Multi-million pound Margate Digital campus proposals from EKC Group

The Margate Digital plan Image Lee Evans Partnership LLP

Plans for the digital and education campus with studios, gallery, ‘Fablab’ café and workshops to be created at the former M&S building in Margate have been lodged with Thanet council by the EKC Group.

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

It comes following a successful £6.3 million bid to the governments Levelling Up Fund which was confirmed last year.

Ramsgate and Margate were among towns named as successfully apply for the funding with £6,306,078 granted for the Margate Digital project and £19,840,000 for Ramsgate Future.

Image Lee Evans Partnership

The £6.3m bid includes match-funding which will bring the 53-57 High street building back into use as the specialist industry-focused centre on the high street.

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.

A £750,000 project led by Thanet council has previously been spent on removing asbestos and renovations to the roof of the building in preparation for the Margate Digital works.

The new campus will also include co-working / studio space, a digital production lab, a photo studio and design booths and a 100sqm space for print and creative technologies workshops as an extension of The Margate School’s FabLab.

It will cater for some 300 students.

Image Lee Evans Partnership

Planning documents from EKC, which runs college campuses including at Broadstairs, says: “It is the intention of the campus to deliver a range of industry-recognised higher-level qualifications to support the advancement of local talent in their careers, as well as to forge relationships with local and regional businesses through shared initiatives and training opportunities, creating a base of well-trained, qualified, industry-ready graduates.

“Margate Digital will breathe new life into a vacant building which has, since 2006, held various planning uses including retail and non-retail operations.

The former Marks & Spencer building in Margate

“Linked to the provision of this education-led development in the centre of the town, EKC Group seeks to deliver related transformational benefits for Margate including: encouraging inward investment from companies eager to access skills; raising aspirations for young people in the area;  supporting education acting as the golden thread in weaving together industry and learning;  providing adult retraining opportunities ensuring upskilling and reskilling; and  supporting SME through providing support in digital marketing.”

The Margate School, an independent arts school based in the  former Woolworth building, will lease circa 500 sq m of space and will offer a new design-based postgraduate and professional development provision, with expanded Fabrication Laboratory (FabLab), VR and related knowledge exchange facilities.

Image Lee Evans Partnership

The planning documents say: “The combined offer of EKC Group and The Margate School presents a unique opportunity for the district in expanding its education offer within a specialist sector with related benefits.”

Opening hours would be 8am-6pm for core teaching but controlled access for staff and students will be available between 6am and 11pm.

The scheme sits alongside other projects earmarked for Margate as part of the £22.2 million Margate Town Deal which include a skatepark, the Oval Bandstand refurbishment, renovation of the Theatre Royal and a feasibility study at Margate Winter Gardens.

Money will also be spent on highways and public realm and a detailed £1.1million scheme at Walpole Bay which will include refurbishment of the tidal pool, improvements to the steps, refurbishment of the Grade ll listed lift and rotunda and proposals for a new health and wellbeing facility.

A controversial award of £4million to Dreamland will go towards the renovation and reopening the Dreamland Cinema building which has been empty for over a decade. The site will be turned into an entertainment and conference centre with space allocated to community use – understood to be the People Dem Collective group – and charities.


      • Exactly Paul, with the whole world interconnected companies based in Margate etc. can compete with those anywhere else in the world.

      • Possibly, but unless Thanet is somehow going to transform into a centre for the media, TV/Film, animation etc very quickly it means people are going to have to move or commute to get those jobs-so no money coming into the area through it. What exactly is the point of doing courses for jobs that don’t exist here?

        Just more of like the art gallery stuff trying to turn a run-down town into something it isn’t-Paris, Brighton, London. Basically it will be as useful for most as those University course on David Beckman, Homer Simpson etc.

        • You’ve read the word ‘art’ and gone off on the usual Thanet anti-art mob moan.

          Try re-reading what the article said:

          “T Levels in Animation, Architecture, Programming, Coding, Graphics, Marketing, TV and Film”

        • I work in animation and the animation productions increasingly work with skilled people remotely, the current production I am producing has animators working globally, its a whole new way of working and Margate is well placed to benefit, its a very exciting development.

    • Does every uni student stay in the area in which they attended uni to work? No. Of more interest is the bit about the renovation of Dreamland which makes it sound as if its a certainty. If so as its for sale whos progressing the work, has a planning application gone in.? Developed as entertainment/ conference space it’s pretty much the final nail in the Winter Gardens coffin and hardly good news for Thestre Royal, it’s difficult not to believe the whole thing has not been orchestrated to hand Dreamlands owners an open goal.

      • No, but please explain how spending vast sums of money on course for jobs that don’t exist here is going to do anything for Thanet? Once again it is all art & media & we have to pretend as we have with the Turder Centre for the last decade plus that having one building full of arty courses, while surrounded by an empty high street is going to rejuvenate the area.

        • You’re the usual anti-art negativo who doesn’t recognise that they themselves interact with the arts *every single hour of their life*.

          Let’s set aside that you’ve skipped over the words “Architecture, Programming, Coding” and go with your idea that this is all arts and is pointless..

          Every piece of graphic, font, logo, advert, brand, text, sound, vision that you experience are.. the creative arts.

          Unless you are going to tell me that you have no interest in written words, books, music, TV, film, drama, and even at a basic level would be happy to see every advert or piece of text you ever encounter be comic sans in black and white.. then I would suggest that arts are very relevent, to everyone.

          Stop being such an anti-art snob.

          PS. The “Turder” as you put in, brings in hundreds of thousands of visitors, spending their money in Thanet, creating jobs and opportunities and has massively outperformed its projections on visitor numbers.

          PPS. The creative arts, as a sector, generate billions for the UK economy and we’re very successful at it.

          • Paul
            “PPS. The creative arts, as a sector, generate billions for the UK economy and we’re very successful at it.”

            If that fact is true why does it need so much of our taxes ?

            Why cant the creature arts support themselves ?

            Where is all the money going ?

            Why doesnt the TC charge an entrance fee ?

            The creative sector is getting way to much of our taxes.

          • Confused,

            It’s called return on investment, you put a bit of money in and get a lot back.

            TC likely doesn’t charge an entrance fee because it has other forms of income, the shop, cafe, some ticketed exhibitions, commercial sponsors and yes, probably some public investment.

          • Paul

            If TC has other forms of income but still has needed over 20 million of our taxes over the last decade, something is very wrong with the way it is run. The commercial manager needs sacking.

            How can the creative industry bring in billions as you say yet still needs millions our taxes ?

            That’s the problem with the art sector they seem to think it’s good that their hobby is supported by hard workers taxes. I dont

            All my interest I pay for.

            The government doesnt let me go to gigs, sport events ect for free. But I can go and look at art ( lol ) for free. That is wrong.

          • It’s called up front investment.

            You put some money in to build something, and then you get that money back over time, through tax receipts, more jobs (reduced benefits bills) and wider benefits to the economy and residents.

            It’s a curse on this country that over the last 40+ years people have been conditioned into believing in only their own outcome, money in their own pocket and to hell with long term investment and doing things for the greater good.

            This country is built on short termism.

            I shan’t waste further time on this.

          • Paul

            I dont see how investing in say the Turner Centre or the arts is helping anyone but the art sector.

            Why dont we invest more in police, NHS, schools, mental health, homelessness etc

            To pump millions into the art sector which quite frankly can afford to pay themselves, is a national disgrace.

            Tell me one good reason why the TC doesnt charge an entrance fee ? Is it to inflate the visitor numbers ?

            Why cant cinema be free ?

            The art community are just getting a free ride and expect us hard working people in real jobs to fund their hobby.

      • Clearly didn’t read the article Peter?

        EKC are setting up a permanent digital satellite site for students, new courses will be available and existing courses will move from the Broadstairs Campus to allow expansion there in the spaces vacated, this is a win for Margate town centre.

        Or would you prefer the building sat empty and gradually fell further into disrepair and became a stone around TDC and the Tax Payer necks?

  1. Wouldn’t surprise me if this is part of a bigger masterplan.

    Moving more students from a site that is already way too big for the student numbers there into a taxpayer-funded satellite site in Margate.

    Next step, start selling off areas of the Broadstairs campus to developers and bank the proceeds ! Nicely done.

    • Of course! Why nobody can see that Broadstairs wants to move a site that is woefully under used to an old Marks and Sparks shop.. let’s get hairdressing, beauty, early years training, car mechanics, painting and decorating, metalwork, carpentry, media, technology, maths, English, special needs, electronics, catering, hospitality and music plus others courses into that empty shop. It’s truly a no brained…

      • They have the Margate Art School just down the road at Woolies as well. You can see TDC have put everything into the arts the last decade because they are sipping the pretentious Kool-Aid & enjoy the free booze-ups & other perks. Meanwhile it is empty shops everywhere.

      • You think the College can fit 2 garages, 6 commercial kitchens, 3 hair salons, 2 beauty rooms, 10+ computer rooms, 3 band rooms, a recording studio, an art studio, photography studio, darkroom, engineering workshop, 2 carpentry workshops, P&D workshop, plumbing workshop, 100+ theory rooms, a Supported Learning hub and all its offices and staffrooms into Marks & Sparks? Not to mention the 200+ staff and 1500 students?

        • Who said anything about moving the whole college ? When I was younger loads of my friends did O levels and A levels at Broadstairs College. They don’t do those anymore. All the local schools have 6th forms.

          The point I was making is that switching loads of students and staff from Broadstairs to Margate will free up even more space which was all used back in the golden years of the college. I would be very surprised if the current student numbers exceed those which went to the college when they did academic qualifications. Add that to the spaces which aren’t used for academic courses any more and you have chunks of the site which will potentially be attractive to sell off. Prime land for developers.

          • Over 90% of the College buildings are used solely for teaching, either practical or theory. There really aren’t any unused spaces of any significance.

            If you or your friends studied O’Levels then you left school over 30 years ago, the College has changed significantly in the last 10 years, what you remember of it in the mid 1980’s is irrelevant.

  2. This is wasted in margate… margate wants motorbike peolpe to visit once a year so the local shops can ‘sell ice creams’ .. margate is stuck in 1960’s … long before computers … just being Frank

  3. The Margate Digital campus will bring in young people and staff to Margate and it’ll increae the footfall to the shops and food places. It’s a win for the fast food places! Public transport will need upgrading to support extra students coming in too, providing better provision for locals. Seems like a win win!
    Courses are funded by the college from government or the students on the course (if they aren’t eligible for government funding). TDC won’t be funding courses, it doesn’t work that way.
    EKC are business savvy – they’ll make this a success, at least on the surface. They won’t care about staff/students having to pay to park their car though in Margate, unlike those at Broadstairs. They’ll free up some car parking space with some staff relocated then sell it for housing. They’ll even give the loss of car parking some eco/green spin to “encourage cycling to work”.

    • There are no intentions to sell off land at Broadstairs College, areas of the site are scheduled for redevelopment to increase the courses offered so even more people can get qualifications and improve their lives.

  4. Pie in the sky. College at Westwood sits empty!
    Where are staff going to park? Ulterior motive here yet to be discovered.

  5. This honestly seems like a silly plan. as a student who has done computing there in the last few years and know many still there it stinks of upper management planning big with no real plan to properly staff in. as on the Computing side they only been able to keep one HE lecture whose properly qualified for the last few years. how they are expected to upscale massively from that with a clear lack of applications coming in from the amount of times the post goes empty is bewildering. ontop of the numbers in the classes going down from 50+ to the middle teens of total students joining the course. this is outside all of the skeletons this college has waiting for an out makes this whole thing seem like the monopoly strategy they been going for with FE provisions starting to be expanded into HE.

  6. No use for the OAP’S Bring back some shops and inexpensive cafe’s where the older people can meet up. Not many people in Margate can afford a cup of coffee for £2.50! There are no shops left in the high street like there used to be. People would meet up have coffee then browse round the shops not everyone loikes going to Westwood Cross !!!!

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