Regeneration plans for Smack Boys Home and new fishing fleet facilities to be cut back and Ramsgate’s Clock House proposal altered due to ‘high inflation’ and grant rejection

Port projects will continue but the Smack Boys Home, and Fishing Fleet plans will be scaled back or possibly shelved and the Clock House proposal may no longer include a restaurant

Plans to create an extension for a café/restaurant at Ramsgate’s Grade II* listed Clock House, a boutique hotel at the Smack Boys Home and a new fishing hub at the harbour using money from the town’s £19.8million Levelling Up Fund will be altered or scaled down – with  the hotel plan possibly shelved.

The schemes are part of regeneration plans for Ramsgate which currently include 10 separate projects, with a total of £22.5m of government grant funding.

This is made up of £2.7m from the Future High Street Funds granted in 2019 and £19.8m from the Levelling Up Fund granted in 2021.

But Thanet council says the grant monies are no longer enough to pay for all the projects due to “unexpectedly high inflation.”

A report to council Cabinet members says: “It may not be possible to deliver all projects to the original proposal; and that – as a last resort – one or more projects may need to be ceased in order to enable funding to be transferred to other projects.”

Reduced value of funding

The council says: “All of the projects are at different stages but require project management, design, construction and stakeholder involvement. They all have government approval and must be reported on regularly.

“Since the projects were identified and the initial funding bids were submitted in 2019 and 2021, a number of unforeseeable global events have resulted in a period of unexpectedly high inflation, reducing the real value of the funding by around 25%.

“The council wrote to the Secretary of State requesting the government consider the provision of additional funding to reflect this, however this was rejected.

“In light of this, changes to the programme were submitted to Cabinet and approved in September 2023 as part of the Simplification Pathfinder Pilot Investment Plan.”

Thanet council is one of 10 local authorities in the country chosen to take part in a Simplification pilot project, meaning  £51m in funding for the Ramsgate schemes, the Margate Digital project and the £22,2m Margate Town Deal is being treated as one pot. The scheme means there is an additional year to complete Levelling Up and High Street projects with the deadline moving from March 2025 to March 2026.

It also means the council only needs to seek approval from government if it makes a “material change” by moving £5 million or more between projects.

In September The Isle of Thanet News reported that “unprecedented levels of 20-30% cost increases” were impacting some projects, including the Smack Boys hotel plan.

At that time Thanet council said the rising cost of materials and labour, which has been partly blamed on leaving the EU and the war in Ukraine, and the hike in inflation rates, were above contingency levels accounted for when government funding for projects was applied for.

A report to Cabinet members, expected to be published tomorrow, says the current estimated cost of the programme exceeds the amount of grant available. It says: “Movement of funding allocations between Ramsgate projects and/or changes to the Ramsgate regeneration programme may be needed, to keep costs within budget.”

Projects to be scaled down or shelved

A training hotel and restaurant at the Smack Boy’s building at Ramsgate harbour

Photo Dean Spinks

The original bid said: “The Smack Boys addresses the lack of high end hotels in Ramsgate to support the town’s emergence as a more diverse visitor destination. The management model will provide new career pathways and training opportunities to residents.”

However, the council now says: “Plans to convert the Smack Boys building to a restaurant with rooms, contributing to the availability of overnight accommodation in Ramsgate, were reviewed in September 2023.

“As a result of increased costs which affect its viability, this project will not proceed in its initially proposed form. A provisional allocation of funding will remain under review.”

The original allocation of grant to this project was £2.671m. The provisional funding is £750,000. A report to councillors says that in September the scheme was: “omitted from the programme at this stage due to the increased cost over that awarded.”

It adds: “The listed Smack Boys building remains at risk and work has been completed to assess the costs of safeguarding the building, and consider other opportunities it may present in the context of the wider Pathfinder programme.”

A decision to use that provisional funding will be considered by Cabinet “particularly if additional funding is required to support the port infrastructure project.”

A brasserie and fishing facility for the local fleet to store and sell catch from

The original plan said: “A new fishing hub reinvigorates the Ramsgate fleet and supports the financial resilience of this community with much needed refrigeration infrastructure, which is currently absent.

“Provide space for a new high-end fish restaurant and linked fish market to drive the visitor economy and provide new training and employment opportunities. quayside fishing facilities to enable freezing and processing of daily catches, as well as the creation of retail units to sell the catch.”

Thanet council now says: “The report (to Cabinet members) highlights that plans for new fishing facilities will now be amended in response to reductions in the size of the fishing industry in Ramsgate and advice from the Thanet Fishermen’s Association (TFA) about its membership numbers and capacity to support the site. Smaller scale opportunities will be explored.”

A bid for further funding for the project from the UK Seafood Infrastructure Fund was submitted in January 2023, to support an improvement to the wider infrastructure in the Harbour, but was not successful.

The original allocation of grant to this project was £3.918m. The new allocation is £100k.

Altered plan

An extension for a café/restaurant at the Clock House at Ramsgate harbour in conjunction with a town square at the Pier Yard car park

The original plans said: “The Clock House refurbishment provides an important publicly accessible focal point for visitors and residents at the heart of the Royal Harbour, with a new space for local history and heritage and complementary restaurant.

“Outside the town square delivers a much-needed pedestrian and child friendly space at the heart of the harbour as a community and visitor space.”

Thanet council now says plans will go ahead but the restaurant element is no longer mentioned. However, the funding allocation has been increased for the Clock House.

The report says: “The Pier Yard Car Park will be transformed into a new town square. It will be brought together with highways plans to gain greater economies of scale in terms of delivery.

“In December 2023, the National Lottery Heritage Funding bid for the Clock House scheme was unsuccessful. The report advises that the scope of this project is therefore being revised in line with Levelling Up Funding.

“Work is underway with the Ramsgate Heritage Regeneration Trust to develop a proposal for the building, to safeguard its heritage and future, and identify a way for the Trust to run a maritime heritage hub for Ramsgate.

“Refurbishment works for the building fit within the current budget and the business plan is being reviewed to ensure sustainability of the building for the future. A revised Stage 2 proposal will be designed during Spring 2024 on the basis of these discussions.

“In November 2023 the Clock House was returned to the council having been leased to a third party since 2012. With the building back under council management we have been able to start urgent works to the building, including the electrics which means we are able to ensure there is heating and lighting in the building. The next steps will be to review other urgent works required, alongside the design stages.”

The Clock House, fishing hub and Smack Boys project – which includes the town square proposal at Pier Yard – had £9,388,300 of funding earmarked.

The Clock House allocation, originally £1.4m, has been increased to £3.3m.

Projects going ahead at the port

Port infrastructure

Some £9,615,100 has been earmarked for the port projects with £3.5 million of this for improved port infrastructure.

However, the new report to councillors says port infrastructure work is likely to need £10m, far exceeding the £3.5 allocated for site clearance and remediation; improved breakwater and new berthing infrastructure.

The report states: “The final pre-tender costs are not yet known for the Ramsgate Port infrastructure work, but it is anticipated that in the region of £10m, they will exceed the Levelling Up Fund budget of £3.5m currently allocated.

“Whilst potential costs have increased, the market testing exercise yielded positive responses from a wide range of parties and helped to inform decisions about how the site could be managed.”

The aim of the port work is to prepare for an operator to bring ferry services back to Ramsgate.

The last ferry to operate from Ramsgate was TransEuropa Ferries which went bankrupt in 2013 and left Thanet council with £3.4 million in unpaid berthing fees.

The report to Cabinet says: “The Port Infrastructure project is designed to invest in the infrastructure at the Port of Ramsgate, to enable the reintroduction of scheduled Ro-Ro ferry services operating from berths 2 and 3, with an initial focus on unaccompanied freight.

“The project includes both marine based works, including the refurbishment of berths 2 and 3, and the mooring spine that links the berths, together with land based works needed to support Ro-Ro ferry operations, such as Border Force facilities.

“It is clearly essential that this project is coordinated with the already approved work to secure a new operator for Ro-Ro operations at the port.”

In March last year Thanet council agreed on a multi-purpose Port Hybrid option where the council would retain management of part of the Port, splitting the commercial activity by the type of operation. The council would retain control of non-ro-ro traffic, with ro-ro cargo and traffic managed by a third party.

The report to Cabinet members says: “At this stage, given the position on the Visitor Accommodation  and Fishing Facilities, we are working on the hypothesis that funds could be transferred from these schemes to the Port infrastructure.”

Green training and business hub

Green Campus early design by JKA

A Green Hub training centre for apprenticeships and training, which will also include a Centre of Excellence and space for green businesses, is also still proposed,

The council says: “A process, asking potential operators their view of how the Green Campus might be run and gauging their interest, has recently ended. This process will inform council-led procurement plans, should the decision be to engage an external operator. If so, procurement would be likely to start in summer 2024.”

The report says the Green Campus is a proposed new build project which means that there is scope to reduce the design and scale (and therefore cost) of the building through a process of value engineering, so that the cost remains within its original grant allocation of £6.101m.

Projects to go ahead (outside of the port)

Community sites in Newington and Ramsgate 

Expansion of Newington Community Centre to create a new kitchen, kitchen garden, lunch yard, glazed walkway, new entrances, an orchard area, polytunnel and pizza oven space.

Thanet council says: “Focused on developing local skills, the Newington Community Centre project aims to extend the existing building. Plans include a large teaching kitchen to expand on a popular food and cookery programme already offered by the centre.

“Architects have been appointed to manage RIBA Stages 2-6 i.e. from design and construction, through to handover of the building. Regular meetings with partners and to update residents are underway.”

An artist’s impression of how the building could be used

The former haberdashery shop in Ramsgate’s Broad Street is to provide workspace for creative industries and a new skills and careers hub.

Thanet council says: “Works to the building at 5A Broad Street, Ramsgate which was acquired on 11 December 2023 are anticipated for summer 2024. This will be subject to a key decision to be made by Cabinet to undertake procurement.”

Highways improvement scheme

A plan under the 2019 Future High Streets fund to make it easier for pedestrians to walk to the town centre from the Harbour, by reducing the dominance of the road.

Thanet council says: “The highways works which aim to provide pedestrians with greater accessibility into the town centre, will now be delivered as part of the wider Ramsgate regeneration programme. It is anticipated that this will minimise the risk of projects clashing in the Harbour area.”

Rick Everitt at a Ramsgate Levelling Up session with Newington Community Centre plans

Cllr Rick Everitt, Leader of Thanet District Council said: “The funding we’ve received from the government has kick-started regeneration in Thanet at a speed and scale that would not otherwise have been possible.

“However, the requirement to enter bids within very short timescales meant they had to be submitted on the basis of high-level information, ahead of a detailed design process providing information on final costs and timescales for delivery.

“This report highlights the significant progress that has been made despite the complexities but also the clear reality of delivering capital projects of this size, over this duration. We have to acknowledge that the world is a different place than it was when the bids were submitted.

“We’ll continue to remain accountable for decisions around spending and recognise the need for our projects to be completed in budget, without compromising council reserves or services. If additional funding isn’t forthcoming and choices therefore have to be made about transferring funding from one or more projects, we need to be prepared for that.”

What happens next

Cabinet members will discuss the report on the current status of the Ramsgate regeneration programmes at a meeting on January 25 from 7pm.

Following its presentation to Cabinet, the report will go to the Overview and Scrutiny Panel for consideration and comment.

If fundamental changes to the scope, costs or deliverables are proposed, the projects will be brought back before Cabinet for a formal decision.

The Cabinet meeting will take place at 7pm on Thursday 25 January in the Thanet District Council chamber. Members of the public are welcome to attend in-person.

Early designs revealed for £19.8m Levelling Up Fund projects at Ramsgate port, harbour and Newington Community Centre

‘Unprecedented’ cost increases impacting £51 million Margate Town Deal, Ramsgate Levelling Up and High Street fund projects

37 Comments

  1. So all the projects that would have helped position Ramsgate as a 21st century leisure and tourism destination have been abandoned. Instead the nearly £10m is to be allocated in favour of a resurrecting the port that has been a proven failure since the tunnel opened.

  2. be fair it was never going to happen , no sane person would ever believe ramsgate was in line for anything , the place is kaput face it , i wonder how much money has been wasted already on ” consultations ” and all the other jolly ups for the boys ?

  3. Sadly as the government has given the incompetent council free rein on where they can move the funds you can say bye bye to a lot of projects. What we have here is moving all the funds to the port. Also how did the officers cost the port development originally so low?? Even with inflation they were miles out, No cost analysis…What this has highlighted is the lack of skills, knowledge and competence in the council from officers that have led theses bids. Heads should roll with the ineffectiveness in the council regeneration team it’s now plain to see the disastrous project management, we are in how many years in to these funding and nothing???!!!! Shocking that head of the council Rick can remain so positive, terrible weak statement and highlights the poor leadership at present.

    • Yep, pretty much just a continuation of the financial disaster of the Brett lease and loading jetty financial black hole, is that actually finished yet? Or is the council still paying a fortune to cover the road transport costs each week?
      Unfortunately the undeniable effects of inflation will be used to justify/hide failings throughout the while process involving these projects and funding pots. Given the UKs ability to spend efficiently within central and local government, it’s not going to be a surprise if only 50% of what was planned is achieved.
      A little surprised that an existing facility in Newington gets so much to expand it , but the projects that would hopefully invigorate the harbour/seafront get curtailed. Surely on the job training on the seafront in a hotel and kitchens would be of more benefit than cooking pizza in newington?

  4. So Councillor Karen Constantine, there goes your Holiday trade for Ramsgate, that you keep Harping on about, perhaps now, you will support the opening of Manston, as an Airport, now that your fellow Labour Councillor, Ricky, has Killed off, any hope of attracting Tourists to Ramsgate.

    • Your a know nothing numpty Tripod, even if by some miracle Manston re-opens it will be as a cargo hub, no passengers, duuurh!

  5. It appears that there are far too many projects for the council to cope with. There a a couple of firms of architects that will “do very nicely thank you” with no risk attached. The smack boys home as a high end hotel was always” pie in the sky” They would have more chance buy and refurbishing the Granville hotel.
    Let’s hope there are not a lot of £5 million transfers to Margate projects.

  6. It’s totally bad management and poor choices. Why by the Haberdashery Building out of the Town Centre to run the same services as a private company are doing in the Town Centre (age and son building) that £1 million pound project is not needed and the money could have went into one of the cancelled or called back projects. They need someone with commercial knowledge to get some private investors on board to make things happen.

    • That’s wishful thinking, someone with commercial knowledge within TDC. One look at Councillors photos on this site is enough for me to form an opinion!

  7. Typical, any projects not in 35 years plus of Margate being the southeast capital of drugs, bedsits, and a general run down no go area for holiday makers, does not go ahead, so Ramsgate and Broadstairs which are the attractions in Thanet don’t stand a chance or are completely mishandled by incompetence.

    • They’re not tourists, they’re locals.

      Ask yourself this, M&M: why is it that plenty of English accents can be heard at Welsh holiday resorts, yet no Welsh accents are heard at English resorts, at least around here?

  8. Well said Ms Pink, its a fact. People travel from all over the country to many seaside towns in UK, not so much to thanet. Certain parts of the UK have overseas tourists as they are outstanding places, NOT THANET. Its a shame as the potential is here however poor decision following poor decision and poor future policies, governance and policing along with less than ambitious MPs have created this.

    • It’s clear to see who the fool is.
      In my personal experience, over the last 12 months, I’ve met people from the USA, Australia, Austria, Germany, the Nethetlands and France.
      Some of these are regular visitors – I’ve seen them before.
      Some people think Ramsgate is an unpleasant place, with no merit.
      I don’t. Those visitors didn’t either.

  9. Where are the Welsh? If you find a Welsh person on holiday in thanet, please post here there name and place of origin. We must find them to complete Martha’s collection.

    • Steve’s 6.12a.m. comment is not at all amusing. Perhaps he would like to add the Scots, the Irish and other nationalities to his suggestion that visitors to Thanet should have their names and home addresses posted on this comments thread.

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