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Westgate Towers and former City Gaol Cafe at One Pound Lane in Canterbury to be transformed into restaurant, bar, business hub and museum

By Lowri Stafford

One of Canterbury's oldest and most prominent landmarks will be transformed into a restaurant and bar as part of ambitious plans to bring it back into use.

The city council voted to award to lease of the Westgate Towers and the former City Gaol Cafe next door to the company, One Pound Lane Ltd.

The firm plans to build a British restaurant, "atmospheric" bar and office space for local companies, creating 30 jobs for the area.

Thugs broke a man's jaw near the Westgate Towers in Canterbury.

The existing Westgate Towers museum will also be re-opened as part of the project's aim to celebrate the history of the site - parts of which date back to the 14th century.

Plans include restoring the former police station cells - never before open to the public - and turning them into private dining rooms as part of the new restaurant and bar.

Original details including Victorian glazed bricks and original cell doors with locks and inspection hatches will be kept.

The former Victorian police station cell could be turned into a private dining room

Behind the plans are new tenants Stephen Allen and James Caldon, who both live in the city.

They want to create "a vibrant, higher-end experience to fill the current gap in Canterbury's offering, fusing contemporary British design with spectacular original features", which they hope to launch in the early autumn.

They continue: "All areas of the building will be brought to life to maximise its potential, creating a vibrant daytime, visitor and evening destination for the city."

What was once a prisoner day room will be a restaurant

The pair were awarded the lease over Cafe Mauresque owner Xavier German, who put in a bid to bring a restaurant, hotel, art gallery and ballet school into the historic landmarks.

He worked with the previous owner Charles Lambie, who had spent up to £1million to try and renovate the site, but died in 2012.

Mr Allen and Mr Caldon pledged to continue Mr Lambie's legacy, adding: "We have a huge respect for the work of the late Mr Charles Lambie and will continue the same level of detail and quality throughout our project, for the next chapter in the rich history of this treasured Canterbury building."

James Caldon
Stephen Allen

The duo say they see their project as "an essential component" in revitalising St Dunstan's, which they say is benefiting from the new £1m Westgate Parks project nearby, the proposed Business Improvement District scheme, and pedestrian improvements planned by KCC.

They continue: "We see the St Dunstan's area as the city's food and entertainment destination.

"Higher-end restaurants, bars and visitor attractions are an essential element of a successful and prosperous city, attracting desirable visitors and residents to the area on a national and international level.

The late Charles Lambie had big plans for the towers

"Our project will bring a new vibrancy to this important area for the city and help link the riverside area, Westgate Parks and the high street with St Dunstan's.

"It is a project which will not only benefit the local area, but also enhance the cultural and entertainment offering and attractiveness of the city to visitors and residents."

The pair also hope to apply for planning permission to build a new river bridge and riverside terrace next to the towers.

Cafe Mauresque owner Xavier German

They were awarded the lease at a meeting of the city council's ruling executive committee at the Guildhall on Thursday.

Council spokesman Rob Davies said: "Executive members considered a detailed report and comprehensive evaluation setting out two high quality bids.

"It set out the key components of both projects, the level of planned investment, planning and licensing issues, financial information and the respective timetables.

The City Gaol Cafe and Westgate Towers museum when it was in use

"Councillors decided to grant the lease to a company called One Pound Lane Ltd for a scheme that includes a restaurant, bar, opening of the existing museum space and business hub, along with other longer term proposals."

The confidential council report into the winning bid stated that they believed it was "professionally put together and researched, with high quality proposals that fit with both the property and Canterbury’s local and visitor economies".

Mr Davies added: "Naturally we are very pleased to have secured an exciting scheme. We believe it will enhance the city’s culture and business offer and bring this historic and high profile building back into use for residents and visitors to enjoy."

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