RIP Bill Newns, long-retired Bank Manager, Lion, promoter of the Donkey Derby, long time GF member and perennial quizzer, who died just before Christmas, in hospital after a short illness.

Go Folkestone, which has in the last twenty years secured the statutory listing of more Folkestone buildings than any other amenity group, including The Leas Pavilion, Bathurst Pillar and The Weston Fountain, is pursuing co-operation with the New Folkestone Society, Heart and the Sandgate Society in developing a local list. We hope we can all work together, and I am very impressed by the template developed by the Sandgate Society for a list of suitable buildings. The New Folkestone Society, which nearly closed in 2021, has been much more energetic recently under Hythe businessman Matt Jones, and now has some committee members in common with Go Folkestone.

Please buy the lovely 2023 Aspects of Folkestone Calendar direct from us or via Country Fayre in the Old High St, County Hardware in Cheriton Road, Seymour Harrison in Tontine Street, Marrin Books in Sandgate Road, The British Lion, Penkraft for £8, all profits to projects. Over the last two years GF put just over £1400 into the Plimsoll Mural, and also found the current site and other money for the Plimsoll Group. You buying the calendars is worth 3x the money because councilors such as David Monk and Dylan Jeffery, and donors such as Angela Conyers match-fund. The Plimsoll painting is currently away for winter being reframed in more durable stainless steel. In the past we have funded the Morehall Elephant mural, Sir Jeffery Hudson’s statuette in Kingsnorth Gardens, David Railton’s blue plaque in Millfield and some Jubilee tree planting.  SALES ARE LAGGING BEHIND LAST YEAR DESPITE EXCELLENT PHOTOGRAPHS.

The Plimsoll Group itself is revising itself to a new group with Michael Foad and Angela Conyers retiring, memorial job well done. The new group will be centred on St Nicholas Church in Horn Street and if you want to help see the vicar!!  This will keep the annual memorial to Samuel Plimsoll alive. It will now be permanently linked to his date of death in June rather than his birth in February.

The Go Folkestone meeting following our AGM on 9th November was a big success with 105 members and non-members attending a review by Sir Roger de Haan of The Regeneration of Folkestone and The Seafront, including a few people from the New Folkestone Society, Heart, The Rainbow Centre and even Kent Refugee Action Network.  We hope to get increase membership and remain the largest civic group. Over half of the 105 attended the earlier AGM as members, plus the Mayor, Cllr Nicola Keen and of course former chair Cllr Ann Berry. £230 was collected for The Rainbow Centre, which also has had full Government funding confirmed for its Winter Shelter program. Please Volunteer (see magazine).

We have decided in concert with Sir Roger to have an informal Go Folkestone sub-group to keep a dialogue going, reflecting our members’ concerns raised at our monthly meetings in a way that can hopefully influence the Harbour Company’s policy.  Specialists such as Howard Holt are on the small group, but we will consider recruiting one or two Go Folkestone members who are outside the committee.  Please step forward to

Photograph by Kate Noble

Going up to council elections in May (!) Go Folkestone has had some criticism for liaising with the Harbour Company. My personal answer to this is that firstly we have not been backward in critiquing the Seafront scheme particularly on traffic levels and parking, the potential height and mass of the later phases, the need for good linkage to the town centre in order to safeguard most of the central shops, the desirability of measures to prevent empty investment flats,  and the future of some individual buildings such as The Former Princess Royal behind The London and Paris.

Secondly our position doesn’t prevent other groups campaigning against other issues or even against the whole scheme. We start from the position that it will progress over its twenty years or so lifespan because the Harbour Company did buy it, mainly from Jimmy Godden, as a development site, and it has got a valuable outline planning permission. Realistically when did you ever see a South Coast seafront plot with good links to London that was not highly developed even in Victorian times? Perhaps some social housing can be built by converting part of Marine Terrace.

Thirdly Go Folkestone does believe that the design standard is higher than it would have been with many developers, that Sir Roger, particularly in light of The Harbour Arm, has been a very positive influence on Folkestone, and that the town has done well compared with Dover, Margate etc, This is even though, to be fair, the local councils have tried very hard in many of the competitors e.g. pouring taxpayers’ subsidy into the St James’ Centre in Dover.

Subject to our further group and committee confabs we remain anxious about the adequacy of car parking provision in this residential AND tourist area, the large final harbourside building (albeit not due for some years nor yet given planning permission), shopping competition with the town centre, the fate of The Leas Lift and The Princess Royal, the safeguards against investment flats being left empty, and other matters to be pursued. But given the good design and the fact that residential building here will reduce building targets elsewhere in Folkestone, and should boost the local economy, we are positive. The Government has today signalled that it may give some flexibility to its national building targets, but anyone who thinks the pressures to build more dwellings is going away is in Cloud Cuckoo Land.

Under the previous owner Jimmy Godden in the 2000’s, there were plans for a supermarket and cinema, plonked down without design thoughts, in the subject area, which would have badly affected the town centre, and, from memory, 14 storeys of development. The current plans are better and can be made even better. Societies such as ours are dedicated to making commercial development in a country with too few dwellings better, rather than being Bananas (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything). That could mean backing a multi-storey car park. It could mean asking for some true social housing not in the modern blocks but in Tontine Street or Mill Bay. But Sir Roger would no doubt say to many of the complainants that the Harbour Arm is enough of a planning gain itself.

Unfortunately expected news on Folca/Debenhams, has not come out before Christmas. We will not enlarge on the Go Folkestone magazine article except to say that the costs of the surgery scheme are much more than they were.  Nearly all Go Folkestone members are excited by the prospect of a town super-health-centre but appalled at any idea that the whole site would be flattened for it. We want the characterful frontages preserved. If there are any councillors reading, our disabled members are vociferous about the need for decent nearby parking in any scheme.

Other News:

Planning application on Spring Terrace, behind the Carnegie Library. This is an interesting but good application to add 2 extra terraced houses at the end of the existing Victorian terrace of three 3 storey houses which have been precariously poised above Foord Rd and Ford South for over a hundred years. The design of the two new houses is a modern but very similar version of the Victorian stock brick and soldier arches which we approved through the Town Council planning committee, subject to our legit moan about car parking: the latter clearly impossible on site.

The Levelling Up Department of national government has accepted the bid of The Rainbow Centre, based in Sandgate Road and publicized in our latest magazine, for its night shelter programme for the next 3 years:   22-23:   £74500 ;  23-24: £57000 and 24-25: £55,000, PLUS £14000 for another scheme. This will enable the whole Winter Shelter scheme to progress. It needs volunteers. If you have spare time, contact The Rainbow Centre on the corner of West Terrace.

All Rainbow’s other schemes are still wanting cash and other donations, such as the different types of food bank, and Go Folkestone was very proud to have collected at least £230 in cash at its AGM for The Rainbow Centre, with a little more possible. The cash will be chequed into Go Folkestone, and then the treasurer will transfer it to The Rainbow Centre.

Planning wise the most likely application to actually be carried out to a sensitive building is the proposed conversion of the upper parts of 88 Sandgate Road.

Application Number 22/1856/fh (Listed building consent) ;  22/885/fh ( Building Consent) : Change of use of first and second floor to 2 x 1 bedroom flats and 1 x 3 bedroom flat, use of basement for bin storage, insertion of 4no roof lights on rear roof slope, 1no roof light on front roof slope. DEADLINE 8TH DECEMBER.

I have provisionally put in the following self-explanatory comment after checking with the committee:

‘’88 Sandgate Road was the Victorian central Post Office before the Crown PO was built in the 1930s. It was later the Labour Exchange and has several sandstone plaques and embellishments from its historic past. It has already been heavily modernized in parts by being converted to a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet with a former commercial gym over it, formerly also a carpet fitter! Go Folkestone, a local amenity group of over 200 members dedicated to the positive treatment of the town and its heritage, views 88 Sandgate Road as a very sensitive building and a key part of the town’s heritage. IT MUST REMAIN DISTINCTIVE AND AS UNSPOILT AS POSSIBLE. 

We noted with satisfaction the toning down of some of the KFC signage in the recent past. We trust that the conversion of the gym to domestic residences will be accomplished with minimal and discrete signage and with building materials appropriate to a listed building, particularly in visible spaces. Arguably the listed building should be named The Old Post Office, but discretely. A template for that is the conversion of the Edwardian Morehall pub in Cheriton Road to dwellings, which has kept certain features and kept the address. The period doorway and the Victoria plaque in the centre of the Sandgate Road frontage should be repaired with the best materials and an unsuitable modern style door and windows must NOT be allowed. The ground floor door is particularly obvious, and opportunity should be taken to put or keep this in the original Victorian style.  

We will be asking the planners whether any conditions could lead to an improvement of the eroding sandstone embellishments. The roof should be Kent Peg tiles. A planning check should be considered for any unlikely but possible record survivals under floorboards etc. and interesting minor historical survivals if any, such as vestigial gaslight fittings should be saved.’’

The hard copy magazine went out in the first week of November, but if you are a member and want a fresh copy, we will endeavour to hand deliver one. Otherwise over a thousand are scattered irregularly at a later date. Donations, bequests, calendar orders & potential articles to We will probably be publishing articles by Margaret Care, Christopher Houghton Budd, PS and Tony Quarrington, and a fresh beach hut blast in our next issue and hope that many new talents will come forward, including creative writers. I remain on course to retire and so more help with the magazine is always needed.

Richard Wallace

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