An application to turn a retail unit in Ramsgate town into a flat has been withdrawn.
The controversial plan was put forward for the ground floor of the Harbour Bazaar site at 20-24 Harbour Street but provoked objections about changing the commercial nature of the street.
Objections said introducing residential premises to the street at shop front level would begin the decline of a busy retail street, citing the loss of businesses in nearby King Street as an example.
Harbour Street is one of the focus areas for Ramsgate Future Investment Plan which is being put in place with funding of £600,000 from the Future High Street Fund, £2,7million from the High Street Heritage Action Zone (HAZ), and £19.8million from the Levelling Up Fund.
The aim of the funding is to regenerate the town, seafront and port with plans including better pedestrian access from harbour to town using highways improvements such s crossings; creating employment, supporting local businesses to grow and investing in heritage and history.
Harbour Street in the ‘gateway’ to the town from the seafront and objectors say reducing commercial space and changing it to homes will have a negative effect on those plans.
Harbour Street business owner Suzy Humphries, of Nice Things gallery and shop, said in her objection: “Harbour Street is the entry point to Ramsgate town centre from the royal harbour. “Harbour Street is also a focal point of the Future High Street Fund development plan to open up its junction at Military Road and therefore encourage footfall into the town centre. The property at 20-24 Harbour Street is the most significant heritage retail building in the street, with its corner projection and heritage shop front (the ground floor of this has previously been allowed to be destroyed).
“ I object to change of use from retail to residential on the ground floor because Harbour Street is the vitally important ‘lifeline’ for bringing people, shoppers, visitors into the town centre and to the businesses that inhabit the town centre – as the Future High Street Fund plan is expressing. If Harbour Street loses its busy line of shopfronts and businesses, then it ceases to be a shopping street; it becomes a confusion for people walking along about what the street is – residential, or business?
“Even one building space change will make a difference and set a precedent for future developers to want to do the same. We all know the developer will earn more money from selling a lease for a flat than from the annual rent/lease of a shop but we cannot let this influence the long term future of our town centre.
“Ramsgate town centre has survived, largely, even through the pandemic, and we are seeing good energy in businesses, new businesses and individuals wanting to take retail / business spaces in the town centre.
“We cannot erode the nature of the main entry point to that town centre, Harbour Street, by allowing it to become mixed residential/retail – as a retail business myself, I fully understand how negative the impact is from the intrusion of residential or non-business premises in a retail/hospitality street.
“Thanet District Council has for several years been operating a plan to reduce the area of the town centre, by permitting and building housing/change of use on the older retail area of King Street, which has successfully reduced that entire area into residential and not retail/business.
“This application is the first for that type of development in Harbour Street and would initiate a similar effect as in King Street – but in the entry point to the town centre and the focal point of its own Future High Street plans. It is entirely inappropriate and unnecessary, since currently the demand for business premises is strong. This reduces available stock as well as negatively impacting on the nature of the street.”
Ramsgate Town Council has also objected to the proposal saying it will mean the loss of ground floor retail space and also that the unit size is inappropriate as well as having a lack of windows and only partial light coming through the rear of the unit.
The application has now been listed as withdrawn.