When it was announced that the department store would be closing, the District council started behind the scenes to ensure that the building would not only be saved, but would actually be the centrepoint for the new regeneration of the districts main shopping centre.
The future of Folkestone town centre is shining even brighter after Folkestone & Hythe District Council (F&HDC) successfully agreed terms to purchase the former Debenhams store.
The unit in Sandgate Road – which has remained empty since January – will now become a centrepiece of the town’s regeneration, subject to contracts being signed off in the coming weeks.
Visionary proposals for the site include a health centre, leisure facilities, flexible work space and residential properties in the heart of a town which regularly attracts national and international acclaim for its unique charm.
F&HDC has acted swiftly in its efforts to acquire the freehold of the store – a move which affirms its unwavering commitment to the continued regeneration of Folkestone and the district as a whole.
Cllr David Monk, F&HDC Leader, said: “The unit hasn’t been far from most people’s minds since Debenhams closed for the final time. We’ve been working hard behind the scenes to draw up viable plans which will benefit all of our residents.
“We’ve got ambitious plans to give the precinct a huge lift and make the town centre a place to experience, rather than just visit. This is a really positive and forward-thinking move which confirms that – once again – we are acting decisively to make this a district to be proud of.”
In a recent survey carried out by an independent company, on behalf of the council, the Debenhams site was identified as not only the biggest loss to the town, but also the ideal location for regeneration.
Cabinet member for the district economy David Wimble said: “This is a clear indication that the council has big plans for Folkestone, Debenhams is a key part of the generation jigsaw, and when you ask the people of Folkestone the one thing they need, a medical health is high on the list of priorities, I think the days of one company running a building of this size is over, I look forward to a number of entertainment, leisure and food and drink offerings moving into this space. I know the council is already in negotiation with a number of potential partners, but think this is a major part of the future regeneration for the town, which will impact on not just Folkestone but the whole district.”
Meanwhile, F&HDC has assisted a number of independent businesses which have clubbed together to animate the windows of the empty store with vinyl displays. These will be installed shortly.