Page last updated at 10:17 GMT, Tuesday, 16 September 2008 11:17 UK

Action plea to boost seaside town

Artist's impression of the Turner Contemporary
Plans for the Turner centre are "moving forward"

Struggling traders in Margate have called for council action to help boost business in the town.

About 70 traders raised their concerns with Thanet District Council in the second of two meetings to be held in the east Kent coastal resort.

Cafe owner Pauline Dunhill said trade had "gone down really badly" and little had happened to regenerate Margate.

Council chief executive Richard Samuel promised more work to improve the town and further effort to regenerate it.

The meeting on Monday covered financial issues, hardship relief, policy on empty shops, the impact of roadworks, street cleaning and maintenance, and future regeneration projects.

Ms Dunhill said some "appallingly damaging decisions" had been taken in the past.

In my view we've had five wasted years

Councillor Iris Johnston

She said the out-of-town Westwood shopping centre "shouldn't have been allowed", and she added that the Dreamland amusement park "shouldn't have closed".

Adding that talks about building the Turner arts centre were under way before she moved to the town five years ago, she said: "I think it will be a big benefit. But we're not going to know until we get it."

Ward councillor Iris Johnston said she was also "extremely frustrated" with the decline in trade, and people in the town were "fed up".

She said talks about the art centre began as early as 1994, and the project was now "moving forward, with contractors and developers set to be appointed in October.

But she added: "In my view we've had five wasted years."

Low incomes

Mr Samuel said: "There is no doubt that traders are struggling in Margate. And there are two things we can do.

"One is that we can concentrate our efforts on improving the day-to-day things that people see - the way cleaning is done, the way that we tackle empty buildings, those sorts of issues.

"And the second is that we must continue to press the major regeneration effort that is going on."

But he added that the town had "one of the poorest communities in the South East" surrounding its shopping area, and said: "Within half a mile of Margate town centre, there is a very high concentration of people who are on very low incomes.

He added: "That feeds into the shopping environment and as a result people don't come into the town centre and don't spend the money and the traders struggle as a result."

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