An inquiry has found strong support to save a former Edwardian department store building from demolition.

Previously home to the Folkestone branch of Debenhams, the three-storey property on the corner of Sandgate Road and Bouverie Place is set to be demolished to make way for a new £16million health centre.

Mark Hourahane, vice-president of the New Folkestone Society

The New Folkestone Society has launched a consultation on plans for the council-owned building, now called Folca, and so far hundreds of people have responded.

Mark Hourahane, vice president of the NFS, said: “The survey is asking people’s opinions on whether they think the building should be kept, if they can think of better places [for the health centre] or better uses for the building.

“About 85% of people say, no, they don’t want it torn down, that’s the most overwhelming thing, and we had almost a thousand people who responded

“We made an attempt at listing in 2020. Historic England was only looking at the art deco part of the building, oddly enough.

“Historic England have said they will be reassessing their listing criteria for large stores, so it’s possible this one is special enough for a national listing, but otherwise it’s pretty special what we call the local list , which returns to be listed, but just locally.”

Folkestone and <a class=Hythe District Council bought the former department store in 2020″ data-root=”/_media/img/” data-path=”KV1BILDZ6GWQQFBB1GUY.jpg” data-ar=”1.66″/>
Folkestone and Hythe District Council bought the former department store in 2020

Those wishing to take the survey have until September 22 to do so at newfolkestonesociety.org.uk/folca.

In September 2021, Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC) agreed to lease the land on which the building stands, which is around a third of the whole site, to enable the creation of what the chiefs of Health called it a “state-of-the-art” medical center.

If approved, the proposal would see the city’s current Manor Road and Guildhall Street GP practices relocated, providing services to all 19,000 patients.

There would also be room to accommodate additional numbers in the future.

Plans would see the corner building demolished, but the art deco part of the old Debenhams on Sandgate Road would be retained.

Since FHDC bought the old department store in 2020, the community has made delivering a new health center to the site its priority.

The council argues that the potential for new employment opportunities and increased footfall will benefit Folkestone town center in the long term future.

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