Thanet council plan to sell off Margate’s Fort Road Hotel

The hotel has been empty for more than 22 years Photo geograph

Thanet council could put the Fort Road Hotel in Margate up for sale after 22 years of the property laying empty.

An option to put the building on the council’s asset disposal list is to be discussed by Thanet council Cabinet members at a meeting next week.

The hotel was compulsorily purchased by the authority in May 2010. Initial plans for the site were for a boutique hotel.

In 2011 more than 20 informal enquiries from developers, hotel owners and architects were made to TDC in relation to the property. A planning application to turn it from bedsits to a hotel was granted with the aim of linking its regeneration to Turner Contemporary.

In a TDC report at the time it stated: “ The Fort Road Hotel (previously the Fort Castle Public House) is one of the last surviving buildings in the area today that the artist JMW Turner would recognise. Turner spent 15 years ‘weekending’ in Margate with Sophia Booth (whose house was opposite) and, as a noted drinker, it seems inconceivable that he did not visit the establishment.”

The property is listed on maps of Margate going back to 1821, although it may be older.

TDC also installed a neon advertisement on the roof proclaiming ‘Iconic Site’ and said plans were for it to be turned into: “as a small, twenty-fi rst century character hotel with up to twelve rooms and a restaurant; which would help address the shortfall of quality hotel accommodation in Margate.”

But although a formal advert was published in October 2011 and 30 application packs for the project were sent out, none were returned to the council.

A mixed use hotel and restaurant scheme was drawn up by Guy Holloway Architects but TDC decided it was not suitable.

In 2015 an expression of interest was made by the Pollock’s Toy Museum Trust. The idea was for the Trust to house its collection at the property and open it as an attraction. However, at a council meeting in April of that year it was decided that the building should be converted into social housing flats.

A budget of £950,000 was agreed for the conversion. A further budget of £63,750, was set aside for costs of statutory compensation following the CPO. An allowance was also made for costs of £29,447 incurred prior to April 2015. Further costs for the building, totalling £77,009 have been incurred by TDC to date.

The social housing plan also failed to get off the ground. According to TDC documents , initial feasibility work was completed to assess the likely cost of refurbishing the building for housing purposes.

Photo from 1975

Outline designs were prepared  for potential options to provide 4 or 5 flats, with estimated costs ranging between £874,000 and £1.18million.

The report says: “None of these options are affordable within the current budget. Including the costs to date, the lowest cost option would total £1.1million, averaging £276,000 for each of the 4 flats. In comparison the HRA new build programme is costing around £204,000 per home.”

Compensation and costs were inally agreed and settled on 6 July 2017.

Cabinet members will now discuss three options for the site, either to carry on with the plan to convert to social housing flats; demolish the building or add it to the asset disposal list for sale on the open market.

An officer’s report to councillors say the conversion option would be too costly. They state: “There are significant technical issues with this option including the proximity of neighbouring buildings, the lack of outside amenity space and the condition of the structure of the building.

“These difficulties have been considered in developing outline costed proposals. To proceed with this option, an additional budget of between £64,000 and £370,000 would need to be allocated to the project.”

The option to demolish is also not recommended. The report states: “Although not listed, the building is within a conservation area and considered to be of heritage significance. Demolition would require planning consent. It would however remove a derelict building, considered by some as an eyesore.

Photo Dover-Kent.com

“It is estimated that the cost of demolishing the building would be around £100,000. Further costs would be incurred to convert the site into a usable public realm space. The council has further been advised that demolishing the building and clearing the site would devalue the sale price. The reasoning is that it is better to sell a site with an established use rather than a clear plot, particularly in a conservation area.”

The recommendation is to put the property on the asset disposal list to be sold on. The report says this would put money back into council coffers and mean regeneration for the site.

Some £810,048 currently earmarked for property costs could be used to provide new build homes instead and cash from a sale would be used on other council capital projects.

The meeting will be held at Thanet council on Tuesday, October 3 at 7pm.

3 Comments

  1. There are a number of other derelict sites across Thanet but the Council says nothing of them. Why not develop the gap in the seafront at Margate where an arcade was burnt down over a decade ago and the buildings either side left shored-up. That is more prominent and noticeable than this Fort Hotel. What about Northdown Road, Cliftonville where a hotel turned into a maze of flats burnt down years ago and again just left shored-up either side, or Eastern Esplanade, Cliftonville where the ex Butlins hotel was demolished and the grounds left overgrown and boarded up. The latest derelict building, again in Northdown Road burnt down and left derelict as an eyesore, the old Holly Tree pub. There are a number of sites the council should be working on to bring back into use but sadly they do nothing !

    • The Council own this building and it has been an embarrassment for a long time. Because NO ONE saw through any mentioned development our Labour administration decided in November 2014 to consider social housing for older tenants thus freeing up family Council homes. This was agreed before the May 2015 election and the Housing revenue £950k allocated. The flawed CPO under the Conservatives of which Cllr Wells played a leading role has led to expensive delays and now this report . If disposal is agreed there MUST be a tight timetable. The only guaranteed development was social housing and the two and half years delay has cost the tax payer dearly.

    • The seafront gap, ‘Godden’s Gap’ is now owned by Arrowgrass and currently in use as a dumping… ahem, storage, site for Dreamland operations. Staff from the Ziggy’s Rooftop Bar and adjacent former fish and chips shop or Cinque Ports were actively dropping the rubbish off the roof down towards the bins within the site throughout this year. Piles of bottles and general waste were accumulating next to the bins, effectively causing a health hazard. Little to improve the general long term neglect of the service road that is Hall by the Sea Road.

      There are plans currently rumored for Arrowgrass to submit a planning application and develop the gap site as a hotel/guest house and perhaps some permanent residence, to support their operations at Dreamland. Incidentally despite recommendation of refusal, Arrowgrass who also now own the derelict historic properties on Belgrave Road/Hall by the Sea Road, have been given approval by TDC to clear those properties, level the site and fence the area. In the future it is likely they will develop that site also.

      Otherwise all the other Marine Terrace properties are now fast going through a restoration movement bringing the former residences above the commercial properties back into suitable repair and reoccupation. This has been so called kick-started by the Dreamland investment and the restoration of the commercial properties before the cinema by Arrowgrass.

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