By Local Democracy Reporter Daniel Esson
Plans to partially demolish and convert the Royal on Harbour Parade in Ramsgate into flats and a smaller commercial space have been given the green light by Thanet District Council (TDC) but fears were raised that the redevelopment will “stick out like a sore thumb.”
Harbour Parade Ramsgate Ltd, which is behind the bid, says “the development seeks to act as a regenerative feature along the seafront promenade of Ramsgate”.
But opponents believe the modern design is out-of-keeping with the area surrounding the prominent site, which sits opposite Ramsgate Harbour.
Documents show the pub will be partially knocked down, with a five-storey extension – complete with roof terrace – built to the side.
Part of the ground floor and basement will be turned into commercial space, for which an operator has yet to be found.
The application proposed a change of use on the ground floor from the pub to commercial, business and service, saying the loss of the community facility would be lessened due to 10 other pubs/bars operating in the immediate area.
At a meeting of TDC’s planning committee last night (August 16), councillors debated the development, which includes eight new apartments and the rearrangement of two existing ones in the building.
The area’s representative, Cllr Tricia Austin (Green), told members she welcomes the development of a brownfield site, and does not bemoan the loss of the pub, but has serious concerns about the designs.
“I believe, many residents believe, and many Ramsgate town councillors believe, this proposal is still too large and obtrusive,” she said.
“It is not in keeping and we are very concerned that it will have a very damaging effect on the seafront of the only royal harbour in the country.”
Referring to the opinion of council officers that the proposal would cause “less than substantial harm” to the area, she added: “I am astonished that as the custodians of the only royal harbour in the country we are considering any form of harm.”
She said the designs should be sent back to the drawing board to be reduced in height by one floor.
Other councillors expressed similar concerns, with Steve Albon (Lab) adding: “I’ve got no problem with having a development there and having that extension, I just believe that it’s just that bit too high.”
Cllr Rebecca Wing (Green) was more scathing in her comments, saying: “I agree that the royal building is not a particularly great-looking building presently. I just find that modern in-fill hideous, I have to say. It’s going to stick out like a sore thumb on that seafront.”
She suggested the plans be sent back to the developers for redesign.
Council officers, however, had recommended approval for the scheme.
The leading officer told councillors: “We do think that there is an appropriate balance struck here between the design, the conservation area and the listed building and the provision of eight units in a highly sustainable brownfield site.”
Other members thought the redevelopment would improve the seafront, with Cllr Pat Makinson (Lab) saying: “I find the Royal building very lumpish, not terribly attractive.
“I think it’s quite right that they use entirely different materials as they do in places like Italy where they’re building up against quite a lot of old classical buildings.”
The pub was opened by Thorley Taverns 28 years ago but has been sold after being put on the market more than two years ago.
Philip Thorley, the director of the Thanet chain, says it will continue to run the venue until its new owners push forward with the development.
He said: “We opened up the Royal in 1995 and we’ve had nearly 30 years of very successful trading there. We just decided it was time for us to look at ventures new, and we’ve been investing a lot of money within our existing estate.
“Now somebody else is going to breathe new life into it and I think it’s a great opportunity for Ramsgate seafront.
“The planning last night is just the next chapter in the book of the Royal going forward, and we wish the new owners the best of luck with it.”
TDC’s planning committee voted nine in favour, four against, and one abstention, to delegate the bid to officers for approval.
Before being officially set in motion a legal agreement will need to be on the level of developer contributions required to reduce the impact of the plans on the coastal environment.
Following the meeting Cllr Austin said: “I attended last night’s TDC Planning Committee meeting to raise objections to the height and bulk of the proposed extension to The Royal on Harbour Parade, and to ask for it to go back with a view to reducing it by one storey. I’m all for making best use of a brownfield site, but I believed this was overdevelopment.
“ Others agreed, but we were outvoted, so I’m afraid we’re now stuck with this on our seafront next to the Grade 2 listed Seamen’s Rest and visible from all directions.
“Two particularly depressing features stood out at the meeting:
* the decision whether to allow a pitched roof on a storage facility in a side street in Broadstairs, and its impact on the view of a nearby chapel, took up considerably more committee time than an obtrusive building on the seafront of the only Royal Harbour in the country, where everyone from TDC Regeneration officers and the Harbour master to the Town Council and local volunteers is working so hard to preserve and celebrate our heritage;
* one councillor pointed out that we already have the Travelodge there which has little architectural merit, so adding another incongruous building shouldn’t be a problem.
“My apologies to all the objectors, Town Council colleagues and the Heritage and Design Forum, whose comment seems to me to sum up the issue: ‘The location is worthy of far better treatment’.”