Thanet council faces repair bill due to vandalism and fire damage at listed Nayland shelter

Fire damage at the Nayland shelter last March Photo Peter Hasted

Thanet council is facing a large repair bill due to damage from fire and vandalism at the  Nayland shelter, best known as the site where poet T S Eliot wrote part of The Waste Land.

The shelter is being used by around four people understood to be sleeping rough, although only one of the group is confirmed as receiving help from the council’s homelessness team RISE.

Photo John Horton

The structure has suffered damage from bonfires, seating set alight and ripped out arm rests. There have also be complaints of antisocial behaviour.

One angry resident, who asked not to be named, said: “It’ll end up being burned down, wrecked and totally destroyed never to be rebuilt. Why have the authorities permitted people to encamp there and cause such wilful damage to an artifact of the town?

“Those responsible should be made to do community service to repair it and learn a new skill in woodwork at the same time.”

The Nayland Rock Shelter, how it should look, Photo TDC

The shelter on Marine Terrace is grade II listed as a ‘good’ and ‘large’ example of a late-Victorian/Edwardian seaside structure and for its special literary association with TS Eliot and  ‘The Waste Land’ poem which was published in 1922. It was constructed in 1900 and restored in 1998, although the first shelter was recorded at the site between 1872 and 1896.

Photo John Horton

A Thanet council spokesperson said: “The council is aware of the situation at the listed Nayland Rock shelter, which recently sustained damage. The shelter will require repairs to make it safe. A notice has been put up at the site to advise caution ahead of the work being completed.

Photo Peter Hasted (flowers planted by Wildernesses to Wonderland)

“Our RISE team is working with an individual who has been staying in the shelter, to find suitable accommodation and to provide multi-agency support. The repair works will start when the individual is in alternative accommodation.”


The most recent rough sleeper count recorded 11 people on the streets and 45 people receiving assistance from the RISE homelessness team. Some 199 households are in temporary accommodation.

Thanet council receives around 1,000 homelessness applications each year. The council is landlord of 3034 properties but demand outstrips supply.

The Thanet Shelter, which provides accommodation and services for people who have been sleeping rough, had been based in the  Broadstairs English Centre property but had to move out at the end of last month so the language school could move back in.

The scheme has been based at the language school since November 2020 when the covid pandemic meant Public Health guidance restricting shared sleeping spaces ruled out the former method of using different churches in the district.

The language school was also hit by the pandemic with overseas students unable to travel to the UK for courses.

Since then the Shelter has been a 24/7 support hub rather than services only being offered between November and March.

The centre, which has 10 dormitories at its St Peters Park Road base, was leased to Thanet council but this agreement ended on February 28. Thanet council is looking for an alternative property.

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  1. Looking forward to seeing the comments on this one 🤣. My heart goes out to the homeless and I am sure that they find the shelters a godsend in the wind and rain but surely they should be relocated to more suitable places. The first thing you see coming into Margate is an encampment 🤷🏻‍♂️. TDC are an absolute joke 😳

    • I also read that many of the rough sleepers have been offered accommodation but because it comes with the caveat of no drugs and no alcohol, it is declined.

      Therefore, if an individual makes a lifestyle choice that is their privilege in our free society. In other countries, they may indeed be rounded up and accommodated elsewhere.

      Our own Workhouses and Poorhouses were all closed as they were decried as too Victorian and too draconian in a civilised society . . .

  2. One angry resident, who asked not to be named, said: “It’ll end up being burned down, wrecked and totally destroyed never to be rebuilt. Why have the authorities permitted people to encamp there and cause such wilful damage to an artifact of the town?

    The answer is most likely, that like the ghost town High Street, the Theatre Royal & The Winter Gardens etc, it isn’t ‘sexy’ art or a ‘sexy’ theme park entertainment venue, so they want nothing to do with it & leave it to rot.

    • What’s “sexy” mean in the context of art? Not that I expect Steve to have a clue about anything to do with art, really.

      • No, I only like artists with actual talent. You know-sexy, as in dirty beds, stick people with giant boobs & dongs, cloths glued on walls, random bric-a-brac piled up on the floor, Bansky wall stencils etc.

        • I don’t see how any of those things can be described as “sexy”.Actually ,the latter is not a word I use. By “dongs” I suppose Steve means penises rather than loud noises. And “boobs” , I suppose, means breasts.

  3. I knew this would happen TDC were warned of the possibility the same happened to the one in marine drive happened twice I suggested boarding that one or other security measures to keep it safe shutters would help answer from local government officer they will only do it again it’s still needs repair of course that one doesn’t seem to be as important as for homeless TDC say we cannot force people into accomodation many refuse local government officers are to blame not always elected councillors it’s about Cost hope they repair the one at the same time as the Nayland same kind of damage that one was done by a group of teenage girls but never prosecuted was seen not always homeless people who do this hopefully soon offenders could do the work that needs done.

  4. The homeless at the Nayland Rock are unlikely to want to move voluntarily as they have a great catchment spot. Lots of walkers go past, it’s near the bus cafe and bars, opposite Brewers Fayre and the train station, lots of opportunities for handouts.

  5. I agree with comments by JJ and Steve whole heartedly. TDC’s priorities need to be re-thought in my opinion.

  6. I do feel sorry for most of the homeless people but this particular encampment is a bloody eyesore as you drive into Margate. Why has TDC let it get this big and not nipped it in the bud. They could have kept it a bit tidier and maybe it wouldn’t have drawn so much attention!

    • As the article says only 1 is being helped by Rise, it’s extremely unlikely that the group hasn’t been approached iits entirety to try and get them somewhere more appropriate, the place is highly visible and so gets lots of attention. But if you’ve ever been past them you’d be forgiven for assuming that they’re a particularly problematic group of habitual drug abusers who have no interest in in the effect they have on their surrounds and the people that pass by. But they can and will do as they want, the destruction of the shelter being of little concern to them.
      Short of being given a house in which all costs are covered and in which they can do exactly as they please they won’t be interested in moving on, and who would want that lot living next door.?

  7. Maybe Stretch “charity” should get involved, get some real community engagement going on with the homeless drug users and give them some sort of creative art/poetry/theatre workshops to make the shelter a new craetive hub. After all Dean and co love a good crack.

    • Most likely it suits them to be there in full view for their own sake. It doesn’t seem to matter what the rest of us who live in the local area think about it. It really is an eyesore and there’s no real reason for it. We have to pay our bills and Council Tax and we take pride in where we live because we’re proud of it. So why should the majority have to be dragged down by the minority who don’t care about anyone but themselves and have no pride in Margate whatsoever?

  8. Ironic that millions are poured into the homelessness service but the problem just gets worse and worse.

    Perhaps TDC should learn lessons from the mistakes Canterbury made in the past where they set up a huge infrastructure to deal with homeless people with the result that the city just became a huge magnet to homeless people across the whole south east and made the problem much worse.

    • “Ironic that millions are poured into the homelessness service but the problem just gets worse and worse.”

      Aye, its almost as if its top down GOV policy that’s ensuring there is a steady flow of people from working class to homeless, isn’t it?

  9. People might have thought the Shelter was a pilot social housing initiative – leading up to residentialisation of the Old Town Hall. After all, Heritage is so Yesterday !
    As it is, Thanet has the distinction (according to the Empty Homes Agency) of achieving an 18% uplift in long term empties in 2022 as against 2021 – there are 1,033 such properties AND there has been an increase in 2nd homes of 10%, chipping in at a mere 1,907. Altogether 1 in 25 local properties are ‘non-prime occupancy’.
    Heresy to say so but a little joined up thinking and re-ordering of priorities might see more emphasis on utilising present resources rather than permitting ‘executive estates’ on green fields.
    It remains a mystery that, with the indigenous population failing to replace itself (birth rates need to be 2.1 per fertile female and they are about 1.5) quite why Thanet is expecting a 25% population increase over the next decade or so – someone is keeping quiet about the executive job demand ? And the 30% ‘affordable’ requirement is for the seagulls.
    So let’s hope the administration after 6 May has some pragmatism.

    • But underlying your figures there must surely be a demand for the homes being built as the house builders are hardly known for their charitable aims. The “executive” homes are perhaps largely aimed at those who now work from home for most of the working week. Rumours circulate as to the tenure of the homes once built , ownership seemingly attributed to london boroughs and housing associations attracted by the relatively low cost ( by standards of the SE) and whilst the birthrate in the uk may be falling the overall population of the bation is hardly in decline , largely due to immigration policy , all those extra people want /need somewhere to live.
      Quite how large thanet will be in 20 years remains to be seen but it rather looks as though it’ll at least twice the size it was when i moved here in the late 80’s. How many of lifes least fortunate/ desirable also come or are placed here remains to be seen, but it can probably be assumed that there won’t be the resources/ ability/will to deal with them.

  10. What matters is ‘effective demand’ – developers are happy ‘land banking’ and current inflation rates, particularly in construction materials and the effects of Brexit on skilled labour supply – should mean a period for reflection (no doubt the forthcoming local election results will emphasise the ‘post Amersham’ discontent in the SE.) Quite possibly developers (rumoured to contribute a substantial slice of party funds but that’s possibly irrelevant ?) have relied on ‘Help to Buy’, which has only added to house price inflation to bail them out – as prices are expected to fall by 10% plus there may be large numbers tied down by negative equity which is not good for the national economy overall. I never got a straight answer from the representative at the Millwood Westgate presentation the other year : ‘don’t you want your children to have a roof over their heads ?’ Answer : ‘they won’t be in the market for 4 beds with garages too soon – what do you think is ‘affordable’ on the average salaries round here, assuming you have a job ? There aren’t many executive toffee-apple sellers, chambermaids or cabbage pickers’ He walked away
    a disappointed man !
    Meanwhile, what does TDC propose to do about ‘non prime occupied properties’ ? Hopefully all prospective candidates in May will address the issues.

    • To my mind help to buy was just the bonus ball thrown in to compensate for the sec106 contributions have to pay , which in turn are just a way of getting around local opposition to a degree ( lets the locals think they’ve had their pound of flesh)
      As to homes that are not used a principle residence. The numbers that are in the holiday / short let sector is largely the result of the national mood towards residential landlords , who’ve been pilloried and disproportionately taxed/legislated to the extent that moving to airbnb style lets is much more attractive. Any sane person would have thought policy should be encouraging the opposite, but playing to the baying mob is much easier than considered action and explanation. Empty homes there will always be those that are being refurbished or developed , the situation is likely more complex than simplistic numbers suggest. Second homes another conundrum where they are solely for occasional use by the owner.

  11. ‘the site where poet T S Eliot wrote part of The Waste Land’ – love it, how appropriate for Thanet?!
    I get all of the above, however what I do not get is the repeated lack of forward thinking at TDC. It was well known in advance of 28 February that the lease agreement with Shelter would end then, yet TDC has only just started looking for an alternative.
    TDC really needs to up its game across all departments, the stand in chief executive has had no impact and the politicians are too busy scoring petty points – things will only improve when there is fundamental change from top to bottom.

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