Grants of £13.7m due to be released to four Margate projects

Margate Photo Steven Collis

Grants totalling more than £13.7million are due to be released to projects in the Levelling Up and Margate Town Deal schemes.

Thanet council Cabinet members are to discuss grant agreements to release funds for four projects.

A grant of £6,306,078 will be made to the EKC Group to deliver the Margate Digital project, which will be based at the former Marks & Spencer building.

The £6.3m grant is being match-funded to bring the 53-57 High street building back into use as a specialist industry-focused centre on the high street.

The former Marks & Spencer building in Margate

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 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.

The funding comes from an award of £26.1 million from the government’s Levelling Up fund..

Funding amounts from that scheme were £6,306,078 for the Margate Digital project and £19,840,000 for Ramsgate Future.

A report to Cabinet members says: “Officers have been actively working with EKC Group to develop this project and develop the grant agreements and funding is now being allocated by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

“EKC Group is on a very tight programme of delivery, with their ambition to be welcoming students into the Margate Digital Campus from September 2023.”

The Trust will provide business space for those in Margate’s creative industries

A grant of £6,000,000 from the Margate Town Deal will go to the Margate Creative Land Trust which has been awarded charitable status from the Charity Commission.

The Trust will provide physical workspace at affordable rates for creative practitioners including people working in design, music, publishing, architecture, film, gaming, crafts, visual arts, fashion, TV and radio, advertising, literature, computer games and the performing arts.

It will take on underused or empty properties through outright purchase of freehold properties or long leases, or through properties gifted or transferred to the Trust by public or private partners.

These will be used as affordable commercial space for creative industries and support services. The Trust will also promote education-based and community centred services, including participation in the creative industries to provide new jobs and enterprise opportunities.

Another £900,000 grant will be used for creative production and skills outreach, education and engagement programme.

A further £500,000 grant will go to GRASS (Gordon Road Area Street Scheme) Cliftonville. for the Oval Bandstand and Gardens project.

Grass took on the lease for the site last year and have been working on a number of improvements.

Under the Margate Town Deal the funds will be used to continue that work and create a Pavilion.

Stephen Darrer, of Grass, previously said: “We need to make the site work 365 days a year, so think Ellington Park and the fantastic results they have achieved.

“It’s about repurposing what’s on the site, honouring the heritage and making a useable, accessible space for the community.”

Grass want to also include training and education in their plans and are talking to mental health charities about involvement to build on community wellbeing uses.

GRASS Cliftonville’s outdoor cinema at The Oval Bandstand. Picture: GRASS

The aim is also to reconfigure the bandstand area so it is a 360 space – a “theatre in the round”- which will mean moving the toilet facilities. The pavilion will be wheelchair accessible.

There will also be wildflower meadows, lawns, a mini wetland, a mini-forest, and paths lined with wildlife-friendly plants to create a “coastal eco-park” alongside artworks, social and activity spaces.

Margate was one of 101 places given the opportunity to bid for funding of up to £25 million as part of the government’s £3.6 billion Towns Fund. The fund aims to support urban regeneration, skills development and improved connectivity by giving each place its own Town Deal. A bid amount of £22.2milion was granted.

Successful projects were chosen under four themes:

Scaling creative production and skills

  • Establishing a Creative Land Trust
  • Improvements to the Theatre Royal

Coastal wellbeing

  • Improvements to Walpole Bay and Oval Bandstand
  • Skatepark

Active movement and connections

  • A series of highway and public realm interventions

Heritage assets

  • Repurposing the cinema building at Dreamland
  • Winter Garden future options appraisal

The grants will be discussed at a Cabinet meeting this Thursday (April 28).