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Ramsgate: West Cliff Hall set to become major Thanet tourist destination

Ambitious plans to transform a landmark seafront building into a major tourist destination have been revealed.

Architects’ images released exclusively to our sister paper the Thanet Extra show a dramatically-transformed West Cliff Hall in Ramsgate.

Trustees plan a radical overhaul of the historic venue to offer the town boutique cinemas, a theatre, a brasserie-style restaurant and bar and additional events spaces for hire.

How the West Cliff Hall could look under the proposals
How the West Cliff Hall could look under the proposals
An interior shot of what is proposed at the West Cliff Hall in Ramsgate
An interior shot of what is proposed at the West Cliff Hall in Ramsgate

South-facing terraces will command views of the port and harbour while original gardens to the rear will be relandscaped to create an outdoor theatre.

According to trustees “this could be for Ramsgate what the Turner Contemporary is for Margate”.

Award-winning architect Guy Hollaway is the man behind the eye-catching design.

The West Cliff Hall today
The West Cliff Hall today

His proposals involve complete reconstruction of the hall, which was originally carved out of the cliff in 1914.

Expert contractors are to take a vast mould of the existing facade and recast it in concrete, with modern apertures punched through allowing views to the sea.

Mr Hollaway said: “The old can meet the new. We can breathe new life into a building at risk.

“I think it’s significant because this is a major public building that will become a destination not just for the people of Ramsgate but for those from beyond.

“It will be a huge draw”.

West Cliff Hall has had a chequered past.

Completed in July 1914, it opened to the public as a concert hall on the site of the Italian Gardens.

It was extended in the 1930s to widen the promenade above and a one-storey annex was also created.

By the 1970s the original seafront terrace was expanded to its current size of around 600 sqm.

A decade later, two brothers from Essex took over the lease and turned the hall into a motor museum.

This closed in 2005 and the building has been derelict since.

How the West Cliff Hall looked inside
How the West Cliff Hall looked inside

Dreams to reopen the site into a community destination began with a tentative approach to Thanet District Council by Ramsgate resident and former Dr Who star Janet Fielding.

The following year Fielding was invited to put a business plan together for the hall.

Since then Project Motorhouse – now a registered charity – has evolved into a fully-costed plan put forward by Fielding and fellow trustees.

Fielding told the Extra: “At the moment the frame of this building is in terrible condition and we’ve already closed part of the promenade.

“There’s no question something has to be done.

“It will cost £1.3 million just to fill the site and get nothing from it. But if the council puts forward £1.6m we will get the frame of the building.

“This gives us the opportunity to provide facilities for the community in what is a landmark location. This could be for Ramsgate what the Turner or Dreamland are for Margate.”

Members of the public are invited to see the plans in detail on Friday, November 27, and Saturday, November 28, between noon and 4pm at the Ramsgate Music Hall in Turner Street.

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