Thanet councillors refuse proposal to turn Margate’s Britannia pub into flats

The Britannia

A bid to turn the Grade II listed Britannia pub in Margate into four flats has been rejected by councillors on Thanet’s planning committee.

Developer Acme Lettings said the housing plan was necessary due to the “non-viability” of the pub.

The Whitstable developer argued in its design and access statement: “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.”

However, councillors at a meeting last night (April 17) said local buyers and a London chain had made approaches about taking it on as a business and Julian Stone, from the Thanet branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) said it is possible for larger pubs to thrive.

Thanet CAMRA concerns

Mr Stone said: “We believe this change of use application adversely affects the balance of the area by permanently removing a community pub that also forms part of the visitor attractions for the town.

“As way of background, in 2021 the Britannia didn’t re-open when lockdown ended. Much later that same year it was then run by another concern until closing in early 2022. Has the building’s owner been actively seeking a new tenant for these last two years?  We’re unsure.

“There is an assertion that the Britannia is now and forever will be unviable as a business, this has to be refuted it being so close to the Turner Gallery and other Margate attractions.

“To be clear, the assertion that such larger public houses cannot survive in Thanet is not the case. For example the Botany Bay, two Wetherspoons – one being the largest in the country- Royal Albion Hotel in Broadstairs, the Minnis Bay in Birchington, and at least four carvery-style venues all prove that larger public houses can certainly thrive.

“That Thanet is experiencing a significant increase in its population and so its customer base must spell good news for all venues including for the future of the Britannia.

“As we know, new housing is already being built on many new sites in Thanet, but these builds can never include a beautiful Historic England listed public house. This proposed permanent loss of the Britannia removes a little part of the publicly accessible heritage of Thanet. To those who think that a new micropub or a bar opening somewhere can replace this historic building – all I can say is that such would be poor replacement.”

Mr Stone pointed out that in 2022 important changes in the Pubs Code Regulations came into being, forcing fair rents and extra protections for tenants. He has also suggested converting it back to its former use as a hotel.

He added: “There have been recent pub closures in Margate but all these have re-opened and in spectacular fashion; the Bulls Head, the Shakespeare and the Northern Bell are fine examples of re-opened pubs that are doing well.”

‘Numerous offers’

Cllr Sam Bambridge, who had called the application in to the planning committee, also questioned the lack of viability for the Britannia saying she was aware of ‘numerous offers’ that had been made.

She said: “As a councillor I have been approached by numerous parties that have put in offers for the Britannia to continue its use as a public house for the local community and have been deterred by what appears to be an inflated price tag designed to deter potential buyers for the building.

“These offers have included local buyers and a London pub chain that said the price asked was unrealistic.”

Cllr Bambridge also revealed a local businessman had made an offer in the region of £500,000 which had been rejected when the owner said a higher offer had been made.

The businessman said his plan had been to retain the bar with Air BNB units upstairs.

Cllr Bambridge said the Britannia had been “an incredibly popular venue” which served meals, had regular music sessions and was used as a meeting place by residents, adding: “It is an amazing venue that needs a chance to get up and running again.”

Views against the proposal

This view was backed by ward councillor Rob Yates who said it was an historic pub in a prominent location and the perfect spot for pre or post drinks when the Winter Gardens reopens.

Cllr Steve Albon said he could not support an application to “stick a lump of an extension” on a Grade II listed pub.

Cllr Marc Rattigan said he was also aware of offers that had been made and rejected for the building while Cllr Becky Wing said the pub should not be ‘butchered’ and with investment the Britannia would have similar potential to the Royal Victoria Pavilion in Ramsgate.

Planning officers warned that a rejection of the plans could go to appeal. However, councillors voted to reject the application on the basis of a loss of a community facility without sufficient justification or adequate alternative provision.

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

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.

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, 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 the latter part of 2021 but this was short-lived and it has not been open since 2022.

17 Comments

  1. I posted before some of the reasons pubs close ,it is because of high business rates and rents,of course there are other reasons ,but £20k a year is extortionate

    • I know these arty miserable poser DFL’s don’t like good live music, but you’d still think there’d be enough interest – especially with the demise of The Ship, The Waverly, The Cottage, etc! I used to like jam night (on Mondays I think), often turned up with my guitar.

      • Has the Cottage closed or is it just being refurbished and continuously awaiting approval from the obstructive planning department. My guess the latter.

  2. Bring back the Minstrels entertainers out the front and stop the £1 Sunday dinners. That is not viable as all you will get is the cheapskates eating then clearing off.

  3. I thought the Labour Party at TDC were supportive of creating more homes?

    Or is it ‘I see a green field and I want to paint it concrete?’

    • We do need more homes in Thanet – but councillors decided against losing this piece of cultural heritage.
      It’s wrong that young adults are living in their childhood bedrooms when they should be striking out on their own.
      As for Thanet’s local plan…
      Labour did not allocate farmland for development – that was the Conservative and Thanet Independent Councillors.
      What TDC cannot do is reject planning applications for development on allocated land. This will lead to successful appeals and the loss of taxpayers’ money on court costs.
      What needs to happen is for central government to safeguard farmland and bake that into housing targets.

  4. We were walking along the front in Cyprus, in the near distant we saw the side of a large building. It had Grecian pillars fronting it there were no visible signs, We reach the front (still no signs) possibly a museum.? We walked up the steps opened the doors AND we entered a Woolworths store. THAT is how much some countries value their heritage, NOT US?.

  5. They could set fire to.it like the owners of the Chiltern tavern who got turned down too. Guess what now to be torn down and flats built there . And they got away with it

  6. That is a strong statement. If indeed the owners of said tavern burned it down (you said it), surely they would have been arrested for arson.
    If they haven’t, they might decide to sue you for defamation of character. Be careful what you say!

  7. Well done Sam for calling this in. We need to keep places like this and build instead on the empty plots. Norfolk Road, Runcorn Road, Hoser’s cafe, 256 Northdown, etc, etc.

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