Thanet council plan to take on Ramsgate High Street site for creative studios and cafe

Ramsgate High Street (image google)

Negotiations are underway for Thanet council to take on the lease of a Ramsgate High Street property – with the former Argos and former New Look sites mentioned in a Cabinet report – to be converted into creative studios, a café/bar, gallery and arts retail space.

Thanet council Cabinet members agreed earlier this month to move forward with the plans using money from a £2.7million Future High Street Fund grant which was granted in 2020 and secured in May 2021.

The funding was awarded to provide more workspace in the town centre for creative industries, bringing empty buildings back into use, and to improve the highway, including accessibility from the Harbour into Harbour Street.

Proposals were initially for Thanet council to take the lease for Celandine Hall in Harbour Street but there were delays. The property, whose owners had received Heritage Action Zone funding for property renovations, was subsequently leased to The Modern Boulangerie which has expanded from its Westcliff Road shop and is due to open next month.

Thanet council has now submitted a revised project outline to government and is negotiating terms for the new site.

Discussions over the site were carried out in a private session due to commercial sensitivity but a report about the plans highlights the empty former Argos and former New Look stores which have both been shut for around four years.

The plan is to provide around 96 workspaces for use by individuals and businesses in the creative industries sector,

The report says the site will also provide a central point for creative and cultural enterprise, education, training and community engagement.

Since negotiations fell for Celandine Hall Thanet council says: “During the intervening period, the market has changed and Ramsgate town centre has experienced an increase in private sector investment, including in the historic Harbour Street area.

“However, investment has not been consistent for the entirety of the High Street.”

A Ramsgate Town Centre study undertaken by Oneday Regen in May 2022 and included in the Cabinet report, identified that: ‘The exceptions [to Ramsgate’s progress in lettings across the high street] being the largest units, in particular New Look and Argos. With the decline in the chain retail market and current leases in place with the former tenants these units are likely to remain vacant unless the council intervenes… uses should be considered to address the shortage of alternative uses such as culture and leisure.’”

The Future High Street Fund was announced in December 2018. Thanet council submitted an expression of interest in 2019. In 2020 Thanet council was awarded funding for two schemes in Ramsgate – a Highway scheme and workspace provision. In 2021 the £2.7m scheme was approved by council.

Thanet council says: “The council had been working hard to identify new sites in order to deliver this project. This was in order to fully utilise the project funding. A change private sector investment in Ramsgate had provided some challenges to the project, although there (is) still great demand for creative workspace provision.

Cabinet agreed to authorise the Director of Regeneration to complete negotiations for the site in the High Street and enter into a sub-lease until March 2027.

Ramsgate allocated £2.7m from government Future High Streets Fund


  1. “Discussions over the site were carried out in a private session but a report about the plans highlights the empty former Argos and former New Look stores.”
    Why were discussions held in private and were minutes/notes taken. We have already been down this route with the former leader of TDC Chris Wells where meetings were taken in secret and sometimes in public places.
    What ever happened to Open Government. ?
    However, I sincerely this proposal comes to fruition. It can only be good for Ramsgate residents.

    • Margate took over Ramsgate, and all the other towns and villages years ago, when they were all merged into Thanet District council. The so called town councils are just another guise for them to make money at the tax payers expense.

    • Fight what? Dont see you fight anything but moan. Take up your banner and hound tdc yourself.
      96 creative spaces.. That be sold to provide flats you see

  2. This fund for the arts gets bigger and bigger,where’s the money coming from to find this fund,and how many buildings are involved in it, more money for the arts,let artists pay their own way

    • But do you think it should be given priority over peoples’ energy bills or (say) training people to work in care homes and on building sites? I don’t.

      I am NOT anti-art, but I just believe it shouldn’t be funded willy-nilly (imagine if evey budding author got similar funding, there would rightly be an outcry!).

    • Because is only doing well thanks to OUR TAXES. If art had to pay it’s way it wouldnt survive.

      Personally I think OUR TAXES should be spent on more important things , like heat, food , mental health etc

  3. how original ” art ” when will someone come up with something new ? . and something thats of use to everyone !! not just the arty farty mob – its getting ridiculous now.

  4. Isn’t there already a venue for arts activities bythe flats not to mention in Harbour street. How many do we need?

  5. To make the town viable again ( if it is at all possible ) it needs a complete rethink. Parking Wardens should be anti graffiti specialists tracking down the perps , whilst getting rid of the graffiti . The lovely gate in Harbour Street could be donated to Ukraine to make ammo and it would reopen clear access to the town. The one way system should be abandoned to allow buses and traffic to flow both ways between Queen Street and King Street with a 15mph speed limit and the car parks need to be free of all charges to attract shoppers and regenerate the town and tempt businesses to give it go . Sadly this is just a dream so it will be Carry On Quick To A Ghost Town .

    • You want the main shopping areas to be pedestrianised, so the entire cobbled area n the town centre. You can park just behind the high street anyway, you don’t need to park directly outside the shop you are going to.

      Why so obsessed with driving everywhere, there are two perfectly useable car parks within 1 – 2 minutes walk of the high street. If you want people to use it for shopping you can’t have a free for all for cars in the cobbled area’s in the town centre. Kings street for a start is not wide enough for two way traffic in many parts.

      Sounds like the only thing you are concerned about is being able to drive and park directly outside the shop you want to go in. You have legs for a reason!

      • Ramsgate was the busiest town in Thanet before pedestrianisation and the ridiculous fact that it is impossible to get from King Street to Queen Street in a vehicle. Many shops in the pedestrianised High St., Queen St. King St. are closed and not viable. Westwood X does not charge for parking and does not have Parking Attendants prowling around, is not blighted by graffiti , so without a radical plan Ramsgate town is doomed to fail.

        • If you opened up the town centre, you still wouldn’t be able to park outside the store you wanted to visit, because 20 others would have already have parked there. You’d have to park somewhere else … for example, a nearby car park.
          The car parks at WWX are not “free”. Who do you think pays for their upkeep and maintenance, the rates and so on? Certainly not the share holders.
          Actually, anyone who shops at WWX pays, even if they didn’t drive there

          • For a non-driver like me, a bigger problem than parking in Ramsgate and Margate are the vagrants in doorways. At one time they would’ve been moved on by the police, as they still are by private security in Westwood Cross.

  6. Art it is I’m afraid. Whether you like it or not, nobody wants these big stores anymore. The likes of Woolworths, Debenhams, BHS etc., have gone to the wall in part because of the staggering business rates they have to pay on these huge floor spaces and online trading. All over the country, these huge shops are standing empty and you can only have so many supermarkets.
    Art galleries seem to be the only thing left that these stores can be used for and, as some people here have already said, it’s better than them just standing empty.

    • Another idea would be to knock ’em down and build housing instead of concreting over Thanet’s farms.

      I bought some Braeburn apples in the Co-Op yesterday, and when I got them home I was shocked to see they’d be flown in from South Africa – why not grow then in the garden of England?!

    • Wrong… Stores could be used for young people. Only art they know is graffiti tags. I see nothing creative about this stupid idea of 96 spaces.. Waste of space.
      Young people need a voice in Ramsgate not F…. ART

  7. Will it happen? The harbour parade/harbour car park/ maritime museum were awarded millions in Levelling Up fund money (or did I dream that?) what has happened? Where is the money? Plans and more plans but, sadly, only those projects backed with private sector money seem to actually get off the ground.

  8. All well and good, but given that the country is in for a good few years of belt tightening is there really any point training ever more artists to turn out products that are very much the preserve of those with extra cash for a lifestyle item? Whats the point in having ever more people chasing fewer consumer pounds and with few other real world skills.

    • So much negativity in these comments. At least this gets the building in use and some more people in and around the town using the shops we still have. It’s a ghost town and more shops will close if we don’t use them.

      • My comment wasn’t against the building being repurposed or the provision of training/job opportunities. Rather the idea that “art” is a viable career option for so many people. Perhaps a bit of multi trade skills training, basic office skills, literacy/numeracy classes and IT skills would be more likely to get people used to a work environment and have a chance of getting a job, also a steady stream of work ready people may encourage employers to move to the area.
        But no we’ll go for the lazy option of art.

    • I totally agree, LC. There are a finite number of locals and visitors who come to buy Etworks, and money is tight. Multiplying the number of shops offering these wares is self-defeating. It will cost stallholders a fortune in heating costs if the cost of that is not going to be swallowed up by council tax payers. The high-level flourescent lighting available is not ideal for the display of artworks. Margate Old Town gets the balance right, and Broadstsirs, but if potential buyers there drift off to Ramsgate to spend money of arts and crafts there INSTEAD, then will that actually help the Margate or Broadstairs art establishments?

  9. tracey rembrant emin must laugh her head off , when shes not in the public eye – millions of pounds for something a 4 year old child could do ? and as for all this well it represents my struggle etc = my ar*e

  10. None of this art nonsense is viable or sustainable – it all has to be funded. And we certainly do not want TDC in the business of property development.

    Sadly, the only demand is for residential use, not commercial. We continue to expand our population and need to provide them with housing . . .

  11. Up until the late 1960s we had two departmental stores in Ramsgate. Bourne’s in the High Street and Lewis and Hyland in Harbour Street. All that’s gone! Building and creating flats and homes in the town from a decrepit King Street and other run down areas is only bringing more people into the area and we do not have the medical infrastructure to cope with the population now! We need Manston Airport and it’s associated jobs, skilled and non-skilled to lift the area not art for arts sake.

    • You might need Manston Airport, but very few other people did.
      So few people flew from it that it went bust several times.
      The number of jobs offered by Manston, should it become operational, are fewer than the number of jobs at Wetherspoons.

    • Christine

      You sort of lose your argument about not wanting more people to more into the area due to lack of infrastructure.

      If manston was to reopen where do you think the personnel would come from ? Not thanet as it doesnt have the skills set. So people would be moving in to work at manston yet as you say we dont have the infrastructure ! Manston might employ a few local cleaners etc but that’s it.

      Doncaster airport is closing, southend is being reduced so lots of experienced looking for work.

      PS manston wont open anyway lol

  12. It’s no good dealing with on town in thanet. The problem is wider than that.

    Thanet as a whole is a dirty unkempt place.

    We have graffiti, promenade shelters without glass, dirty bus stops, litter, weeds, etc.
    As soon as you get to the welcome to thanet on the thanet way theres 3 foot weeds along the road, litter, graffiti.

    Thanet is the dirtiest place I ever lived in and hopefully wont be here much longer.

    It is going to take millions to make thanet like most other places, the attitude of KCC, and TDC and the people who live in thanet needs to change.
    It’s the councils that allow the weeds etc but its thanet people that drop litter and do graffiti. Everyone needs to work together but that wouldnt happen. KCC dont know where thanet is ! TDC only care about margate, and people walk around blindly thinking art is the answer to all thanets problems!

  13. Creative art on how to waste Council Tax Payers money without there say so.
    High Streets across the UK need reducing in size thus freeing up land for new modern homes to be built without the need of building on farmland.

  14. Need more disabled parking more community opportunities decent reasonable excisable shops bring our market back and a area we’re people of less fortunate can go and receive the help and proper support they need we also need to clean up the area with more vegetation plants trees hanging baskets from lamp posts window boxes to make out town more welcoming and a friendlier place to be were people fill safe and secure even introduce street acks music this would make people want to work and shop and keep coming back PUSH OUT ANTISOCIAL BRING BACK COMMUNITY.

  15. Its a big old site, but there is a Fire Station round the corner that could do a better job, and has parking and bus services nearby. Why not develop something where the community already owns the freehold than a shop on the periphery of the retail area, which will cost shed loads of money to fix up and rent.
    What is needed is a multipurpose freehold site where a money advice centre for individuals and businesses can get good advice and they are going to need it in the coming months.If we add in a Credit Union so that small sums can be saved and lent, there will be something of value for the town.There is a freehold site just a few feet down from there which would fulfil that purpose. So for a fraction of the cash that is going to be spent here, you can have Arts and activities at the Fire Station and really useful if not vital advice in the high street.
    Of course it won’t happen because the Levelling up money is burning a hole in TDC’s pocket and god forbid that they work with the Town Council, useless or not.As usual with TDC it is ‘Not Invented Here’, so reason and logic go out of the window.

  16. The Fire Station was originally bequethed to the whole town for community use but things seem to have gone quiet and it is being used by the council to house their equipment. When will they restore it and hand over to the community.

  17. Should bring back some sort of youth training to encourage the younger population to get out and contribute to the area by learning basic life skills from home economics to working a trade the basic skills to learn and not rely on benefits structure let them help out on the farms for harvesting picking crops

  18. If it an arts studio or youth training venture would it be possible to engage them on a worthwhile venture to travel around Ramsgate painting over the vast amounts of graffiti that is blighting every area of Ramsgate. The 7days tag is prominent even in Margate by Arlington Car Park so maybe we could have a crew work for 7 days to blot it out along with all the rest of the graffiti 😢

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