Dosh Archer said: ‘Instead of a tree and a garden what Margate now has is a visual and visceral reminder of the inner chaos of people who give no regard to our delicate and essential relationship with nature. Who gave no regard to the fact that the tree was housing pollinators, birds, insects, fungi, that it was producing oxygen for us to breath, sheltering us in summer, spinning its little helicopter seeds in the autumn, and even in winter standing proud above all the buildings – the tallest living tree in the Old Town’.

“A pile of rubbish and rubble is now strewn across what used to be grass and flowers, birds and shrubbery. Instead of a tree standing proud there is rubble and on the waterlogged site stands a portable toilet which is a disgusting and vile vision, next to eateries, restaurants and businesses who are trying so desperately to survive in these covid stricken times.”

Campaigners say one restaurant owner has told them of the decline in his business which he believes is result of the disgusting view of the Duke Street plot.

Dosh added: “It has been suggested that it is not all the fault of the developer, that the site has become waterlogged, making it hard to continue with the work. But in a time when the ice caps are melting, cutting down the very things that are soaking up the water should not be allowed. A council which chose to put money and madness before community, nature, and the people and businesses of Margate has left Margate with a very big and ugly problem.”

Campaigners say they want an explanation from Thanet District Council and a plan to show how the site will be cleaned up in time for Easter when the town will be receiving vital visitors who contribute to the local economy. They also say the eyesore is unhygienic and bad for residents and businesses.

Dosh added: “We also want immediate protection for the last remaining trees and green areas in Old Town Margate, to ensure that this kind of environmental disaster does not happen again.”

The area the tree is in was one of two plots that were earmarked as garden sites under a Countdown to Turner scheme in 2011. However despite a spend of £7,881 on design, consultation and soil sample for the site and another at Cobbs Place, the gardens did not come to fruition.

Development image

The site was sold at auction as part of Thanet council’s asset disposal programme in February 2017. In 2018 permission was granted for the flats development. An application for a four-storey build on the site was previously approved in 2007 when the site formed part of a larger redevelopment scheme known as the Queen’s Arms Yard but that permission expired.

Photo Frank Leppard

Several protests were staged by groups Thanet Trees, Mature Trees Mature and Save The Duke. A sit in was staged from late April but on the early May bank holiday the site owners turned up and a confrontation took place leading to police arresting the owners and two protesters. All were later released without charge.

Campaigners were evicted from the site on May 6 and the tree felling followed.

A spokesperson for Thanet District Council said:“As yet, the council has not received any public complaints regarding the site on Duke Street. We will now look into the site and, if appropriate, make contact with the contractors.”

UPDATE DECEMBER 21: A Thanet council spokesperson said: “Council officers have visited the site on Duke Street. As it is a construction site, we anticipate that any impact on the appearance of the surrounding area will be temporary. These circumstances are not sufficient for the council to take action under planning enforcement at this time. We will, however, keep the site under review.”


    • No.
      It’s entirely down to the developers.
      TDC granted PP, because there was no reason not to. It’s the developers who have left the site looking a mess.

      • There was and is a damned good reason Phyllis it is as people keep saying including yourself there is a climate emergency afoot and all frickin’ people want to do is destroy nature and cut down trees you are typical of people who would, given the choice see all spaces built on regardless of the damage it causes

    • We cannot answer that theory at this moment in time as it is beyond the comprehension & mental limit of the said Council.

        • I had to laugh at that Peter.
          Sadly, you hit the nail on the head there although in this case I say give the developers a bit of time for heaven’s sake. The only reason that the tree was cut down at that time was because the protesters got involved, precipitating it’s early demise. It was always going to happen as that whole site has always looked a total shambles and TDC have been given the remit by government to provide sites for housing, in the same way as every other council in the land.

  1. Maybe Dosh can do something about the woods being torn down next to The Pilgrims Hospice? They are removing lots of trees to build on the land next to The Nightingales. Lots of trees have already been lost but there are loads left that can be saved!! Almost the entire wood has been destroyed.

  2. Steve or whoever you are don’t insult the people and businesses in Margate as you should have noticed the old town and high street are part of the history of our town I suppose you don’t live here I wouldn’t think if we knocked your town or where you live you wouldn’t like it.instead of not coming forward with your real name and where you live there is a lot of people who haven’t the guts to come clean that’s cowardly.

  3. I wouldn’t want to be building at this time of year so it’s no surprise the site has been left. Lots of rubbish blown around with the high winds we had lately to probably just got caught up at that point.

  4. TDC should be chasing the developers for leaving it so long before starting work on this site what an eyesore.Developers doing as they please as per.

    • Developers only need to make a “substantive start” ( which basically means the first bit of footings dug inspected and concreted) before the end of the planning permission period (usually 5 years) to lock in the planning for eternity.
      Hosers corner is a prime example a tiny bit of work and a bit of concrete , means the planning is there forever and gives the current or future owners a bit more leverage for any changes they may wish to make. All part of the game.

  5. Anyone got any photos or bumph from the protests. Especially any of the argy-bargy that took place between the owners and protesters.

    Or can sign-post to?

  6. It makes me laugh how people got so upset about a weed tree. People talk about saving the environment but take a look around.

    But people are happy with

    Thanet earth second biggest light polluter in England.

    Manston airport polluting the area.

    At the old Pfizer site hundreds of trees burnt daily for fuel.

    New houses built on farmland because people want a dirty airport

    But that’s all worry about a weed sycamore !!

    If the save the planet are serious than look at those first and not a single tree !

  7. There is a reason why the site has been left as it is, its not unusual.

    Rip tree, swampy loves you.

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