Three years ago today (August 22) the Fort Hill shelter in Margate was boarded up by Thanet council as a temporary measure due to safety issues.
Today, that temporary measure is still in place and plans for its future are not clear.
Residents in the town are now questioning whether the boarding will ever come down.
According to a Freedom of Information response, some £16,000 has been spent on work including boarding it up and recently adorning the structure with More to Explore TDC campaign graphics. Residents say that money could be used for refurbishment similar to the work carried out by The Friends of Birchington Shelters group who restored all nine of the village’s seafront shelters. The Friends, who first took on the refurbishment in 2017, raised funds for the work which was mostly carried out by volunteers.
In Ramsgate seafront shelters have been repaired and maintained by volunteers and The Ramsgate Society, which initially raised £540,000 for work on 14 structures. In Broadstairs painting work, which included shelters around Victoria Gardens, was carried out by people on the community payback scheme.
The Fort Hill shelter was initially closed off to the public with Thanet council saying: ““Fort Hill Shelter has been temporarily boarded up in the interests of public safety. On 22 August 2019, the council’s Building Control team deemed it a dangerous structure and served a Section 78 Building Act notice to immediately make it safe. The danger has now been removed in accordance with these requirements and the Shelter is now deemed safe.”
The plan was for members of the Margate Now group to display artwork on the boarding in the run up to the Turner Prize coming to Margate. Thanet council said following that: “an independent assessment will take place to inform future options and ensure due process is followed.”
Edgar Road resident David Orford said: “It’s a disgrace that for not much more than £16,000 the community in Birchington completely rebuilt each of their shelters and yet in Margate the money has been spent on keeping us locked out.”
Fellow local resident Moon Ferguson agreed: “It’s completed unjustified how they have treated it and makes no financial sense.”
A suggestion has been made that some of the £22m Town Deal money could be used to bring the shelter back to life but Thanet council says it is not an appropriate project for the scheme.
Peter Blem is a former member of the Margate Town Deal People’s Panel who was dismissed in a squabble about his questioning the allocation of the deal’s funding. He said: “The Town Deal almost entirely ignores our legacy assets. Unless there is a serious change of direction, expect none of the £22 million to reach any of our neglected heritage that needs it.”
Thanet council says there are no plans to sell the shelter and the authority is open to working with the community “once suitable plans are approved.”
A council spokesperson said: “The Fort Hill Shelter was found to be in urgent need of repair in August 2019, due to damage to the pillars supporting the shelter’s concrete roof. Immediate action was taken to secure the site, and the structure was boarded up to ensure the safety of members of the public.
“There are no plans to sell the shelter. The council will be working on a plan to determine the most appropriate future for the building. The Shelter is not an appropriate project for Margate Town Deal funding.
“We welcome support from community volunteer groups on refurbishment programmes, once suitable plans are approved and the correct permissions and insurances are in place.”
On other parts of the coastline work has taken place to replace the roofs of shelters in Westbrook and Foreness Point and TDC says it is “actively seeking funding to continue a programme of maintenance work.”
Additional reporting by David Orford