A school fighting for survival has been dealt a fresh blow after the former Woolworths store it inhabits was put on the market for £1.8 million.
The building on the corner of Margate's lower High Street is currently occupied by The Margate School (TMS), a liberal arts education centre.
The not-for-profit school is facing the threat of closure following “several failed funding bids”, prompting a desperate campaign to raise the £50,000 needed to save it.
Now, the 1920s building it has called home for more than three years is up for grabs, with estate agents Terence Painter suggesting up to 14 flats could be created across the four floors.
TMS director Uwe Derksen said: “We are urgently seeking to raise £50,000 through our our crowdfunding page to keep the school open.
“This will give us the time and resources to continue our current teaching, studio and community space provision, saving jobs and raising the further funds we need to secure the school’s future.
“Within two days of our appeal more than 200 people sent supportive messages to us, which have highlighted the importance of the school to them.
“We want to continue to support and develop this unique creative community of over 100 professionals, students and volunteers.”
Mr Derksen, who founded TMS, confirmed that although the sale of the building is troubling, they “knew this was coming”.
He explained: “It won’t affect anything until summer when our lease runs out.
“Even if it was sold, it wouldn’t happen very quickly. There is the chance we would have to find other premises and it is a worry but it’s not on the forefront of our minds.
“The important thing right now is raising the £50,000.”
Among those backing the school is Labour councillor Rob Yates, who said: “TMS is a brilliant local creative space that holds a variety of events and caters to a diverse section of society. The sense of community loss is devastating.”
County councillor Barry Lewis added: “In the three years that TMS has been open, it has become an icon of our town.”
The old Woolworths building appeared on Rightmove on January 11, the same day TMS launched its ambitious fundraiser.
Terence Painter Estate Agents describes the premises as “an impressive, attractive building offering huge potential for either full commercial use or redevelopment to a mixed commercial and residential scheme”.
Woolworths closed after the company went bust in 2008.
"Now, one of Margate’s largest creative providers is under threat of imminent suspension and at worse, complete closure..."
In 2017, the High Street building was snapped up by owners of the now-closed Sands Hotel for almost £2 million.
But it stood derelict until the school took it over in 2018 to create the community space.
The school offers postgraduate courses and hires out areas of the venue for events.
A spokesperson for TMS said: “Up to now, the school has managed to combine its independent income with donations and public funds to support the development of its community while reaching the wider community at the same time.
“Now, after several recent funding bids have failed to materialise and our recruitment targets due to the cost-of-living significantly underperforming, one of Margate’s largest creative providers is under threat of imminent suspension and at worse, complete closure.”
The Margate School’s Crowdfunder, which has so far raised more than £17,000 of its £50,000 target, ends tomorrow.