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Cinema could take over Debenhams site planned for closure in Folkestone town centre

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Major makeover plans have been revealed for a Kent coastal town, including a cinema earmarked for its doomed Debenhams store.

Following today's announcement from the chain of plans to shut four Kent stores, Folkestone and Hythe District Council have announced regeneration plans for the town centre will be 'fast tracked'.

A fresh map from the authority tonight entitled 'Proposed town centre overall vision' by Turnerbates Ltd demonstrates proposals to fill part of the unit destined to shut in time with a cinema, alongside homes, restaurants and bars.

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The new town centre plans for Folkestone, including a cinema on the Debenhams site. Credit: Turnerbates Ltd (9217003)
The new town centre plans for Folkestone, including a cinema on the Debenhams site. Credit: Turnerbates Ltd (9217003)

In a statement this evening, it was revealed that the council has been 'working for some time' with Ellandi, the owners of Bouverie Place and the owner of the Debenhams store, on plans to revitalise the shopping district.

It says: "The intention was to commence consultation on these plans in the coming months, but the announcement that Debenhams will be closing in 2020 has given the council and their partners an opportunity to accelerate this work."

It is expected that over the coming weeks Folkestone and Hythe’s Accelerated Delivery Board, chaired by MP for Folkestone and Hythe Damian Collins, will share some of the early ideas for the future use of the Debenhams building.

The Accelerated Delivery Board is an association of partners, who agree to work together to ensure delivery of the key projects that make up the district’s regeneration programme.

Its purpose is to enable economic growth through regeneration and renewal of important districts identified in the emerging Places and Policies Local Plan and adopted Core Strategy.

Debenhams, Folkestone..Mystery Picture..Picture: Gary Browne FM3142642. (8428674)
Debenhams, Folkestone..Mystery Picture..Picture: Gary Browne FM3142642. (8428674)

It continues: "It can continue to play a part in Folkestone's renaissance as a modern seaside town, with fantastic transport links and a thriving economy."

A spokesperson for Folkestone and Hythe District Council, said: "It has been clear for some time that Debenhams has been in difficulty nationwide.

"This decision is sadly due to the company's performance across the UK rather than the success or otherwise of the chain's Folkestone store.

"These regeneration plans will show how the town centre can continue to thrive and accommodate changes in shopping behaviour.

"In particular, we will demonstrate how new uses can make Folkestone an even more attractive and vibrant place to shop, visit, work and live."

Mark Robinson, Ellandi founder and managing director, added: “With the new retailer replacing Peacocks, Bouverie Place will shortly once again be 100% occupied, showing how resilient Folkestone has been in a tough nationwide retail market.

"A number of major stakeholders have been liaising in respect of regeneration plans for the surrounding area and whilst it is sad to see a major High Street name in trouble, we aim to come forward shortly with exciting new plans to build on the success of Bouverie Place.”

It comes after KentOnline revealed last week that JD Sports will take over the shopping centre unit in the summer.

Click here to read reactions from shoppers in Folkestone about the planned Debenhams store closure.

For more Kent business news, click here.

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