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Go Folkestone AGM

Sir Terry Farrell and Folkestone Harbour and Seafront Development

The tenth celebratory Annual General Meeting of Go Folkestone took place at the Quarterhouse with the best attendance from members in years, followed after a short break by an increase in numbers from members of the public, so that Sir Terry Farrell addressed an almost full house. There is little doubt that this turnout indicates increasing optimism and excitement about the future of Folkestone.

At the AGM the Chairman Ann Berry spoke of activities of Go Folkestone this year – the magazine, the updated website and new Logo, Step Short project and the opening of the tourist office at the Hub at the bottom of Tontine Street. Richard Wallace told of his environment and planning committee which, had an excellent record of drawing attention to derelict buildings and making recommendations on planning applications. He also spoke of the town trail, and the community gardening project started by Nick Todd.

Following the short break, Go Folkestone founder and president Philip Carter said that though the Quarterhouse was almost full he knew of many who had been unable to come because “there is so much more going on in Folkestone now, compared to ten years ago.” He commented on the huge turnaround there had been in the town during the ten years since the founding of Go Folkestone, which was partly the result of his being told then that the town was no longer a worthwhile prospect for investment. Upset by what he saw as a slur on the town he had been so fully involved in both civically and as a businessman, he organised a meeting at Leas Cliff Hall, which attracted 800, with the intention of reviving confidence in the town and coming up with and supporting ideas for regeneration. “Go Folkestone”, he said “has subsequently become a very respected non-political community action group, with its members involved in or advocating many projects, including the Shed youth centre on the harbour, the fast train and Step Short as well as supporting the successful arts regeneration brought about by Roger de Haan and the Creative Foundation.” A further campaign led to the formation of the Town Council on which eight members sat as Go Folkestone councillors with Ann Berry, fittingly as the first mayor. He ended by stating that the revival of Folkestone was made clear to him recently, when, on letting a property in the Old High Street, he was flooded with applications! Even more indicative perhaps was the fact that people viewing his house, that is up for sale, came from places such as Tonbridge, Sevenoaks, Camberley and London – a complete change from a few years ago indeed…

Trevor Minter started by thanking Go Folkestone for its unwavering support and making it clear that both he and Roger De Haan were both born and bred in Folkestone and cared passionately about its future. He followed with a summary of the achievements of the Creative Foundation – eighty properties renovated, Quarterhouse, the Cube which has brought adult education closer to the main centres of population and the University Centre which has introduced higher education to the town for the first time. He also highlighted other achievements of the Roger De Haan Charitable Trust and the Folkestone Harbour Company – the Folkestone Academy, soon to be followed by the build of the primary section, recreation areas, sports facilities, the fountain and Rocksalt restaurant, all soon to be followed by facilities for sea sports and beach games in the area of the harbour.

Sir Terry Farrell started by looking at the great advantages enjoyed by Kent as a whole: the 21st century Garden of England, the United Kingdom’s most connected county and most varied and thriving coast. He felt certain that High Speed 1 would transform the opportunities for Folkestone in Britain and the continent but also that the town was already on its way up as small changes can alter the perception of a town and “perception is almost everything.” It was art that was helping this, as, in his experience, ”art is the greatest regenerator”. Turning to the seafront he felt sure of its success as plans done during a recession are undoubtedly more realistic. A step by step approach to its implementation would provide natural growth as with the Creative Quarter. He spoke of the green link on the railway line, which when completed would provide a linear walk of over a mile out on to the harbour arm in an area that is intended to be pedestrian friendly. None of the housing on the seafront would be higher than four storeys and be graded to one storey on the beach, with blocks and beach villas being designed by different architects, giving a variety of design, materials and finish. The housing, amounting to around 900 units, would pay for the renovation and maintenance of the harbour arm.

From reaction in the meeting there is little doubt that the plan is welcomed though there were differing opinions on some aspects of it which can aired during the consultation period that will follow.