Faversham charity puts forward proposal to take over Northdown House and the Secret Jungle play area

Northdown House Photo Frank Leppard

Exclusive

A Faversham-based charity has put together a proposal to take over Northdown House and the Secret Jungle play area in Margate.

Last Summer Thanet council announced plans to carry out a review of Northdown Park, including the facilities and buildings and the Secret Jungle play area.

This month Thanet council said it was preparing to test the market for prospective tenants for the Grade II listed building and suggested the Secret Jungle could be included in any lease.

Photo John Horton

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

The council said Your Leisure was making arrangements to surrender the lease, with “vacant possession” although Jean Stewart Pilates & Movement Studio is still based at the venue.

The Secret Jungle was an inclusive play and activity area

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.

Now Invicta Community and Leisure has put forward proposals for the building and will be holding a public consultation event.

Invicta Community and Leisure is a trading name of West Faversham Community Association (WFCA), a registered charity that says over the last five years it has grown its income by 700% through social enterprise strategies to fund charitable activities.

The charity’s income is generated through venue hire, bars, weddings, and leisure services. It operates four venues across Swale, Canterbury, and Dover.

The charity, which has worked in the hospitality sector since 2014, has venues which are both community and leisure facilities, with rock climbing, sports facilities, gyms, sports bars and wedding venues on offer.

Invicta Community and Leisure’s plans for Northdown House include a ballroom, dog-friendly coffee shop, pre-school, community and youth hub, meeting rooms, wedding services, venue hire and offices. The charity says it will also revive the Secret Jungle play area.

Proposals

Ground floor – Refurbish the front left side of the property (ball room) into a ballroom capable of hosting high-end events, with kitchens and back of house facilities.

The front right area and grand lobby will be converted to be a snug, bar room and coffee shop, able to operate as a dog friendly coffee shop and lunch club venue during the week and, as part of the wedding services at weekends.

The rear right corner of the building will be converted into a 2-room pre-school, which will either be rented out as a business unit or operated by Invicta

In the right side central area, there will be both a community hub and a youth hub, both of which will host community impact sessions, as well as a communal refrigerator.

First floor – The front left will be restored as a secondary function/ meeting room, with access to a roof terrace.

The right-hand side will be used as accommodation to complement wedding services

The centre area will be used for meeting rooms and business hub spaces

Second floor- The left hand side of the floor will be used as office space and business hub space

The right hand side will be used as class rooms/ training rooms / business hub space

Outdoors – The Secret Jungle will be restored and host a number of community activities and gardening social clubs.

The entrance road up to the house will be improved and maintained to create an appealing entrance to the house.

The proposal document says: “Our operations are centred around the community; we aim to provide service in an area while also improving the lives of the locals.

“In order to accomplish this, our community activity team, consisting of youth workers and community support workers, provides a wide range of services tailored to the community’s needs.

“Our team will provide a variety of community services from Northdown House, including; Tea Dances, Older people social clubs, Community fridge (working towards net zero food waste)., Lunch and Gardening club, Chair based fitness classes, Youth clubs, Messy play, SEN outdoor play and Fundays.”

The charity also plans to create a business hub, saying: “Our advisors help you setup or develop your business idea with low-cost office space for under 25s and over 55s.  The facility will also offer hot desks and dedicated offices, with shared breakout spaces and amenities.”

Northdown House Photo Frank Leppard

An income will be created through weddings and events and conference and room hire.

The proposal says: “The venue will cater to the mid-range to high-end wedding market, offering a full wedding package including catering and accommodation for the bridal party for about £15,000 per event. It is anticipated that by year three there will be 20 weddings per year.

“The venue will also be able to host family parties, corporate events, and functions, generating an additional £20-30,000 in revenue each year.

“There are excellent spaces at the venue for organising events ranging from fitness classes and team meetings to multiday conferences.”

A site manager and a senior team member would work from the venue. The charity says it will seek capital funding to restore the building and its heritage features.

Consultation event

The charity will hold a community consultation to discuss its proposal and hear what members of the public would like on Wednesday 24th January, 2pm-6pm at St Philips Church, Summerfield Rd, Cliftonville. Find the event page here

Ward councillor Barry Manners said: “I’m really pleased that TDC is seeking a fresh operator. I, together with my fellow ward councillors, will be asking TDC about the selection criteria for a future lessee.

“The building belongs to the community and should serve the community.”

The site is listed as available to let with Full Repairing & Insuring Lease at £80,000pa by Sibley Pares estate agents.

Details here

Find out about Invicta Community and Leisure at https://www.invicta-cl.org/

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

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

10 Comments

  1. So long as nothing is signed over until the funding has been secured , on the face of it sounds a reasonable proposal. Though you can’t help thinking this was being worked on well before the council’s announcement to seek an operator was made. How long do others have to make proposals and what process is the council using to seek interested parties.

  2. Fantastic news that someone is interested in the building and secret garden. Let’s see what they have to say. I will definitely be at that meeting on 24th Jan.

  3. I think if if the title and freehold of the site is retained by TDC, and a decent lease is agreed with the Charity, to include renovation and maintenance, then this could save Northdown House for posterity.
    It will need to be handled properly by the Council Officers, to ensure all is above board..
    The Consultations shod be interesting..TDC need to be very transparent with us Taxpayers !

  4. I understood the building was still owned by the Cherry Blossom polish family. The Council tried to sell it a few years ago but were stopped. If true then they are subletting, would that be legal.

  5. Ahem – “The 1850’s Georgian house in the grounds of Northdown Park ….”
    I think you’ll find Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837, therefore it’s Victorian!

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