Friday, May 26, 2006

Ask Sandy - The Future of Margate High Street

Just in time for the Bank Holiday weekend, Council Leader, Sandy Ezekiel answers readers questions on the future of Margate High Street:

Q: It has been said that the purchase of the empty Marks and Spencer building by TDC and the provision of even more retail space on the ground floor, will lead to transformation of the area. Those that remain of the small and medium sized shops in the High Street are deserting it, leaving a huge number of, unattractive, boarded up, almost derelict and ‘un-lettable’ retail floor spaces.

Where does the Council think the 'new' retailers needed to fill the 'new' M&S site, and all of the empty High Street shops, and all of the empty shops in the Old Town Area, are coming from, when the surrounding shops are derelict and boarded up?

Does Cllr Ezekiel accept that there is a price to pay for Westwood Cross. Isn't there too much retail capacity in Thanet, and shouldn't we be finding some other uses, at least for the lower high street?

A: "It’s all too easy to look at Margate High Street and say “it’s finished”.

The easy option would be just to look at getting shops to fill the existing premises and in the short term, that’s what the Council and its regeneration partners will be seeking to do, but we’ve got to be realistic. We’ve all heard the same story from retailers. They keep telling us that they want modern retailing space and that’s the future for Margate. That’s what we’ve got to provide for them to ensure a long term future for our town and that’s what I want and what I’m sure everyone wants to see.

Yes, we have empty units in Margate at the moment. This has arisen out of a combination of leases coming up for renewal at the same time as the uncertainly over the future of Marks and Spencer building, which is one of the anchor premises in the town. That’s why we’ve purchased it. By creating modern retail space in the heart of Margate, there is every prospect that retailers will be attracted back into the town centre.

You’ve only got to look at any modern retail shop to understand what sort of thing they’re looking for. They want relatively open floor space and that’s not what’s on offer in Margate at the moment. That’s what we need to change.

It’s an interesting comment that there’s too much retail capacity in Thanet at the moment. In that case, why would leading high street names like PC World, Argos Extra and Homebase be building modern new premises in the area? They obviously don’t feel that there’s too much retail capacity here and these companies do their homework.

And why are these companies building new premises, rather than moving into existing ones? Because that’s retailers want.

Equally there are many modern retailers who want to be located in town centres. That’s where people are based after all and more and more homes are being built back in town centres, rather than on green field sites, and that’s part of our plan for Margate – to encourage more people to live in the town centre, providing more potential customers for shops, restaurants and cafés.

Let’s not forget that there’s been a lot of good work already done in Margate in the Old Town. There are new businesses opening all the time – three in the last few weeks. It’s becoming home to individual niche market retailers and we want to encourage that all along Margate High Street. The café society we want to encourage is now appearing and growing all the time. It’s such a difference from how the Old Town was a few years ago. There are now reasons to go there and I hope everyone will support our fledging creative quarter. It’s a beautiful area with some wonderful shops and excellent restaurants and should be on everyone’s list to visit. "


stuart said...

therse questions are mildly entertaining to read but i wonder when sandy will ever read the responses, or indeed when his council will listen to anything anyone on this island has to say.

i feel like banging my head on the desk sometimes because it is so obvious what is being done wrong, especially in Margate.

lets give sandy a clue, it's nothing to do with carpet. it begins with t and ends in ourism.

another buzzword for sandy to research 'dreamland'

remember it? no? it was east kents biggest visitor attraction until your policy muffed it up!

Anonymous said...

If Sandy and his fellow Tories are not listening to the people of Thanet - who do pay them after all - who ARE they listening to? Some months ago, it emerged that the new Tory leadership in Canterbury had been having secret meetings with developers without officers present. Does that provide a clue? Who is in whose pockets, I wonder?

tony flaig said...

Well whats wrong with good old fashioned market forces one might ask Sandy, and still we have no firm idea of how this space is going to be used, costing most likley around £6 million to purchase. I think we could spend public money more wisley in fact we could give it away £1000 every weekend for the next 6000 weekend that would soon fill the high st and frankly be more fun!

DrMoores said...

Best idea I've heard yet - could be the called the Thanet Lottery. Get KFC and MacDonalds to throw in a happy meal for the runners up and the High Street would be packed!

Anonymous said...

We jest and laugh guys as the tragedy of this summer season unfolds.
The depressing boarded up squalor of a kebab and chip shop, two doors down from another boarded up restaurant now greet visitors as they drive in or walk down from the station. TDC might want to think about paying for mural style decoration on them?
Don't even mention the farce that is masquerading as Dreamland this summer. What is this fixation on a 'cafe society' all about? People visit for a purpose and then enjoy cafes and restaurants during their stay. Sadly, I can see little in Margate to attract visitors other than the beach that the Creator takes credit for.

Anonymous said...

Sandy says there are still retailers interested in Thanet. Yes, but they don't seem to have much interest in the run down and derelict high streets, do they? All the time there is one retailer managing to hang on, the big boys will think there's still some meat left on the bone, and I'm thinking of the likes of Henry's in Margate High Street. PC world, Argos Extra, and Homebase aren't opening in the High Street are they? They will just poach any remaining trade. We will end up with at least one totally dead high street, maybe more. Admit it Sandy, Westwood has killed off Margate high street for good. If you don't beleive me, take a look at Canterbury where the LA have mistakenly allowed a similar overprovision of retail space, all the key stores have now deserted the High Street and moved into Whitefriars.

Anonymous said...

Can you ask Sandy the question again please. He doesn't appear to want to give a straight answer.

Where does the Council think the 'new' retailers needed to fill the new M&S site and all of the empty High Street shops and all of the empty shops in the Old Town are coming from? Just a straight forward answer without the political woffle would be appreciated. He says there are retailers who want modern space. Who are these mysterious retailers, and what are they going to sell?

Chris said...

I want a retail space. I have been made unemployed. I don't want to saddle myself with a big loan and high risk at 53 so where is the initiative to get me the space I need. Only put 5 k into my business have stock. Van etc leaving me 2 k for retail space and cash flow. The pop up shop idea is great but the Margate one seems to be geared to crafts and not just mainline retail