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Meeting over closure of Co-Innovation Centre in Stembrook, Dover, district council invite


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Traders are holding a crunch meeting as time runs out for their premises.

The Co-Innovation Centre closes in mid-August, when the lease runs out and the occupants have nowhere else to go.

The Co-Innovation Centre in Stembrook. Library picture: Alan Langley
The Co-Innovation Centre in Stembrook. Library picture: Alan Langley

The public meeting, which Dover District Council has been invited to attend, is at 7pm on Thursday at the site in the town's Stembrook.

Robin Burkhardt, who has an antiques and collectors' business there, said: "The project in two years helped to put nine small businesses onto the high street.

"I have read about the Vera Lynn park project.

"I’m not saying that Vera Lynn is not important to Dover but I’m asking why DDC will fund a park rather than support a project that they were involved with in the start.

Co-Innovation formally opened in 2019, was for start-up businesses.

Members of the district council have been invited to the meeting
Members of the district council have been invited to the meeting

They would then, grow and move on to their own premises, so filling the town's many empty shop units.

It was set up with Dover Big Local and the building was let by the council on a peppercorn rent.

Mr Burkhardt said that at its peak, at the end of 2019, there were about 50 fledgling businesses there.

Now there are only 25 or more, with the pandemic contributing to several of them folding.

A petition was raised in February calling for the centre never to close while coronavirus was rife.

Happier times. Market manager Jan Shepherd when the centre was formally opened in 2019. Picture: Paul Amos
Happier times. Market manager Jan Shepherd when the centre was formally opened in 2019. Picture: Paul Amos

Jan Shepherd, manager at the centre. "The project grew beyond imagination, It was a great success.

"But this is now too close for comfort and we only have six weeks left.

"We need funding in principle to secure a building otherwise the project could not go further forward.

Dover MP Natalie Elphicke has also been invited to the meeting.

A Dover District Council spokesman said: "We continue to work closely with partners at the Co-Innovation Centre, but unfortunately there is nothing we can add at a meeting, that hasn’t already been discussed.

" We thank everyone for all their hard work on this excellent project, however, DDC was very clear from the start that it had purchased the building as a strategic development site and any use was strictly temporary.

" The cabinet decision in 2018 for this temporary use was initially for a 12 month period only. We have been working with partners to help explore other possible locations.

"However, the council has no plans to establish a successor to the Co-innovation Centre in Dover. We continue to work with businesses to offer support and guidance."

The council is contributing to efforts to produce a statue and ampitheatre in memory of Dame Vera, the wartime singer who died 12 months ago.

Read more: All the latest news from Dover

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