Residents say they are forced to enter a road after the sidewalk outside a development site is blocked.

Concrete cubes have been placed in front of the Leas Pavilion in Folkestone, which awaits a complete overhaul after obtaining building permission to rejuvenate the sunken and historic building.

The sidewalk outside the Leas Pavilion has been blocked off, meaning people have to walk on the road. Photo submitted by Jayl De Lara

In addition to renovating the old dilapidated theater, along the Leas, the project will see a nine-story glass-enclosed apartment building built above and around it.

Ninety-one sea-view apartments will fill the new build, with cash from the sale of the homes allowing developer Gustavia to pay for the multi-million pound refurbishment of the pavilion, which opened there are over a century.

Investigations at the site have already started, including evaluation of moisture and wood rot.

But now a row of concrete blocks has been erected on the sidewalk outside the pavilion, which over the years has also housed a tea room, cinema and nightclub.

The developers say they were placed there to ensure everyone’s health and safety while the work continued, but they angered those who live nearby.

A resident struggles to pass in front of the terminals

Cllr Mary Lawes, Folkestone City Council member, said: “Residents of The Leas are outraged by the signs around the Leas Pavilion.

“These signs block sidewalks, allowing pedestrians, the disabled and the blind to move around and be forced onto the roads.

“This city must seriously take into account the enormous quantities of street furniture blocking access to disabled and blind people.

“They have the right to access it like everyone else, but it must also be safe.”

Jayl De Lara, who lives along the Leas, said: “Is this a sign of things to come? They’ve already taken the sidewalk, so what next?

The Leas pavilion, which has fallen into disuse, will be fitted out with apartments above
The Leas pavilion, which has fallen into disuse, will be fitted out with apartments above

“Yesterday I saw a gentleman push his wife in a wheelchair and he couldn’t get passed. The workers told him to turn around.”

Mr De Lara is also concerned about the lack of parking along The Leas, which has been further hampered by the removal of two existing car parks at Cheriton Place and Longford Terrace.

The grounds of the two car parks, located on either side of the pavilion, will be used for the new residence.

Mr De Lara added: “These car parks were occupied just one week before they closed for the development of the Leas pavilion.

“Many cars will be parked at The Leas in the future, especially on busy summer days, which will make it even more difficult for local residents; in particular holders of blue badges and license holders.

The image shows what the Leas Pavilion project in Folkestone will look like.  Image: Hollaway
The image shows what the Leas Pavilion project in Folkestone will look like. Image: Hollaway
The development will transform the entrance to the historic site.  Photo: Perry Miller
The development will transform the entrance to the historic site. Photo: Perry Miller

“The lack of spaces has often forced people to park far from home, often in inclement weather conditions in winter. “

He is also concerned about the working hours offered on site, which include Saturday mornings.

He said: “Our weekends are sacrosanct. There is no local precedent we can find for granting these hours of work.”

A spokesperson for Leas Pavilion Development Ltd, set up by Gustavia, said: “The fence is in place to ensure the health and safety of everyone once our work has started, as well as to secure the site itself.

“Kent County Council has granted us a license for this which runs until the end of August 2023.

“The fence had to be positioned across the roadway because we will be working with machines up to the site boundary.

“We will ensure that there are advisory detour signs in place for pedestrians, allowing them to cross at appropriate locations across the trails on the other side of the road.

“We know construction can be disruptive and we are committed to minimizing any inconvenience. We will provide residents with regular updates as our work progresses.

The Leas Pavilion, also known as the Leas Club, was first built in 1902 and has served as a tea room, theater, cinema, bowling alley, billiard room, and nightclub.

The building, as it is today, will come back to life as part of the project
The building, as it is now, will be brought back to life as part of the project
What will the interior of the pavilion look like?  Image: Hollaway
What will the interior of the pavilion look like? Image: Hollaway

The reason it was sunk in the street was the “old lights” clause in the leases of the hotels on either side, which meant that no building could be built more than 7 feet above ground level. the street, to ensure that daylight is not blocked in these buildings.

It closed in 2007 and has since fallen into a major state of disrepair, suffering from water damage and rotting wood.

Former owner Churchgate had already obtained a building permit in 2015 to transform the site into a 68-apartment health club, but it never came to fruition.

In 2019, FHDC sent them a notice of legal repairs listing six pages of work needed to protect the dilapidated building.

Gustavia, formerly Kantion, has revealed plans to renovate the pavilion and create the apartments above in 2020, with a building permit granted in September, despite some objections from residents.

British actors Sir Ian Mckeln – from The Lord of the Rings – and Miriam Margolyes – from Harry Potter – have also submitted objections on the council’s planning portal to the project.

Map to show where the new development will go in Folkestone
Map to show where the new development will go in Folkestone

Last month Gustavia – who has now purchased the pavilion – revealed studies had started on site and construction was due to begin in the fall.

People can also now express their interest in the apartments, which were designed by the Hollaway architects.

Read more: All the news from Folkestone



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