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Calls to Sir Richard Branson to save Leas Lift from closure

By Victoria Chessum

Famous entrepreneur and founder of the Virgin Group, Sir Richard Branson, has been approached to take over the running of an under threat seaside lift.

The future of the Leas Lift in Lower Sandgate Road in Folkestone is in the balance as the operating company is "calling it a day" due to financial difficulties.

The Leas Lift Community Interest Company (LLCIC) will need to fork out £80,000 by March to install a new braking system after the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) dubbed it “unreliable and prone to failure.”

The Leas Lift celebrated its 130th anniversary with a party
The Leas Lift celebrated its 130th anniversary with a party

The current braking system has controlled the carriages for the last 131 years.

There is a chance that another company could take it over, but as it stands, the lift will not re-open for the summer at Easter.

Concerned Hawkinge resident Barbara Burns penned a letter to Mr Branson, but has not yet received a reply.

She said: “I felt moved to contact you to see if there is any way you may be able to help.

Sir Richard Branson
Sir Richard Branson

“As you have interest in many types of transport, and having been on your own adventures, I thought this may be of interest to you, and could be a chance to save a part of our history here in Folkestone.

“It would be such a shame that young children and families could no longer create the memories I have, in riding on the Leas Lift.

“Our friends visited last summer, and I took them with their children.

“There was a long queue to take the ride, and as we travelled up to the top both myself and another lady in the car reminisced about how we used to have family days out, visiting the beach, and riding on the lift.

“It’s been a big part of our town for many years, and a great tourist attraction.”

The Leas Lift in 1956
The Leas Lift in 1956

The lift's current braking system is "known to have problems" according to the HSE.

HSE’s specialist inspector, Bob Leeming, said: “This decision was potentially about saving people’s lives.

“It is not appropriate to have a single brake to stop this type of lift, if the brake failed with no back-up there is nothing to stop it from crashing and from our experience that type of accident could easily end in tragedy.

“The brake type used on this lift is known to have problems and has the real potential to completely fail.

"It is essential to ensure the members of the public using the lift were protected.”

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