Flats plan for site of historic Britannia pub in Margate expected to be given green light

The Britannia

By Local Democracy Reporter Daniel Esson

A distinctive Grade-II Listed former pub labelled an “eyesore” is set to be overhauled into flats.

Divisive plans to transform Margate’s Britannia pub into homes recently received a mixed reaction.

But now, the once prominent family pub in Fort Hill, previously renowned for its £1 roast dinners and vibrant music scene, is expected to be revamped into four flats.

From the 1800s the site of the Britannia pub in Margate has been a destination for drinkers. The original building overlooked the harbour and the jetty and has been in use in its current form since the mid 1840s. It is claimed it was once a hunting lodge and tied with the original Cobb’s Brewery, in operation on the site adjoining the pub from the early 1800s until 1968.

Circa 1900 Photo http://www.dover-kent.com/Pubs/Britannia-Margate.html .

Following the demolition of Cobb’s in the 1970s the site saw some new buildings put up which included the current police station next door.

The Britannia was last run by landlord Paul Rollins and wife Edna but they announced its closure in 2020 due to pressures including ‘crippling’ business rates.

Paul and Edna had run the Fort Hill boozer for almost five years and hit the headlines with their £1 Sunday roast dinners but it came to an end when they said it was no longer viable.

Paul and Edna

Paul, who was the President of the Licenced Victuallers Association Thanet Branch, revealed during a meeting that he was paying a huge £22,000 a year in business rates.

The pub had a brief reopening in 2021 but this was short-lived.

Now, Thanet District Council planning chiefs are expected to greenlight developer Acme Lettings’ proposals, after it pointed out the “non-viability” of running pubs.

The Whitstable developer argued in its design and access statement: “Certainly, the decline of the pub as a community facility is highlighted in that another local pub has closed, together with many other pubs within the area, most due to the non-viability of running them.”

“There has been various alterations to the existing building over time, not all in character with the age and style of the property, consisting of extensions to the front side and rear,” the developers add.

Britannia 1970s

The building situated next to Margate Police Station has a distinctive castellated front, with Acme stressing the unique design will remain unchanged.

Originally, the application also included plans for two semi-detached cottages in the former beer garden.

However, the buildings were removed from the plans, with TDC’s conservation officer labelling them “inappropriate” and “ultimately causing harm to the primary listed property”.

The application has attracted six objections and nine letters of support in the authority’s planning portal.

“With the urgent need for more housing, changing the use of the land and property to incorporate such in a prime seafront location therefore seems to be the best and most sensible way forward,” wrote resident Keith Docwra.

“I feel this proposal will bring a much-needed and welcome change to the site in question.”

The new homes would be a “small but essential step in the right direction and can only serve to enhance the local area,” Mr Docwra added.

The Brit (postcard image)

Andrew Cox wrote that he supports the bid “to finally do something constructive with the white elephant that is the Britannia public house.

“I know that the pub business has failed on five consecutive occasions because the Britannia is too big for its own good.

“These days people want specialist designer bars and micro pubs. The days of the huge family public house have long gone.”

He added: “Residential use is the only sensible option.”

“The building will go from being a paint-peeling eyesore, with a concrete car park dominating the frontage, to an attractive facade with substantial planting,” wrote Elizabeth Stone.

However, not everyone is overjoyed to see the historic inn converted.

Julian Stone, pub preservation officer of the Thanet Campaign for Real Ale, wrote to the district council on behalf of the 500 members.

“We believe the Britannia Hotel needs time to reestablish itself,” he argued.

“Let’s be clear, pubs and hotels in Margate need to be protected from being converted into flats or houses in multiple occupation.

“Pubs and hotel businesses are important for the town’s continued prosperity and vitality.”

TDC’s planning committee is set to vote on the application at a meeting on Wednesday, April 17, where planning officers will recommend it be approved.

16 Comments

  1. Winter gardens closing probably the biggest reason. It was always packed before and after events there.

    • The pub closed in 2020, the WG in 2022.

      A bigger factor is the combination of being opposite both a giant shed and a boarded-up shelter. Hardly the most salubrious of locations, even by Thanet standards!

  2. Declining pub use. I don’t blame landlords charging £5 per pint when they have such overheads. But nor do I fancy more than one or two pub visits per month paying those prices. But why keep banging on about Business Rates when most pubs have horrendous rents to pay to the brewery/landowner ?
    At least Business Rates go to the local Council to provide local services. And, via my vote, I get to choose who runs that Council. But I don”t get to choosr who owns the pub, nor what rent they charge, nor whether they make ANY contribution to the upkeep of the building. They just take the rent and say ” Thank you very much” and then blame Business Rates when the pub struggles and dies. Finally, they make their eventual financial killing by converting to flats for sale
    All without having to do any of the work. In modern Britain, their is no need to work if you own property. All you do is sit back and charge rent or sell at the right time. Then use the proceeds to buy more houses, or pubs or shopping centres, or former airfields or industrial estates or derelict factories.
    Let the people who occupy the pubs or industrial units or shops make all the effort. Then charge them huge rents for the privilege.

    • These days, pubs need two things for a fighting chance of surviving: Great food, and a quiet/picturesque location. This is why they thrive in places with small populations – St. Nicolas, Botany Bay, Pegwell Bay, Grove Ferry, Worth, etc – but not on busy town high streets.

      • Too many factors have led to the demise of the great British pub.

        ”Back in the day” pubs were a refuge or retreat for the working man on his way home from a day of toil.

        ”When I were a lad” pubs were still thriving (as were a good number of night clubs).

        Then we had supermarkets selling cheap booze, drink driving laws, the smoking ban – each of which led to a steady cull of the drinking establishment (be it town pub, country pub, social club or night club).

        The bottom line is that too few people frequent pubs on sufficient occasions to make them a viable business.

        • Two other factors: (1) Young people take drugs more these days rather than drink, and (2) People from some other cultures don’t drink alcohol. The second point is quite so relevant locally, but in places like the Old Kent Road it has killed off almost every pub.

    • I don’t know if it is or isn’t relevant to the article, but your observation that in modern Britain there is no need to work if you own property, really does ring true.

  3. Developer ‘Acme Lettings’? Didn’t Acme also make the dynamite for the ‘Roadrunner’ cartoons?

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