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Arlington – “A necessary decision”

June 16th 2013

North Thanet`s MP, Sir Roger Gale, has this weekend described as “a necessary and, I believe, a correct decision” the Secretary of State`s determination to grant consent, with conditions, for the Arlington (Margate)/ Tesco project.
“This end of the town has been subject to dereliction for far too long” says Margate`s MP. “We have the Turner Contemporary and the regeneration of the Old Town and lower High Street at one end of the seafront while on the doorstep of the railway station, to greet arriving visitors, we have an eyesore.  Those who, historically, granted the planning consent for the monstrosity that is Arlington House have a great deal to answer for certainly, but the block and the surrounding shopping “square” and car park do not have to be presented as a scene of abandonment and neglect. I have to hope and believe that the approval of a significant `anchor tenant` for the site will lead to a regeneration of the whole area and that coupled with the adjacent, though unrelated, re-development of the Dreamland project  fresh activity will be introduced  into an area that ought to be an attraction. Even tower blocks can, as has been demonstrated in London, be made to look attractive and the longer-term prospect of new small shops and another hotel at the Western end of the town are worth pursuing.
I do not share the view of either the Town Team Chairman, Mr. Ash, or of Ms. Portas, that the consent will damage the businesses in Margate High Street and I doubt that much trade will be taken from the excellent small shops and restaurants in Westbrook.
In so far as trade has moved away from Margate High Street that has been largely due to the construction of Westwood Cross.  Westwood itself is a good development that may have drawn back into Thanet business that would otherwise have gone to Canterbury or even to Blue Water but the sad fact is that the Council that granted consent for the Westwood development gave no thought to, and had no plan for,  the inevitable effect upon, particularly, Margate High Street.
That pass has been sold, however, and the game has changed.  If the Tesco development holds shoppers in Central Margate, rather than losing them to out-of-town shopping, then that has to be a good thing for seafront trade and also for the boutique shopping areas.  As an aside, one Tesco in the Arlington complex has to be preferable to a plethora of smaller supermarket “local” outlets in towns and villages like Westbrook and Birchington.
While I appreciate that both the Secretary of State`s decision and my own support for it are contentious I also know that there is a large silent constituency that probably represents a majority of individuals and businesses that says “get on with it and let`s breathe some life back into the whole seafront area”.  There will be transport infrastructure and design issues that will have to be addressed, of course, but we have suffered from delay and inertia for too long and the time has come to move forward”

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