The inaugural RICS Social Impact South East Awards were held today and we’re thrilled to announce that one of our schemes picked up an award.

Margate Caves picked up the Heritage award and is an excellent example of what these awards are about – true community engagement and power.

The scheme sees the re-opening of the long-closed cave system located in Cliftonville as well as the introduction of a Visitors and Community Centre above them. The new centre provides safe access down as well as a café, community rooms and an interpretation space. However, this was just the beginning of the story

The Friends of Margate Caves championed the development and raised the necessary funds to facilitate the build. They secured a grant of £1,1m from the Heritage Lottery Fund and £422,000 from the Big Lottery Fund. They also continued to fundraise throughout the pre-construction phase by hosting events including a silent postcard auction and crowdfunding that raised over £10,000.

The Trust wanted to ensure the Caves were more than just an attraction, they wanted to integrate into the community. Since the Caves opened and to January 2020, 9,350 people participated in community projects and 3,496 engaged in formal learning. They have achieved this through the implementation of an activity programme that takes the Caves out to the local community and hosting events including drop-in activities, special exhibitions and evening talks.

Cafe at Margate Caves

The Trust created several jobs from the creation of the new building, including a Centre Manager, Learning and Engagement Manager and a Café Manager. Alongside these paid full-time roles, the project has seen the new building become a hub for volunteering in Margate. 76 volunteers have been recruited since the Caves open and they have completed 861 days of work for the Trust.

Volunteers undertake a variety of roles from admitting visitors to the Centre, guiding them through the Caves, undertaking administration and more. The Trust have provided any required training to the volunteers and in return have provided the opportunity to work at a heritage site.

Since the Centre opened to the public in August 2019, it has had over 14,000 visitors and been shortlisted for the RIBA MacEwan Award.

Paul Gannaway, Director, said ‘Margate Caves is a project that exemplifies true community spirit and embodies all that the RICS Social Awards stand for. Thank you to the judges for recognising this and we look forward to attending the Grand Final in September’.

We congratulate all the other winners and thank you to the team at Margate Caves for allowing us to promote this fantastic scheme.

11th June 2020