Council to test market for new tenants/operator at Northdown House

Northdown House Photo Frank Leppard

Thanet council says it is preparing to test the market for prospective tenants at Grade II listed Northdown House in Margate.

The 1850’s Georgian house in the grounds of Northdown Park is owned by Thanet council and has been leased to Your Leisure Margate Limited since 1999.

The council says Your Leisure is currently making arrangements to surrender the lease to the council, with “vacant possession.”

Independent Lighthouse School, for youngsters aged 8-16 with social, emotional and mental health difficulties, vacated the premises last Summer when it shut down and Your Leisure had already moved operations to Discovery Park.

Northdown House Photo Frank Leppard

However, Jean Stewart Pilates & Movement Studio is still based at the venue and is advertising its reopening on January 16th. The business has an agreement with Your Leisure that is due to run until 31st October 2024.

Studio boss Jean said: “My Pilates Studio, which has been running at Northdown House since 2009, is still successfully running there.”

Details of classes can be found on the facebook page here


The council says it is preparing to test the market for prospective tenants and the outcomes of the exercise will be presented to Cabinet at a future meeting to inform the options for the building. The aim will be to ensure continuity, avoiding any period of vacancy.

Northdown House must be used for leisure and educational purposes. Residential use, and any other uses beyond the categories specified, will not be permitted.

A potential new lease could mean an operator takes on the entire building on a full repairing and insuring basis.

Thanet council says Northdown House has the potential to provide the ideal location for a range of events, which could include wedding receptions and other celebrations, meetings, workshops and day conferences.

The property includes:

  • Event capacity for up to 200 guests, with the option to set up marquees for larger gatherings in the grounds of Northdown Park
  • In-house catering and bar services
  • Private garden
  • Car parking next to the building
Photo Scott Manclark

The Secret Jungle Play Garden and wellbeing facilities could also be included in the proposed lease. Northdown Park is not included and will remain a public open space.

The Secret Jungle has been shut to the public since July 2018.

The all-inclusive play area designed to allow disabled and able-bodied children to play alongside each other closed when Your Leisure announced it would no longer be responsible for the site.

Manor House Nursery was announced as the new operator from September 2018.

The Secret Jungle was an inclusive play and activity area

The nursery originally took on the play area saying it would be made available for community use but it was not reopened due to a spate of vandalism at the park. The prolonged closure prompted questions over public access from former interested parties and families who had previously used the play area.

Manor House Nursery handed the site back to Thanet council in 2021 blaming the ongoing vandalism.

At that time Thanet council said work to clear and make repairs would begin followed by exploration of future options for the site to ensure it remained a community space.

Tamara Rattigan, of The Little Art Cart community interest company, had been among those to put forward expressions of interest to take on the Secret Jungle.

Cllr Ruth Duckworth, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Property at Thanet District Council, said: “Northdown House is a beautiful building, set in picturesque grounds. This could be a great opportunity for the right leaseholder to turn it into a multi-functional location. This marketing exercise will help us to understand possible future options for the building and the level of interest in taking up this opportunity.

“I am sure the repurposed building can provide a high-quality asset for the district. I look forward to seeing proposals from interested parties.”

Any potential operators who are interested in finding out more about Northdown House should contact the appointed agents, Sibley Pares, to arrange a viewing. Email Ned Gleave MRICS, [email protected] or Richard Sabin MRICS, [email protected] or call 01233 629281.

Council to carry out ‘full review’ of Northdown Park, including Northdown House and Secret Jungle

‘Devastation’ at closure of specialist Lighthouse School in Margate


  1. Your leisure seems to leave a trail of destruction and ruination behind everywhere it’s operated. Northdown House needs to advertise for an event organiser and for it to be well advertised for the events it can cater for. Weddings / art groups / conferences / events of all types at a reasonable fee. Not just left to rot like other places Your Leisure has had responsibilities for.

  2. Cllr Ruth Duckworth, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Property at Thanet District Council, said: “Northdown House is a beautiful building, set in picturesque grounds. This could be a great opportunity.

    My question is, if it is that great, why have the council not utilized it ??

  3. The building is dilapidated and contains little of any architectural interest. If you use Pierremont Hall as a guide, renovations to create a fit for purpose white space could conservatively cost £1.5m. Most likely far more. Ongoing maintenance costs are likely to be close to £100k pa. The building is a money pit for TDC. Options for a listed building like this are extremly limited. Even if the restrictive covenants on its use could be exorcised, the building is unviable for conversion to flats (who would want the monstrous service charge that goes with maintaining a 100 year old listed building?). And it’s too small to be of interest a a manager run hotel. Perhaps an operator can find some grant money somewjhere, but the building will remain a white elephant regardless.

  4. What is it with thanet council and there property portfolio. It seem all they want is someone else to maintain them. As I’ve said before has TDC got any property not falling to bits.

  5. For decades the pressure was on to sell off publicly-owned property so that private investors could benefit.
    We are reaching the end of that road. Goverment and Councils are left with just the difficult-to-maintain properties. The good ones were sold years ago and the buyers will be retired by now- enjoying the proceeds in their Spanish villas.
    We, the public, are left with the expensive and unsellable properties.
    Nothing to do with TDC, regardless of whatever the Party is in power. It,s been successive Government policy to line the pockets of private investors at the taxpayers expense.
    Councils don t have much say in it.

    • Though of course these self same buildings were at some point in the past in good well maintained condition, the age old problem of putting off maintenance to save money is what has caused the problem not the selling off of other properties.
      In this instance is the council getting the building back in at least as good a condition as when leisure force took it on?

  6. Thanet Council run Thanet Crematorium can they please use a sound system that can be heard by the Mourners I attended a funeral and could hardly hear a word that was being spoken. I do not have hearing aids or need them, however those that do must have sat in silence.

  7. No one in their right mind will take this on. Grade 2 listed. Money pit. Single glazed, energy inefficient building with no hope of getting any approvals to improve it.

    • You could have said the same about the old british legion , but amazingly enough they and their partners achieved exactly what they wanted by just ignoring listed building legislation and then going for retrospective consent.
      Rumour on the street suggests that much of the problem with northdown house revolves around the terms iumder which it was gifted to the town, how bits of it have alledgedly been sold off in breach of that gift and various arguments between council, heirs to the estate and others. Apparently there’s quite a bit of info online if you take the time to search it out.
      But as pointed out in other comments, it’ll cost a fortune to bring back to its former glories and council won’t want to spend that money, any operator is hardly likely to front the cash for something it will only be leasing, unless it gets a nigh on rent free lease of such a length to be effectively the freehold.
      No doubt it’s another building with a bit of a murkey past in respect of its period of tdc ownership.

  8. This has everything to do with Westminster, county and TDC, all parties, All MPs All Cllrs and Officers. Yet more flawed decisions yet more saving money by not maintaining assets, yet more short sighted policies, yet more incompetence. Simple regular maintenance, a long term plan of public assets, deciding which will be sold with the remaining being run by council to generate local income and create local jobs. There are multiple uses a building such as Northdown House could be used for. Local authority has had everything to do with the situation culminating to this conclusion just as the litany of many previous building allowed to fall into disrepair and now are eyesores. Gross negligence.

  9. Why can’t TDC get anything right, currently the theatre royal and winter gardens are being left rot, the previous occupant’s appear not to have maintained these assets.

    Northdown House seems rundown, the secret jungle lives upto it’s name, what was once an oasis a walled garden is just another loss to the community.

    TDC has probably spent more money on legal fees, and nda’s paying to referee disputes between council “officers” than maintain our heritage.

    Surely the council could have included maintenance of our heritage in any leasing agreement.

    Ps it’s that Hetty Wainthropp investigating in the photograph.

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