High Street Task Force report says town’s road and path network creates ‘barrier’ to transforming Margate

A Task Force report says Margate's road and path network creates a barrier for visitors accessing all areas Photo Steven Collis

Margate should improve its road and footpath network to bring together the Old Town and ‘new’ areas, says the government’s High Street Task Force.

In a report compiled after a visit to the town in October, it is suggested that a lack of connectivity between the Old Town and other areas is creating a barrier to transforming Margate.

The report also says there needs to be a rise in income and employment and moves to reduce the shop vacancy rates in the town.

The Task Force expert Graham Galpin said more emphasis is needed on events that continue after peak season – with the Wild in Art trail mentioned as a good example -and better communication with businesses is advised.

The report says there should be a better digital presence for the high street and groups with an interest in the town – such as community or business forums – should come together.

Mr Galpin puts forward the advice following the Unlocking Your Place Potential diagnostic visit.

Turner Contemporary Photo Frank Leppard

The biggest barrier, he says, is the way roads and pathways are laid out, meaning visitors have to negotiate a busy carriageway to get from the Old Town to attractions such as Turner Contemporary.

The report says: “We believe Margate needs expert advice on potential ways and means for improving the pedestrian flow and enhancing personal safety. This should involve planners to advise on the development of potential route maps for pedestrians and motorists.

“It is clear that the increased interest in the Old Town has shifted towards the New Town, but comes to an abrupt stop where people cannot cross the road easily. By removing this barrier, it will open up the continuity of both parts of town and give better access to the Turner Contemporary.

“This should assist in scaling up cultural employment and earnings in both the New and Old Town. Stronger partnerships between council, businesses and the wider community will also build more capacity for making change in the town.

“A more coordinated approach will ensure more impact from the investment and interventions, whether they are initially led by the public, private or voluntary sector. It was very clear from our meeting that there is a huge amount of enthusiasm and support for the town from both the councils and business leaders. More frequent and open communication is needed, particularly to include businesses in the dialogues.”

Photo Steven Collis

The report also highlighted Margate’s strengths which include architectural heritage, visitor attractions, a strong array of independents in the Old Town and Northdown Road, a nationally recognised cultural offer with Turner Contemporary and championing from  internationally known artist Tracey Emin.

Other strengths mentioned were beaches, a history as a seaside resort, Dreamland, strong community and events and the £22.2m of funding for Margate as part of the Government’s Town Deal programme which will see  the planned upgrading of connectivity and boosting of the creative industry and jobs. Thanet council is also making improvements through its Welcome Back Fund.

 Report recommendations:

  • Arrange to receive an expert from the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) to liaise with Thanet District Council and Kent Highways. The expert will review the present network and advise on how to overcome the challenges facing the town and feedback from the visit. This is timely as the Council and Margate Town Deal Board are developing their business case for the Active Movement and Connections project within the Margate Town Deal.
  • Bring the various town centre groups together to form a united Town Centre Partnership which works collaboratively with the local authority, so that communication is improved.
  • Increase the number of events to encourage more people into the town centre.
  • Improve local trader’s access to an interactive website to encourage them to advertise their wares and services online and, where necessary, trade online.

The visit and expert report are part of a package of support that Margate will continue to receive after it was selected by the Government in April as one of 70 places to work directly with the High Streets Task Force.

During Mr Galpin’s visit he led a three-hour workshop, learnt about plans to transform the town, in particular the Margate Town Deal, and met with senior representatives from the local authority, Cabinet member Cllr Reece Pugh, shadow Cabinet member Cllr Helen Whitehead, leading officers from Thanet District Council and Kent County Council, and local business owners.

Cabinet member for economic development and deputy council leader Cllr Pugh said:”It was a real coup to have someone like Graham Galpin share his insights, experiences and recommendations in the context of what is happening to high streets across the country.

“I would like to thank everyone who took the time to share the challenges faced in the reopening of the high streets post-lockdowns and where we can focus our efforts to help and have the most impact.

“I want all of Thanet’s town centres to be vibrant and thriving. This report, in addition to other regeneration work such as the Margate Town Deal and the Levelling Up Fund, will enhance our plans so they are best placed to serve the community now and in the future. In the run up to Christmas, I would encourage everyone to go out and enjoy the shops and support our wonderful independent stores in Margate and across the district.”

Margate Old Town Photo Frank Leppard

The Task Force will continue to work with Margate through the coming months and there will be a follow-up in January to scope out what practical support and service will be provided to the council to support the town’s transformation.

The full report for Margate can be read here.

If you would like to be added to the high streets mailing list contact [email protected].

Margate Town Deal projects chosen for funding from £22.2 million pot


  1. The Turner Centre is on the wrong side of the road, it appears, Hmmm. Shall we re-route all the traffic?
    Just my thoughts upon reading this.

    • The report seems to imply that people have to risk their lives running across the Thanet Way instead on using one of several pelican crossings.

      They also fail to mention three other things that put people off:

      (a) The appalling site of decay that greets those coming by train.

      (b) The filthy streets and alleyways.

      (c) The complete lack of a police/security presence (last time I walked through the old town there were some very suspicious looking teenagers going up and down on e-scooters).

      • I agree about the decay when you arrive. It looks like a forgotten town when you first arrive and artistic graffiti really doesn’t help. Why not knock down the old closed up Arlington area which will never be filled and create a nice green space which margate town lacks

      • Its seems either the person writing the report is either blind or stupid because from train station you can easily cross the road at 4 location on route to Turner Centre.. its one of the safest Road on margate to cross.. 4 set of crossing how many more would you need, and the old town is no way unsafe.. I feel safe coming from London now that unsafe

    • Ton

      Seems that the TC is on the wrong side of the road lolol.

      Perhaps these arty lovers dont know how to use a pedestrian crossing, so that’s change the road lol.

      Enough is enough

    • I hope Andrew is Okay !
      Ah this alley was closed due to the path not being safe due to the cellars underneath crumbling. KCC has not bothered to pursue the owners of the cellars since the original owner died. There seems to be something dodgy going on here and I am left wondering how long it needs to be with no public using they alley before they can permanently close it!

  2. i notice boris avoided some of the ” highlights ” of thanet when he was here on a hearts and minds mission earlier this week.

    • I prefer “affable oaf”, but whatever moniker you wish to afix, the electorate clearly decided he/tories were supremely preferable to the other options at the general election. So they get their 5 years with hands on the levers of power after which they can be judged at the ballot box.

  3. Don’t count on much of the interesting architecture surviving for long if TDC keeps up its usual philistine approach to preserving anything worth saving.
    Totally agree with Peter C. about the state of the town – and its all simple stuff that could be put right if TDC was bothered.

    • I’d certainly describe the TC, Arlington, and the crumbling Lido/Winter Gdns architecture as “interesting”.

      As for “there needs to be a rise in income and employment and moves to reduce the shop vacancy rates in the town”… how much time and money did it take them to work that out??

      • Unlocking your place potential diagnostic visit – seemingly required to determine the bleeding obvious. You really would have to hope those involved do it for nothing more than a cup of tea and acouple of biscuits.
        Though this will be another step toward the plans put forward last year to pedestianise the seafront , resistance is futile in the face of the opinions of the great and good.
        So likely that in next decade we can look forward to endless chaos as totally unworkable plans attempt to redirect loads of traffic through totally unsuitable roads. A repeat of the clocktower junction fiascos of old.

        I realise Marva that you feel/think that all cars should be banned, but fortunately for the rest of thanet you are not in charge.

    • TC has been open for over a decade now has it has had millions of our taxes spent on it. No entrance fee for the arty people.

      We were told that TC would rebuild margate and thanet, 10 years on and see very little improvement. A few lollipops in ramsgate, and TC full of ‘art’ if you can call it that.

      It would seem that the arty people who visit TC dont spent their time or money any further than a couple of hundred yards from the TC.

      There should be an inquiry into why the TC has had so little input into margate and thanet.

      If the footfall figures are correct if TC had changed an entrance fee it could donate to other areas or at least pay taxes. It really annoys me that art gets a free ride thanks to our taxes. Just look at some of the posh cars that park there, are you telling me they couldnt afford an entrance fee. Why arent cinemas free ?

  4. I keep thinking of the area round Arlington Tower as having “unrealised potential” but nobody seems to “realise” it.

    • The “new” town is presumably Margate High Street, Cecil Square and Marine Parade, though I could be mistaken. I’ve always thought calling it the “old Town” was a bit daft, as there isn’t THAT much of a difference in age to the majority of the buildings that surround it.

  5. Seems to me alot of damage was done to margate in the era of the 50s/60s. Building Arlington House and arcade. Producing an ugle council building in a 1700’s Georgian style square. Also building the top half the high street that just looks shabby and neither modern or vintage

    • I’m one of those that thinks Arlington house is quite special and worthy of listing. It should be a jewel in margates crown, but like everything else unloved. Sold as fast as TDC could manage after the movement in the 1987 storm, lease conditions never enforced by TDC on Freshwater and allowed to continually decay.

      Turn the Top 4 odd floors into a boutique hotel / restaurant , refurbish the rest of the building properly and it’d be a prime address, the shopping arcade could be returned to use for small shop units. But now that the Dreamland owners have a purchase option on it , it’ll be yet another bit of leverage to get what they want in the long run. Getting it listed would add stability and control over what happens at that end of town.

      • Those shops weren’t fully occupied even in the 80s. So what chance would there be of filling them now that we also have a High Street that is half boarded up? By all means refurbish Arlington, but the shop units need to go.

        • True, better to have any new businesses located in the high street/ old town, to get the area more stabel business wise. Does pose a bit of a problem regarding the arlington arcade, a park would be pointless give the proximity pf the neach and would have no income which will be needed seeing as its part of a commercial property.

      • Arlington House should be restored to its original appearance, but the shops area at its base should be demolished and replaced by a modern urban park.

  6. Hugh,Pugh,Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble & Homer.
    In 10 years with yet more cash spent on hare brained schemes we will back here again going on about regeneration.

    TDC are a major obstacle to renewal.they have no ideas or ability and continue to appoint stooges who will do as their bidding

    The second bunch of Tories deserve to take the blame for what after all a monster of their own creation

  7. About a decade or more ago a compressive feasibility study was undertaken involving a wide range of bodies and professionals and recommended I understand among a list of measures to pedestrianise and reduce the burden of traffic along parts of the seafront and other adjoining streets .It seems that TDC May now return to an idea or these ideas having wasted more than a decade ( for whatever reason ) through lack of implementation .
    One can only hope that TDC do not squander this last opportunity to draw on external expertise to sort out these local highway obstacles and make Margate a pedestrian friendly environment instead of the vehicular polluted environment the present roadways present.

    • And where exactly will the traffic go instead?

      I said years ago that Dreamland should not’ve been saved, and instead a bypass could’ve been built through this and the Arlington site, pedestrianising the seafront in the process. Too late now.

  8. The report also says there needs to be a rise in income and employment and moves to reduce the shop vacancy rates in the town. How much did they pay to hear this? We have been telling them this obvious fact here for years.

    Why do TDC/KCC need a body to tell them the bleeding obvious? Insane shop rents, all the money being thrown at art in the old town while the rest goes to pot. I think we can all guess what TDC’s/KCC response will be-more pop up art displays in empty shops, rent increases & more money thrown at Turner Centre, Dreamland, Margate Dem Collective etc.

  9. Gosh – those that don’t think there has been a change in Margate over the past 10 years really need to open their eyes. The town is vibrant, interesting, busy even in the depths of winter. It was never like that before TC. Like it or not it has transformed our town.

    15 years ago it was desolate, deserted and definitely rotting. Now it is on the up. I find these ridiculous naysayers really, really unfathomable – wipe the dirt out of your eyes and have a look around.

    • Absolute rubbish. In 15 years we’ve lost Primark, Edinburgh Woolen Mill, Superdrug, Rooks, Store 21, Henrys, Holland & Barrett, Burtons, Specsavers and Barclays, amongst many others. It is far more “desolate, deserted and definitely rotting” now.

        • I have to agree with Peter here. It has continued to stay on the down. Even Mary Portas couldn’t save it. The arty centre and pop ups have done nothing for the area either despite what they claim.
          Until we have a council that believes in the town and cleans it up it will stay this way too.

  10. They need to stop wasting money on pointless reports that tell us what we already know. TDC do nothing to improve the area, they are happy not to maintain anything whilst procuring and giving pots of public money away on private business chums.
    They do need to start looking at procuring funding to reverse the decay to our towns infrastructure and heritage.

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