Project MotorHouse anger at decision to sell West Cliff Hall on the open market

The once grand West Cliff Hall

Thanet council’s decision to put the West Cliff Hall up for sale on the open market has provoked an angry response from the organisation that has been working eight years on a project to revive the building.

Project MotorHouse, headed by Ramsgate resident Janet Fielding, has been working  since 2009 to acquire and renovate the West Cliff Hall to create cinemas; theatres; bars; restaurants, offices and youth facilities.

Guy Holloway design

The group will now need to bid against other buyers to retain the site which has been empty since the closure of the motor museum in 2005.

Photos PMH

In 2016, Thanet council announced it was seeking ‘a formal development partner’ for Ramsgate’s West Cliff Hall and Gardens who had a ‘regeneration’ and ‘community benefit’ agenda.

Last week TDC cabinet  voted to put the site on the asset disposal list without any provisos.

Three years ago, TDC and Project MotorHouse jointly commissioned a surveyor’s report which found that not only is the steel frame of the building severely corroded and needs replacing, but the outer walls are resting on wet masonry with no other support.

The building supports the main road to the harbour and the first 40 metres of the West Cliff Promenade.

Janet Fielding Photo Chris Tipping

Ms Fielding said: “The site was on the council’s disposal list from 2005 to 2010 without attracting any offers. How long is it going to sit on the disposal list this time? All TDC is doing is wasting yet more time. Meanwhile water is getting in and the structure is continuing to deteriorate. I wince every time I see a bus or a large truck go round that corner.”

Ramsgate councillor Pdeter Campbell added: “Doing nothing is not an option. Either the frame has to be replaced or the site will need to be filled in.”

Because of the difficulties of the location, both options have been costed at well over £1 million.

In the 1970s a terrace had to be built to stop the building sliding down the cliff.

Former council leader Sandy Ezekiel was photographed in 2007 giving the keys of the West Cliff Hall to Global Generation Church. The church then decided not to take on the site. It was offered to Kent Film Foundation but they too passed on it. It has now been empty for 12 years.

Ms Fielding said: “Project MotorHouse has been working to save the site since 2009. We have raised more than £300,000 in that time. In addition to youth work, we have spent money on lawyers, asbestos removal and propping, fixing the garden walls, vat specialists, various surveys, a construction industry project manager and designs by award winning architect Guy Hollaway.

The once grand West Cliff Hall Photo PMH

“No one, Project MotorHouse included, is going to take on that site unless TDC commit money to safeguarding the road and the promenade properly. It’s their responsibility. All they are trying to do by sticking it on the disposal list is kick the problem into the long grass.”

Photos PMH

Undercliff cafe and toilets


Undercliff Cafe.

The Western Undercliff cafe and toilets will also be sold on the open market after the move was agreed by Thanet council cabinet members on July 27.

The cafe and toilets have been shut  since the property was severely damaged in October 2014 as the result of the failure of the main Southern Water sewer.

The closure has left the West Cliff beach without facilities.

The sell-off

The property is the latest added to the list of those the authority wants to sell  to help pay for continued investment in council assets.

The disposal of the next round of assets, first discussed in April, will provide income and cut council maintenance costs.

Last September Cabinet members agreed to the ‘accelerated’ sell-off 22 sites.

The sell-off was aimed at saving £100,000 by this April. Thanet council wants to save £200,000 per annum over the following two years with more disposals.

7 Comments

  1. Having neglected this and other prime assets for decades, Thanet District Council now seems set on selling off all of the family silver. If they could sell off the Ramsgate Customs House and the Margate Mayor’s parlour they would. What about the Broadstairs Pavilion? Good job that they can’t sell the Kings Steps. the Turner Centre, or for that money the harbour arms on all three of our principal towns. I’d add that they’d sell the sand from the beaches, but, err, maybe they’re already doing that. Scandalous!

    • Typical of R John Pritchards ignorance. Iris sold the Broadstairs Pavilion without many bleats from you then when a member of the Labour Party.

      • From my aged memory The Pavilion in Broadstairs and a nearby building were sold at auction to Mr Frank Thorley with possibly the sum reaching in excess of £1million. Mr Thorley subsequently went about modernising the properties and I have no doubts spent a further £500,000+ Of course Mr Thorley was the tenant of both properties so having already invested a considerable sum had to bid for both properties. One assumes TDC refrained from carrying out a private sale choosing to pay the selling agents commission and gaining as much as possible for TDC. The difference between Westcliff Hall and the Pavilion is that Mr Thorley as previously stated was a tenant and had already spent a fortune on both buildings. West cliff Hall is empty. All TDC are proposing is to grab as much as possible incur agents selling fees and possibly deprive youngsters and the rest of the community of a venue that one assumes would be self supporting after all the work has been carried out. Why Cllr Wells couldn’t a sale between both parties be agreed as a local asset rather than continue to show the greed of TDC.

  2. I never thought I would agree with anything John Pritchard says but this one shows a bit of sense. Its better than ignoring it. But then what woul;d you expect, the assets in Ramsgate have had little or no money spent on them, nor will they as long as this council run the TDC.

  3. There is only limited funds available to TDC to spend on large projects in Thanet. Margate has taken the lions share of these funds (Dreamland, harbour regeneration, Theatre Royal etc.). It is now time that TDC made a serious commitment to Ramsgate and supporting a project like Motor House would go long way towards regenerating the town.

  4. If we are not careful, Ramsgate will become a graveyard of unfinished projects with prime areas turned to wasteland. Pleasurama, Manston, slipways, Port, Motorhouse, Western Underbeach come to mind. The Motorhouse building is on the edge of collapse; Janet Fielding and her team have worked hard and consistently – why are they now placed in a late bidding war? Seems a very strange style of management.

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