Folkestone racecourse's last gallop after lifeline bid left in stalls
Folkestone racecourse was
a popular venue
by business editor Trevor Sturgess
Folkestone racecourse hosts its final meeting today after the
stalling of a proposed housing lifeline.
While owners say the closure is temporary, there are fears that
it could shut its doors for good.
The 114-year old course at Westenhanger, near Hythe, is owned by
Arena Racing company (ARC) and is its second venue in three days to
Hereford, where racing dates back to 1771, shut at the weekend.
ARC, whose non-executive chairman is Lord Howard of Lympne, former
MP for Folkestone and Hythe, claims neither made money.
The original proposal for 820 homes was rejected by a planning
inspector who said the numbers were too high and would
semi-urbanise the largely rural area.
However, the firm says it remains in talks with Shepway council
over a revised development plan that could see racing return one
Horse racing has been hit
by the growing popularity of online gambling
Shepway council leader Robert Bliss (Con) said earlier this
year: "We will do everything we can to secure the long-term future
of the racecourse and will explore possible solutions to the
challenges raised by the planning inspector."
ARC, which owns some 17 courses, including Lingfield and
Doncaster, is the largest racecourse operator in the UK.
It says Folkestone suffers from outdated facilities.
Horse racing has been hit by a gradual switch from on-course
betting to online gambling. But businesses have supported the
course through corporate hospitality.
ARC spokesman Kate Hills said around two staff would be retained
to look after the course during its closure.
"It will be secured and maintained and if we can get racing
back, it wouldn't take much to put it back on track," she said.
"It's back to the drawing board."
Revenue will come from the War and Peace Show, which is being
switched from the Hop Farm at Paddock Wood to the course next July
- under a new name War and Peace Revival.
But Ms Hills said there were no plans to let the site to other
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