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Building starts at Turner gallery

25 November 08 12:57 GMT

Building work is finally getting under way on a £17.4m art gallery which it is hoped will help the regeneration of north Kent's seaside towns.

A formal ground-breaking ceremony in Margate on Tuesday marked the day builder Durtnell moved on to the site of the Turner Contemporary Gallery.

"The gallery heralds a new era for Margate," said director Victoria Pomery. "It is incredibly exciting."

The original design was scrapped when costs spiralled to nearly £50m in 2006.

Norwegian architects Snohetta and Spence originally designed a gallery to be built in the sea.

When that was abandoned, new architect David Chipperfield produced a plan for a two-storey building in white opaque glass.

It is to be built at Fort Hill, on the site of a cottage where 19th Century artist JMW Turner lived and worked in Margate.

'Beautiful coastline'

The Arts Council England, the South East England Development Agency and Kent County Council (KCC) are among those providing funding.

KCC leader Paul Carter said the gallery's exhibits would include Turner's paintings, and there would also be classrooms and lecture theatres.

"We will be making sure that we really do promote Margate and Turner in a cohesive and sensible way," he said.

"We have an extraordinarily beautiful coastline in Kent and we need to promote it to get more visitors and tourists into this part of the country."

But James Kennell, tourism and regeneration expert at the University of Greenwich, said the gallery, due to open in 2011, would not address all the factors in the decline of tourism.

"What it can do is act as a catalyst and attract other investment and tourists and really make a change in the town," he said.

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