The council has issued the following statement in response to today's (Monday 10 October) article in The Independent 'East coast blues'. Leader of Thanet District Council, Cllr. Bob Bayford, said: “It’s been a long time since I’ve read such an ill informed and inaccurate article. It’s a real shame that no-one bothered to contact the council to clarify the facts, and as a result they have widely missed the mark. It’s easy to make assumptions when you first arrive in a town, but with some checking, it would have quickly become clear that the hoardings around Dreamland are the first signs of life there, ahead of the opening of the world’s first heritage amusement park on the site. Far from the money having run out, we’ve already got funding in place from the government and the council itself and hope to add a significant chunk of lottery cash to that shortly. Of course we’ve heard of first impressions and we’re fully aware of the impact that the tower block by the station has. Perhaps a bit of research would have shown that there’s an application in from Tesco for this site, not Dreamland, another inaccuracy, which includes improvements to the appearance of that tower block. I’m sure the residents (many of whom are owner-occupiers) would be delighted to know that the report author wants to see it flattened and turned into open space! It’s encouraging to see that we can at least agree on one thing, that small independent shops are key to regeneration. A remarkable 78% of our stores are just that, small independents, ensuring that Margate doesn’t have a “cloned” high street. Part of that 78% includes the 35 new businesses that have opened up in the town in the last 18 months alone, figures that will no doubt be the envy of many other high streets. It’s easy to criticise and claim out of town shopping is the cause of Margate’s problems but the truth is that, without the introduction of our new town centre at Westwood, we would’ve seen major high street names quitting the area altogether. Given that choice, we chose to retain them and that’s provided 3,000 jobs in an area with high unemployment rates. As for leadership, successive council administrations have promoted and supported numerous regeneration initiatives including the hugely successful Turner Contemporary. The commitment of four million pounds to the Dreamland project and extensive work to bring 52 derelict properties back into use in the Old Town demonstrates that this council has Margate’s regeneration at the heart of its agenda. I call that good, strong leadership and far from “managing the decline” of Margate, I look forward to managing its resurgence over the next couple of years”.
Ed. This is a response to the article Coastal erosion: Can a retail guru save Margate? Different title online.