Gales View - 20th June 2012
I was, and remain, very pleased that the hard work put into the Government`s High Street Regeneration bid by the Margate Town Team led and Chaired by Robin Vaughan-Lyons was successful. I supported this bid myself in representations to the Minister, Grant Shapps, and Grant took the trouble to tell me personally that the award was made solely on the strength and outstanding quality of the bid and the thought and imagination that lay behind it.
We need to be very clear that the award, by the Government, of £100,000 of `seedcorn` taxpayer`s money was not in any way related to or dependent upon the production of a documentary television programme commissioned by Channel Four or upon the presenter of any such programme. The Minister of State`s commitment to the regeneration of Margate High Street and the funding designed to help to kick-start that process, is personal and robust.
The repositioning of Margate as a destination resort actually commenced with the decision, by Kent County Council, to demonstrate the determination to realise the development of the Turner Contemporary. The initial and positive effect of that decision gathered pace as the project developed and reached a head of steam with the Queen`s visit to and formal opening of the gallery.
The Turner is, of course, only the cornerstone of the Margate Waterfront development and a very great deal needs to be done to bring about the revitalisation of Dreamland, The Lido and The Winter Gardens, the development of a new Lifeboat Centre and the construction of a seafront hotel adjacent to the gallery ,but much has already been achieved.
In Cliftonville West the process of the restoration of properties formerly in multiple occupation and the return of these fine houses to their rightful place as family homes has commenced. On the retail front a number of new businesses have already been established in Margate Old Town and the majority of available retail space in that location has been acquired for clients intending to invest in further new job-creating ventures.
The time is, therefore, right for the impetus to move into the lower part of Margate High Street. It is for that reason that Government intervention is now warranted and with a fair wind those behind the Town Team ought to be pushing at an opening door.
Having been behind the production and direction of many television programmes myself and having, in the early days of Channel Four, pitched for commissions for programmes I can recognise immediately the merit and attraction of a documentary tracking , from start to finish, what I trust will be the success of the pilot project to breathe life back into the High Street. Although Ms. Portas, the Government`s voluntary adviser who visited Margate recently, has now indicated publicly that her support for the scheme is not dependent upon the filming of a TV programme and has clearly expressed concerns about some of the restrictive measures contained within the originally proposed contribution contracts, I would hope that a sympathetic and accurate record of the process can and will be made with the support of the traders and people of the town.
With misunderstandings and ill-considered public comments put to one side I also trust that it will now be possible to move forward and to allow Mr. Vaughan-Lyons, Louise Oldfield and the other members of the Town Team to get on with the job and bring their dreams to fruition. This is not, and must not be allowed to become, a matter of egos and personalities. It is about the future of Margate, the town for which most of us have a very deep and long-standing affection.