Monday, 2 June 2008

ARE MARGATE HARBOUR ARM BUSINESSES REALLY VIABLE?

It is with some trepidation that I ask this question as the response to my last comments about the 'hype' at Margate Harbour Arm on May Bank Holiday week-end received this comment from Fiona Sherriff, (Margate Harbour Arm Ltd/ Ramsgate Properties/ Pineapple Properties (Kent) Ltd), whom I hope has invested in a stronger front door and has realised that keeping £20,000 in loose change around the house is not a good idea as 'Kent's Finest' have probably advised her already:

" Your comments illustrate your utter stupidity and lack of imagination. Go and sit in a hole and take some more vallium. If you need some razor blades I can arrange it. "

I suppose, given the circumstances of a wrecked home/credit squeeze/ falling property prices and other developers in Thanet ceasing work on projects, things haven't been too good for Fiona and Graham recently.


Anyway, back to the title. I went along on a June Sunday afternoon at the end of the Summer Half Term week to savour the delights of The Harbour Arm. As I passed the broken/incomplete flag pole and piles of wood, I actually came across a mum and two children on The Harbour Arm; "How nasty" said one toddler, exiting from and describing the mobile loo followed by a cry from Mum , " Jason, get off that wood it has nails sticking out". They were the only people Bertie saw in 30 minutes on the Harbour Arm.


What's my point? We have about 12 weeks of summer left and as the picture above shows, English weather in the summer is not always conducive to a brisk trade on seaside Harbour Arms based in a town that is quietly dying without a major all weather attraction. Granted, the doors and windows were painted in pretty colours that matched the flags and IOTA Gallery looked suitably arty-farty even when closed. The roofs had a nice covering of pitch except on an exposed corner at the start of the sheds and the little signs saying what each unit 'might be' looked very tasteful.


The real question is ' Is it not too late this season for any business to set up here and be viable?' To cover the outlay and staff costs in setting up, is there really time for Harbour Arm to attract viable businesses this summer? The footfall along the Harbour Arm seems inadequate to maintain businesses in profit in the short season ahead and before the weather will turn in September. The 'hype' surrounding The Harbour Arm is good but reminds me of the same 'oohs' and 'aahs' that greeted A Big Wheel stuck in Godden's Gap in the summer of 2006 as commentators greeted the 'revival' of Dreamland. It soon wheeled off to Manchester.

Maybe some brave souls will attempt to run a business before the equi-noctal gales treat The Harbour Arm to a soaking as the picture below illustrates. I wish them luck if they do.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

3,000 people turned up over the weekend apart from you and although there isn't much there at the moment,those same people will be back when the cafes open. You may be prepared to write the whole thing off after 2 minutes but some of us are actually willing to give it a chance.
I'm off to look for that razor blade and bucket. Where should I leave it?

steve said...

there were 8 people on the harbour arm at midday on sunday. Myself and other half, 2 walking the sea wall, 4 dangling a line off the end fishing.

The other 2,992 must have been at the bucket and spade run enjoying themselves.

Anonymous said...

Lets hope that with all the anticipated visitors nobody ends up in the briny!! particularly a child
cant imagine you could have had a pier without railings

she had better hope health and safty do not take an interest

Anonymous said...

Considering the disasters that have occured in Margate these last few years that have led to the demise of most of the High Street, is it any wonder that people are sceptical about the success of a few new shops, when the old ones are all boarded up!

Seems like a fair concern to me.

Pity about the abusive tirade from Fiona Sheriff of the Harbour Arm Company. I hope she learns to speak to people a little better in the future or her big, rude mouth might make people wonder what she is in this for; the beautification of Margate, or a few quick bucks as a developer!

There again, if she is in cahoots with the council, she is I suppose only following in the steps of their gallant leader and speaking from the gutter!

Tony Beachcomber said...

Bertie, you have really got this down to a fine art the subjects you choose and the questions you throw to raise debate, not wishing to be a brown nose I do like your blog.

But getting back to the issue of the harbour arm, I can remember when the Harbour was busy and had businesses with a steady stream of people visiting or taking a stroll. Also it was not so long ago when the harbour had boats and ten fishing boats and working crews.Also the Harbour earnt good revenue having the cheapest Parking in town.
The decline of the Harbour was entirely due to the actions of Margate Pier and Harbour Company under Blatch & Co it was nothing to do with business failure it was entirely due to MPHC policies.Plus there was no investment or imagination to take the Harbour forward it was allowed to fall into disrepair.
Margate Harbour is and always will be a working Harbour, it is the maritime focal point of Margate. Something vistors and locals like to see, it will never a Bradeley wharf and I doubt if the new owners have that in mind. Even though I live in Ramsgate my heart has always been for maritime Margate and I feel bitter at the tretchery dealt on Maritime Margate by the local authority over the years aided and abetted by others. I have had to listen for years people taking the piss out my maritime heritage and the town where I was born, so at last I am glad that someone is prepared to do something about the harbour, okay their vision might be slightly different that mine but at least they are bold enough to make an effort.
So what is my vision you may ask apart form carrying out repairs etc.
First I will cut the price of the mooring fees for boats, allow cars to park cheaply,open a vistor centre (history and all that) in a unit plus a bit of sealife, publish books on the history,encourage angling like start a club have competions trophies cah pool pizes etc,change the apearance with street like decorations for example ask the council to resite the cannons at hodges point somewhere at the harbour, get a giant anchor from somewhere and display it, old stlye seating, open up the small locker type stores and rent them out to mariners,have a version of boat jumbles, Have the blessing of the seas at high water on margate slipway tide permitting,encourage maritime trades, replace the desescrated memorial to the victory lugger crew lost helping the crew of the northen belle (1857),also do something about dunkirk memorial, boat salvaging, water sports, the list is endless
Finally, i wouldn't be put off by the weather it is all part of the fun.

Anonymous said...

why are you trying to talk down a young business?. No wonder you work for someone else.

Anonymous said...

Who is talking the vistor figures up in Margate as they do not appear to be realistic, and cetainaly not reflected in any upturn in commercial activity. And TDC on parking charges appear to have adopted the same principle as the fuel escalator.Only upwards regardless of the demise of our empty town centres.

Anonymous said...

If the old businesses in the town are allowed to continue shutting down at the current alarming rate, then no new business will survive as the town will have already lost it's heart and lost the variety that the public wants.

Bertie Biggles said...

Tony, glad you enjoy visiting and I heartily agree with your views about the neglect of our harbour and your thoughts on how to improve its visitor foot-fall.

09.34 sounds like Fiona again? Razors and invitations to self-immolate; all too nasty. What really concerns me 09.34 is not numbers for 'an event'on what happily turned out to be the best day in terms of weather for the Bank Holiday weekend but a small business sustaining footfall on The Harbour for businesses investing their hopes and dreams for a decent livelihood in. At the moment I just think that the sustaining and vital 'footfall' is not there. Steve's comment supports that view, I'm afraid.

Anonymous said...

There are always people to take a risk with other people's money. The guy who had Impressions used staff paid, I believe, by the government or council, now has a café bar in Broadstairs High Street. I was informed by another café owner that the reason for the delay in the new place getting a licence was due to objections from other owners who pay minimum (at least) wages and objected to a competitor getting free labour.

Under what terms has Fiona Sherriff got hold of the Harbour Arm, anyway? Lease/rent-free?

Peter Checksfield said...

The lack of railings concerns me a little too...OK for a harbour, not so OK for a family-orientated shops & cafes area.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Fiona is hoping Bertie will fall off!

Fiona said...

OK, here we go.
1. I am not part of Pineapple Properties.

2. It was utterly dumb to keep money in the house but normally we don't. Clearly it was someone we know. Lesson learned!

3. I can spel valium.

4. The BMX ramps were in the middle of being taken down for safety reasons! Apologies for any temporary hazard. Likewise the company should have collected the smelly loo but didn't.

5. Unfortunately we were always up against it with timing for this summer, having only started the renovation work in February, but that's when the lease from the council was signed. Not a lot we can do about that but we are in discussion with people who do believe they can set up businesses there quickly. We will be having some temporary events and a bar out there over the summer so the space is utilised and footfall is created.

6. Margate Harbour Arm Ltd are not allowed to put up railings because it is a listed structure and also a working harbour. I share everyone's concerns and we are working with TDC licensing/health and safety to minimise any risks during events by having temporary railings. Having said that there are many precedents for unprotected harboursides in the UK and abroad, and we have to give some credit to the human race's innate sense of self-preservation.

7. I am interested in the beautification of Margate, a. because it is my home, b. to make a living, and c. with a bit of luck to make a long-term buck. It does not make me evil. I'm not in cahoots with TDC - they just leased the property to us, and paid some of the development costs. Without their, and EDRF's, funding the project was not commercially viable and Margate would still have a dead harbour.

8. 09:34 was not me.

Anonymous said...

well said Fiona.I my family and friends are local and we are really pleased that you have vision and are making a start with regeneration and the harbour arm.Of course it will take time but myself family and friends can already see change for the better-so keep up the good work!

Peter Checksfield said...

Thanks for your reply Fiona.

Fiona said...

In the future, information about what is happening can be found at www.margateharbourarm.co.uk, but I can't update it until Thursday, when my back-up files are reloaded after the burglary.

Are the businesses really viable? I like to think they will be if we choose good enough businesses. Undeniably, the summer will be the best time, but it's also an all-year project. The Indian Princess and No 6 are busy even on winter evenings because they are good, and people travel to them. Nobody is denying it is a challenge and there will be some days where the weather wins. Incidentally, IOTA is getting over 100 visitors a day and the signage isn't even up yet.

Anonymous said...

Thats more visitors than tdc's art effort in the high st surely? Well done

Anonymous said...

In a nutshell, no in the current economic climate, unless there is a subsidy, private enterprise could not survive alone.

Anonymous said...

Death to all enemies of our great leader, honourable Chairmen Zan Di, may he purge all enemies of the people - those that do not share his vision for his golden future.
Death to all pro-democracy, western imperial capalist roaders .
Yo Wei Lan

Margate Architecture said...

The Indian Princess are indeed a shining of example of how great unique and quality food and service can work in Margate. Quality attracts. Simple as that.

.... said...

Maybe if people weren't so quick to write off any new ideas and plans for the regeneration of margate and put the energy they do into positively helping promote stuff the ideas and plans would work.

Bertie Biggles said...

Selina, thanks for your comment.There is a world of difference between unbridled optimism and harsh commercial reality. I would be delighted to see the Harbour Arm be a resounding success but foot-fall along it needs to sustain enterprises. Weather, winter and a building site for Turner takes its toll. Westwood Cross has decimated the 'shopper' numbers and the growing alternative of night leisure there has hit numbers in the evening. TDC got it wrong in 2006 by ignoring the advice of an independent inspector in regard to Dreamland. Frank Thorley, who ought to know the trading nature of business in Thanet made representation to a House of Commons Committtee about an all weather, all seasons, visitor attraction on The Dreamland site. I have watched the decline of Margate in the past few years and I am not optimistic that the present efforts are going to create the needed numbers returning to the Town.

Anonymous said...

How is it, that after an enourmous amount of funding for the Harbour arm from TDC, you can regularly see one of the Directors of Pineapple Properties/Margate Harbour Arm Ltd, Sitting on the arm charging poor unsuspecting tourists £6 to park on it?? is this one of the uks most expensive car parks? Is it right that we should have to pay to park on someothing that has been paid for by .... oh yes our tax paying money!

Anonymous said...

I agree it should not be used as a car park - the harbour arm is meant to improve footfall to the Old Town area and augment the regeneration efforts being made by the Council and others. TDC should take action to ensure it is used properly and if not then they should revoke the lease. In its current state it appears the leaseholder has hoodwinked the council for their own financial gain rather than taken the lease to improve its functionality within the regeneration quarter.

Anonymous said...

i completely agree, but more than that, wasnt the funding to make it a social point and thriving cultural point for Margate? NOT a car Park....

Bertie Biggles said...

I too have noticed that Harbour Arm has for some time had a car-park on it. If what you say is true, the income is probably greater than 'trade' there. Just a thought, does the Harbour Arm need Planning Consent to be used as a car Park?

Anonymous said...

No planning permission needed as it previously had that use.

Anonymous said...

I was born at margate hospital in 1974 and have lived in margate ever since.My great great uncles and grandfathers were carpenters,fisherman,and ship builders working in and around margate harbour circa 1820.My uncle Alfred wilson worked for the lifeboat at margate in the 1900s and was given a gallantry award from the R.N.L.I which is now been donated to the margate museum.my other great uncle Alfred wilson laid the foundation stone for the wintergardens.My mum and dad have also worked in margate all there life along with the rest of the family,I find it sad that i never get an opinion on what goes on and around the town of margate where i live,It seems to me that people do now a days are trying to turn margate into something that it is not,with no consideration for the margatonians that live here.Just the other day i thought i would go fishing along margate harbour towards the light house,which my self and my forfathers have done for nearly centurys,Only to find i could not take my car up the harbour arm as there was a sign saying NO ACCESS,DELIVERIES ONLY.I have used the harbour for many years,The people with the new businesses on the harbour should of considered the fisherman and locals who use the harbour with there vehicles before putting a sign up stateing no entry,yet again another bit of margate has been taken away from the locals,Im sure health and safety comes into this with the tables and chairs along the harbour wall,The harbour is for every body its not just a cash machine.