Four of Margate’s town team, who were successful in their bid for £100,000 of Portas Pilot cash, have resigned just days after bringing one of the town’s empty shops back into use.
The Chair, Vice Chair, Treasurer and Secretary who led the team to victory in the national Portas Pilot competition have all resigned their positions.
Mary Portas has continued to film in the town, but has never offered the community-backed town team a role in her TV programme. Her filming has caused friction, with the town team’s winning bid focused on Margate’s high street, while Portas concentrated on the already regenerated Old Town quarter.
Margate town team’s Louise Oldfield says in her resignation, “My position as Secretary and Press Officer has become untenable.
I have been subjected to public bullying by individuals that are seeking to further their own personal interests rather than the aims of the bid.
Given my professional and personal obligations, it is now clear to me that I cannot continue to devote my time and energy to Margate Town Team matters; especially as the external and internal lines of communication between the Margate Town Team, Thanet District Council, local press, the Mary Portas Team and business owners in Margate are so confused that the management of the project has become untenable.
To have my involvement in Margate Town Team, motives and personal ethics questioned in a public forum is totally abhorrent to me.”
Oldfield will continue to be active in Margate’s regeneration, as she is involved in a number of other projects in the town (including the campaign to save the iconic Arlington House), and she is landlady of the successful The Reading Rooms boutique b&b.
Margate’s Portas Pilot project is not the only one in trouble; Stockport town team has already lost the support of teenager Joe Barratt who made their winning pitch video.
This is a comment taken from Facebook. I thought it deserved to be read over here, and it’s reproduced with the permission of the author, regeneration & economic development specialist Dale Thomson:
” In 2011 I was lucky enough to be a member of the assessment panel for the Academy of Urbanism Great Neighbourhood Award and went to Margate to assess the Old Town. In the end they won and deservedly so. The Old Town sits like a wee jewel of life and enterprise in a sea of run down seaside streets and derelict sites.
However, the biggest attribute here was the community. The passion and love for the town was obvious, even during the short time we spent there meeting volunteers, shopkeepers, traders, artists and makers. What a shame to hear that divisive television makers have been trying to create tension and discord for the sake of sensationalising something that is in reality long hours of often thankless hard work (and so by its nature not great TV).
In my view Margate was doing just fine without Mary. Give them the money and let them decide how best to spend it (that’s what localism is supposed to be about, no?). The government still has a role to play here, which is investing serious money to re start the stalled physical regeneration. Doing the big stuff. However, they are unwilling to spend on this sort of regeneration and instead they rely on celebs who have no track record or skills in economic development or physical regeneration.
Mary, if you want to see how TV urbanism is done properly watch how Kevin McLoud approached Castleford in the Big Town Plan or 2004’s Demolition (featuring Worthing’s very own ‘Dreamland’, Teville Gate). But there again Kevin is a spatial planner, architect, property developer and RIBA Fellow…”