Go Folkestone Monthly Meeting

Next meeting: Wednesday 12th October 2022. Wards Hotel, Earls Avenue. 6.45pm.

Are You Interested In Trees?

Folkestone Town Council is still asking for new tree wardens to help the gradually retiring and excellent Bob Hislop. A tree warden need only attend a couple of meetings a year or email in information on street trees in trouble, usually identified by the nearest house number, or spotting gaps & therefore nominations for new street trees in your road in 2023. Please send the latter directly to Richard Wallace because we have an important meeting with KCC about street trees on Thursday 29 September.

Folca/Debenhams Update

The most crucial item of the next few months from an amenity society’s point of view is the future of the Folca/Debenhams building in Sandgate Road. Most Go Folkestone and New Folkestone Society members would like the front half of the whole building to be saved, but that looks very difficult. I forward a pessimistic assessment from last week of the chances of avoiding a demolition of the Edwardian corner and Bouverie Place ‘red-brick’ section of Debenhams which the Council and developers seem to have written off. We support the New Folkestone Society and others in wishing to see this saved, but as every piece of the building including the Art Deco piece is in danger we may have to compromise to save any of it.

There is an important Council assessment on 22 October to see if the Art Deco Sandgate Road half of the building, which FHDC IS NOT LEASING TO THE HEALTH CENTRE can be well-used. The feasibility study will report on the viability of using the Art Deco piece from the point of view of keeping it as a show-piece and putting council and community uses In there a frontage. If they don’t even do that, then I suggest we condemn a ‘sweep clean’ modern building. Please get involved by giving us your opinions. Which half do you prefer ? Some actually prefer the Edwardian half. I, Richard Wallace, prefer the Art Deco half, although everyone feels the corner tower should be saved. But it is over a hundred years old and the doctors don’t want it.

18 September Report

At a recent update on what is happening to the Folca/Debenhams building it became clear that there is a 90% chance (my estimate) of demolition of the Edwardian red brick piece for a completely modern, high quality (and well insulated?) health centre, on a 150-year ground lease from FHDC. This will replace Manor Road and Guildhall Street North surgeries and add some extra facilities such as MRI scan, perhaps partly usurping Radnor Park MIU. The high likelihood is because the Counci , which is the actual freeholder, and the health centre developers are very well advanced in their plans, and we are told the Clinical Commissioning Group aka the doctors’ combined practice, have planned out what function is going where and really don’t want to go anywhere else. And the Council don’t want them going anywhere else either because they are good payers, the money supports Council services, and it will keep a crucial stretch of the high street busy, albeit in a different way to Debs. Shopkeepers and café-owners should like that magnet on their doorstep, particularly if it is five storeys high.

I said to some councillors that a lot of locals wanted the health centre, but within what was an attractive period shell. Debenhams, formerly Bobbies, is a very popular building in a very prominent position, but the response was pretty much ‘you can’t get a quart into a pint pot‘, and the sweetener was that they were keeping hold of the 1930s Art Deco building on Sandgate Road. I know that they are trying to repurpose the latter, partly by putting a new wall at the end that will be exposed by demolition. The Council call the 1911 piece Folca 1 and have resisted Go Folkestone calls to at least preserve the corner tower and block by only demolishing the building behind the more solid former staircase block and side portico on Bouverie Place. To be honest, when did you last see a health centre built within an old building?

So with heart sadly failing with a listing application in 2018 which conservation architects say is not easily revisited, it looks as if the only concession we are likely to get on that is a historical piece in the foyer to the greatest British medical pioneer of the 17th century, Folkestonian William Harvey. We and others successfully saved the clock block of the old Royal Victoria Hospital in the 2010s, but only as 18 flats ; the new hospital or minor injuries unit next door to it is resolutely 1990s. The NHS want modern and get what they want.

On the other hand, The Art Deco piece, known as Folca 2 will be the subject of a professional feasibility study to see what can best be done with that end of the building, behind the potentially lovely 1930s many-windowed façade. This study should be reporting to Council at the end of October. The ideas are very much council, community and employment functions. GF have argued for a preservation of the grand staircase and a letting of the former first floor Debenhams café area, updated, as a stylish restaurant / café.  We are not holding our breath, but there seems an intention to keep this half of the building as something like it is: not identikit, not modern, identifiably 1930s. Of course, Folkestone and Hythe District Council may turn around and say they have had a better offer for clearing that site. In which case, we all give up on FHDC as being any sort of custodian of local heritage.

Go Folkestone are going to try, with the New Folkestone Society and Heart, to get FHDC to follow Kent County guidance and start designating a ‘local list’ of as it were Grade 3 buildings to protect at least a bit. Suggestions include FOLCA (!!), the Burton Building aka Luben, the Crown Post Office and the old Victorian Post Office aka Sandgate Road KFC!

Go Folkestone Annual General Meeting

The next AGM will be held on Wednesday 9th November 2022. Wards Hotel, Earls Avenue.

Guy Hollaway, noted local architect of F51 and many Sir Roger De Haan projects, will be attending the meeting on 9th November. At this current moment he is not able to talk about plans for Middelburg, this situation may potentially change leading up to the meeting in November, however he can talk about Cheriton Parc and the work which we have been doing around Folkestone and what Guy has worked on over the past 15 years to make Folkestone holistically a better place.

Our Tribute to Queen Elizabeth II

Finally, perhaps the most appropriate poems for the passing of Queen Elizabeth II today. Was it not very blessed for a 96-year-old that she was clear of thought and not bed bound even at the end?  Philip Larkin, for all his curmudgeonly reputation, summed it up perfectly in 1978:

In times when nothing stood
but worsened, or grew strange,
there was one constant good:
she did not change. 

If anyone wishes to donate £5 for a living Folkestone tribute to Queen Elizabeth, sadly the Platinum Jubilee appeal of the members of the Cheriton and Morehall Royal British Legion, backed with approaching £1000 by Go Folkestone and Folkestone Invicta FC, is still open. The target is for an avenue of flowering cherries in Cheriton Road cemetery, fronting the very visible main road opposite Invicta and Morrisons. It will look beautiful in Spring. You can donate cash and cheques payable to Go Folkestone, to the next Go Folkestone meeting at Wards, or to 4 Beachborough Road CT19 4AB. We can then top up our own Just Giving appeal fund. You can donate directly on line UNTIL 29 SEPTEMBER.

November Article Magazine

Go Folkestone is now looking for typically 600 word contributions for the November magazine including topical issues, interesting ideas for the town, exceptional memories of the 1930s to 1980s, food and attraction reviews, trustworthy tip-offs, photos including eyesores, and stories of strong human interest. You can also try and get onto our  ‘Ten suggestions for saving energy page‘ which may be issued if the tips are worthwhile. Contact Richard Wallace or Noble Images for photographs.

Planning Applications

Current applications that can be objected to or commented upon include:

22/1455/FH: Bayle Court, Bayle Street: A plain 1950s? block of flats in a generally very attractive and historic area that CAN’T easily be spoilt. The proposal is to put an extra storey right along by adding a new roof with dormered windows. Most of the height is within the existing roof height. One two-bed flat and three one-bad flats will be created. This is a dense area and the parking situation will be worsened. Suggest comment on this basis.

21/2119/fh: Big development of 30 little workshops/stores/ garages /industrial units in 5 ranks of 6 on the old Barnfield Road site. This is a left turn cul-de-sac off Park Farm, which used to be the southernmost buildings of Silver Spring. Seems great for employment, but I suggest GF points out that the pictures all show trees on the main Park Farm Road, and we should hold them to this landscaping, despite no tree list.

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