Thanet Earth bid to use former university student rooms in Broadstairs for workers’ accommodation

The former Broadstairs student accommodation site

An application has been lodged with Thanet council to change the former student accommodation block that served the Christ Church University campus at Broadstairs into a House of Multiple Occupation for workers.

Thanet Earth  had made a  pre-application for views on onsite workers accommodation at Birchington but concerns were raised about impacts on the character of the area.

Now the greenhouse complex business hopes to use the Northwood Court site which consists of 85 units of former student accommodation and 1 warden flat to provide accommodation for its staff.

Thanet Earth is the UK’s largest single production site growing salad crops under glass. There are currently around 700 staff at peak time in a mixture of skilled and unskilled roles employed over the whole site, including the packhouse and glasshouses. The facility operates all year round supplying British supermarkets.

Thanet Earth is a joint venture with the Fresca Group Ltd.

‘Accommodation for up to 84 workers’

Planning documents state: “Temporary and seasonal labour is a common feature of the supply chain and the potential risk for ethical issues is taken seriously. Fresca is committed to reducing the risk of slavery and human trafficking within their own business and supply chains.

“This application follows a pre-application enquiry with TDC in respect of siting modular accommodation on the main site in Birchington. The response indicated that such a proposal would unlikely be viewed favourably by officers, with encouragement being made to consider alternative solutions within the existing urban areas.

“The application building comprises 86 rooms, with this proposal providing accommodation for up to 84 workers, with 2 wardens. The warden’s flats will house a day shift manager and a night shift manager, meaning the building is supervised at all times when the workers are present. The wardens will be first aid trained and act as fire wardens, in addition to being able to assist with any welfare issues and general maintenance. The client will be operating the building as they do their workplace to ensure it is a safe place for all workers.

“The accommodation will also provide provision for seasonal peak workers when the labour demands are more intense.

“Whilst the number of workers within the building may be high, vehicle movements generated from the proposal will remain low. The workers will be transported to and from the Thanet Earth site in Birchington by a 53 seat coach.

“Thanet Earth will also be providing communal cycles to be used by the workers at the proposed accommodation, promoting sustainable methods of transport to the local amenities in the area. Workers will also be encouraged to cycle to work.”

Decline of affordable properties

The planning document outlines the decline in available and affordable properties in Thanet and says the lack of workers accommodation is starting to have a negative impact on the business.

The report, by RPS Group, says: “The past few years have seen a dramatic decline in available and affordable properties in the Thanet area. In recent years, Thanet Earth has taken on around 400 new workers to work in the glasshouse facilities at Birchington. The new workers have varied between short term workers, whilst others have been employed for the longer term projects. It is envisaged these increased numbers will be required on an annual basis.

“Over a 12 month period, Thanet Earth has recruited 117 employees, 44 of whom have been recruited internally and retained. 17 skilled positions have been recruited and 13 retained. 56 operations positions have been recruited, and 24 retained (15 if those retained have been employed within the last 6 months).

“Recent data shows that approximately 60-70% of workers need housing as part of their new assignment. Where there is a lack of housing, this can result in negative impacts on the sector and business, as some workers will have to wait to start their employment, whilst others will be lost to businesses outside Thanet should accommodation be available.”

Thanet Earth says the problem can lead to disruption, including delayed production runs; increase in produce waste and a loss of orders.

The former student accommodation in Broadstairs

In October 2018, Savills Estate agents were appointed to market the premises along with the nearby Allen & Carey Buildings which also formed part of the Christ Church University Broadstairs Campus complex.

The premises were being offered for sale (freehold) as a collective or separately, with Northwood Court being offered as one lot and the Allen & Carey buildings as a separate lot.

Nelson College London proceeded with an offer in September 2021 for all the buildings and the purchase  completed in May 2022.

However, Nelson College decided it would not require all of the buildings and issued instructions  to market the facility for sale or let, either as three separate units or as a collective in May 2022.

In November 2022 Nelson College agreed to let the Northwood Court premises to Clearsprings Ready Homes who provide accommodation for asylum seekers under contract to the Home Office. Some occupants were moved into the premises but it was noted that certain conditions of the lease had not been met. The occupants were removed, and the lease was revoked.

The Thanet Earth application solely relates to the Northwood Court building. Nelson College London are planning use of part of the campus site with Roostys Bakery now installed in the Allen building.

The application for workers’ accommodation is yet to be decided by Thanet council.

The Roostys Bakery soft opening is on Bank Holiday Monday, 11am to 2pm. There will be a bouncy castle, music, free snacks and tea (whilst stocks last). The bakery will officially open the following morning.

An update from the Nelson College team says it looks like the Thanet Earth bid will not progress –

Nelson College London take over former Christ Church campus in Broadstairs with Roostys Bakery opening second venue on site


  1. we all know whats realy going on , why dont they come clean – the whole thing is about economic migrants , and putting them first . we must be a laughing stock throughout europe. i wonder how long this posting will survive before its censored by the thought police ??

    • I don’t think the thought police would bother with you, real world. Lack of any evidence will hold them back!

    • If Thanet Earth wants accommodation for workers than build homes on their own site ,they have plenty of land in and around Thanet Earth so build on it !

      • Surely nobody wants homes to be built on greenfield sites when there are empty properties available.

    • You are so right ,they do think we are stupid, this will come down to the right size brown envelopes, you know what I mean 😉

  2. Can you clarify what they mean by “seasonal workers”? Do they mean from other parts of the uk?

  3. Great to see that this unused accommodation is being brought back into use.
    Good to see steps being taken to get more people working there, so food will be on the shop shelves rather than rotting in the ground.

  4. Like a lot of prime Farm land it should have never been built on in the first place.
    Soon we will have no chance of feeding ourselves and will rely on other countries, who then can hold us to ransom. Like Russia is doing with energy. Politicians madness

    • Please don’t show your stupidity so openly. The Thanet Earth ‘buildings’ are offering far higher levels of food production than open fields. We need many more of these greenhouses to start the move to food self sufficiency.

  5. I hope Thanet Earth actively works with the job centres and looks to provide buses for early morning workers who can’t get there easily. Allegedly, some local job seekers haven’t had helpful interactions. They could also offer apprenticeships for young locals. After all it is called Thanet Earth.

  6. Obviously the plan to turn this into temporary housing for homeless families in Thanet has been shelved.

  7. use it for the provision of accommodation for all those people being booted out of their rented homes in Thanet that are then being turned into unregulated Airbnb, or stop the proliferation of that surge with proper regulations.
    There are too many on the housing waiting list so that 3 to 5 years is the standard wait now in Thanet for a homeless person. Thanet council need to either build accommodation or provide places like this block at Westwood, Broadstairs. They must look after the local residents first.

  8. Not too sure what the accommodation looks like inside. “Student rooms” sound like small one-bed boxes with or without own bath/toilet etc.
    Very small. Suitable, yes, for Thanet Earth temporary workers or for single homeless people. But not for homeless families with children.
    There is also the question of who will buy the block or who will rent it from the owners.
    If TDC had the money they might take up the option. But it could be that Thanet Earth are a lot better financed than TDC so would be able to buy it outright.
    In which case, they could use it for whatever they liked.
    Increasingly, local Councils are outbid by private companies for land and buildings. In which case much of this discussion becomes redundant. Local councils cannot force private owners to do what they don’t want except in very extreme circumstances.
    If we wanted TDC to buy it for local homeless people , we might need to consider paying extra in Council Tax to cover it.
    No, didn’t think so.

  9. I would think people doing jobs “our own” don’t want to do should be homed as they are providing food for “our own”

  10. Why can’t these workers rent homes locally like the rest of us?
    I would imagine Thanet Earth just want cheap labour and don’t pay enough for them to pay the over inflated rents that greedy landlords want in Thanet.
    Our local rent market has been killed off by the influx of of rich Londoners buying up holiday homes, AirBnBs, or buying up flats and turning them into luxury retirement apartments for rich retirees from out of town after serving a section 21 to the poor bug*er and his family that’s lived there for years – Give these to local struggling families and let Thanet Earth sort out their own workers accommodation problem.

  11. Thanet Earth is major employer and should be encouraged in that respect however it repeatedly fails to comply with its planning conditions and has yet to put in place the tree/shrub screening which was part of their planning consent. This leads me to believe they cannot be trusted – a short stay, seasonal hostel or tied accommodation costs deducted from low paid immigrant workers wages?

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