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Published: 12:42, 10 August 2018
New plans to convert a former arcade in the centre of Deal into flats have been unveiled.
Royal Leisure Centre in King Street, whose dilapidated arcade and first floor snooker hall are said to be financially unsustainable, is set to be demolished to make way for 21 one and two bedroomed apartments.
To be known as Royal Lodge, the design also includes four penthouses and ground floor space for a restaurant or shop.
Announcing the proposal exclusively in this week's Mercury, property owner Mark Woolls said: “We have decided to explore an alternative use of the site which will be of significant benefit to the town centre of Deal.”
Project manager Nick Stevens, who converted the former public toilets on Deal’s promenade into Route One cycle café, said: “This development will present Deal with a highly marketable, vibrant, forward thinking town centre living experience.
“In addition to the residential investment, the project’s unique central location will create potential for significant increases in trade for the town’s independent retailers and the many hospitality, entertainment and leisure venue providers.”
Residents and businesses can view the proposals and have their say at a consultation and presentation meeting from 7.30pm until 9pm on Monday, August 13 at Route One café in Beach Street.
The scheme has been 18 months in planning by Dover based designers CAD Solutions Ltd, Ringwould based Environmental and Planning consultancy Peer Spanner and project manager Nick Stevens.
The team had originally proposed a four-storey building comprising of 23 flats but, following two pre-planning meetings with Dover District Council, have agreed to remove a level and reduce the number of flats. It means the proposed design fits within the existing perimeters of the current leisure centre.
Designer Mike West of CAD Solutions Ltd, who previously worked on the Golf Road Centre and Out Downs, says demolition of the existing structure is the only way to convert the building due to its thick, solid walls.
If planning permission is granted the new development will be modern while adhering to Conservation regulations.
It will feature yellow brick, white render and green patinated copper inspired by the fisherman’s statue at the apron to Deal Pier.
The third and top floor, looking over the sea and high street will feature four penthouses, each with bi-folding doors and a terrace.
The second and first floors will each contain seven apartments and the ground floor, with the main entrance via King Street, will feature three. Overall, six will be affordable homes and all will be accessible to the disabled.
The ground floor will also feature a 150 sq/m site available for commercial use, to the rear of Bigg’s Opticians and Odd Fellow’s Alley.
Developers have confirmed they are open to the idea of a chain restaurant moving in but would also consider a shop, community ventures or offices.
Similarly to the Quarterdeck enterprise, completed in 2015, which has set a precedent for a new style of combined residential and commercial development, this will be decided at a later stage once construction has begun.
While no car parking spaces are included, there will be cycle storage space on the ground floor, alongside refuge space.
Mr West said: “This building will contribute hugely to Deal town centre’s development with the use of mixed finishes and contemporary design acting as a visual catalyst for the future.”
Landscaping the area between the proposed flats and The Just Reproach to include benches and plants, he says, will open up the view of Middle Street and give the area a sense of purpose.
A full planning application is expected to be submitted to Dover District Council by October with work possibly commencing in 2020.
Mr West said: “We’re conscious not to clash with other developments in the town.
“We don’t want four or five developments taking place at the same time.
“We know people won’t want to come to a town where it’s like a construction site; there’s no parking spaces, lots of dust and road closures.”
Project manager Nick Stevens added: “From the start of this project and throughout we remain fully aware of the property’s location within the Conservation area and our plans and designs will reflect the requirement to meet such criteria.
“We are certain Royal Lodge will appeal to investors who choose to reside permanently in such a central environment and to the ever-increasing visitor market which Deal continues to attract.
“Deal has come such a long way in more recent years but it’s now so important to continue the momentum of moving the town forward to ensure future economic prosperity.”
Vice-president of Deal Society, Robin Green, has welcomed the plans.
He said: “The building as it is hasn’t really got any architectural interest so I don’t think it enhances the Middle Street conservation area at all.
“I think the proposed architecture is quite interesting. It references the seaside location and picks up on the colours of the beach and the sea.
“In addition, the purpose for which the site is currently used I think has become redundant.
“There is also a great need for more homes for young people who want to get on the property ladder and the kind of homes being built and the kind I think young people are looking for. Especially as more people now work from home.
“I think it’s important that people continue to live in town centres otherwise they become ghost towns.”
He said he would like to see the commercial space have a community purpose.
He suggested a small cinema in homage to the building’s former use.
The site was originally opened in 1893 as the Oddfellows Lodge room and in Edwardian times the hall became known as the Theatre Royal.
In 1934 it re-opened as the Royal Cinema remaining so until 1981. The property has been the Royal Leisure Centre since 1987/88.
For further information search Royal Lodge Deal on Facebook.
What do you think of the plans? Write to Letters to the Editor, 13 Queen Street, Deal, Kent, CT14 6EX or email email@example.com