Published: 14:30, 06 July 2017
Plans to transform Deal into a year-round destination of choice have taken a step forward after residents shared their views at a meeting.
Deal Town Council invited people to a gathering at the town hall on Thursday to hear more about its planned bid to the government’s Coastal Communities Fund.
Project leader Cllr Sue Beer revealed the grant application requesting hundreds of thousands of pounds for improvement works around the town could be finalised within as little as four weeks, although an exact date inviting people to bid for a share of the money had not been released.
She said: “We’ve been working on this grant bid for a long time. It’s a well-worked up idea, but the meeting was a chance for people to have their say.
“It’s a short, sharp project. It’s about economic growth and jobs.
“There were some interesting suggestions that the town council were interested to hear.
“The evening was also aimed at attracting volunteer help.”
A presentation gave a broad outline of the project, which includes enhancing the seafront seascape on the north side of the Pier.
Cllr Beer said: “We know Deal is a lovely town and lots of people love living here, but it’s about making Deal even better.
“Cafe culture is a big trend in tourism. It doesn’t have to be hot and sunny.
“We’d like to see a bit more on the sea front.”
Working plans include improving the entrance point to South Street and to attract visitors from Deal Castle and Walmer.
Disability access is to be boosted, creating a fully accessible town centre. Simple actions like placing doorbells outside shops are also included, plus more arrangements will be made for cyclists.
She said: “If tourism is successful then people come and spend money in all sorts of places, helping the town.
“We would particularly like to enhance green-travel tourism which doesn’t involve parking in the town.
“We know that Deal is lovely in the summer but we want to extend the season. We want to get heads on beds, with people coming for the weekend not just the day.”
Other aspects to the project involve celebrating famous women of Deal, such as 18th century writer Elizabeth Carter, to extend the town’s heritage offer, as well as creating a Deal Giant – a youth project to create a model of a symbolic figure to be used in festivals and events.
There are also plans for the town to host more events in the down season, and to encourage the setting-up of new businesses.
Cllr Beer added: “One idea could be turning Deal into a town well known for its micro breweries. Food and drink is a big trend and it’s not likely to die out. Could we develop new foods?”
Early ideas from residents at the meeting included improving the walkway from the railway station to the seafront, and providing more disabled toilets.
These and other ideas will now be considered by the new Inward Investment Working Group set up by the town council to take the bid forward.
Cllr Beer said: “The working group is about identifying sources of funding, planning projects, successfully applying for grants and taking part in monitoring and reporting activity.”
Up to £90 million of funding is available from the Coastal Communities Fund up until 2020/21.
The government pot of funds came about because seaside towns were struggling, with many people choosing to holiday abroad.
Four rounds have already taken place since 2012. In 2014, Dreamland in Margate was awarded a £1.89 million grant to help bring its Grade II* listed art deco cinema complex back into use.
Deal Town Council will be applying for funds in the fifth and final round, which is expected to open before the end of 2017.
Cllr Beer said: “We’ve still got time to take this from a concept and turn it into something more positive.”
Next steps include establishing partnerships, estimating costs and creating a budget.