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Call to remove tatty Welcome to Dover sign and to clear up Crypt restaurant fire site

By Sam Lennon

Town centre businesses and tourism chiefs want a tatty sign welcoming people to their town to be torn down.

Bosses want rid of the Welcome to Dover lettering - and are being backed by Dover MP Charlie Elphicke.

He is also leading calls for a restaurant which has stood derelect for four decades to be cleaned up.

Not welcome - the tatty sign. Picture: Graham Hutchinson
Not welcome - the tatty sign. Picture: Graham Hutchinson

Mr Elphicke met trader Silvio Macari on-site and White Cliffs Country Tourism Association chairman Graham Hutchison.

Also there was Dover District Council’s regeneration supremo Tim Ingleton, who looked at the former Crypt restaurant in Bench Street nearby, which was destroyed in a fire in 1977.

The sign and destroyed restaurant area are between the new St James' development and the crowd-pulling Banksy mural.

Mr Elphicke wants the sign to go, for the Crypt site to be cleared up and for more town-centre parking.

He said: “The sign was well-intentioned but it’s become a laughing stock. It’s time to tear down this horrible hoarding.

“Just round the corner, the former Crypt site is still left to ruin – more than 40 years since the building was devastated by fire.

"This area urgently needs clearing up, while the Banksy must continue to be protected.

Charlie Elphicke and Graham Hutchison. Picture: Charlie Elphicke MP
Charlie Elphicke and Graham Hutchison. Picture: Charlie Elphicke MP

“Barely a stone’s throw away, business is booming at the St James site, with hardly a spare parking space.

"Right next door is Dover Leisure Centre, which could be used as a site for more parking, as well as shops or cafés, once it closes.

“We’ve come a long way over the past few years – yet we must keep working to make Dover town centre the best it can be.”

Mr Hutchinson said that visitors to Dover using the A20 were impressed by the Banksy mural, at Townwall Street, but then faced the worn-out Welcome to Dover hoarding.

It was put up in 2014, commissioned by Dover Town Team and created by K College, but has since had graffiti sprayed over it.

It has also become discoloured and some of the signage is peeling off.

It is directly in front of a rundown site, with weeds and trees hanging over the top.

Mr Hutchison said: “From a tourism perspective this sign has got to go straight away.

“This whole corner just needs tidying up. We’ve got the great new St James' development there and then we’ve got this, which is old, ruined and decrepit and doesn’t invite people into Dover.

Mr Elphicke with Silvio Macari and Graham Hutchison at the Crypt site. Picture: Charlie Elphicke MP
Mr Elphicke with Silvio Macari and Graham Hutchison at the Crypt site. Picture: Charlie Elphicke MP

Mr Macari runs Europa Fish & Chips, next door to the Crypt.

He said: " All these hoardings are rotting away and it’s quite embarrassing.

"A lot of traffic comes through here and other people who live in England see that and think ‘this is Dover.’”

Mr Ingleton said: “We are having positive discussions with the landowner and we anticipate being able to say something further within the next two weeks.”

The Godden family own the area and buildings covering the Crypt and the Banksy.

Panoramic view of St James' and the Banksy mural with the Crypt area in between
Panoramic view of St James' and the Banksy mural with the Crypt area in between

The Crypt was erected in 1840. The four-storey building had bars and restaurants on the lower floors and flats upstairs.

But on March 27, 1977, seven people were killed when fire struck.

Since then the site has been left an empty, decaying shell.

The Banksy mural attracted worldwide interest when it suddenly appeared on May 7 last year.

The £53 million St James' retail and leisure development began its phased opening on March 9 with the Cineworld multiplex.

Mr Elphicke visited the complex on Thursday, June 7, and found nearly all its 445 parking spaces taken.

Dover Leisure Centre at Townwall Street is to close early next year and its replacement will be in Whitfield.

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