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Folkestone's Leas Lift will not reopen in 2019

ByMolly Mileham-Chappell

An historic water lift - due to be revamped - will not open again before 2020, development bosses have confirmed.

The Leas Lift, which connects Folkestone town with the beach, was forced to shut almost two and a half years ago due to an unsafe brake.

Campaigners leading the fight in restoring the revered Grade II* listed water lift had originally hoped to reopen the attraction in summer 2018, but came up against unexpected costs of around half a million pounds.

Leas Lift put in to 'half Track' to symbolise closure. Picture: Gary Browne FM4656884
Leas Lift put in to 'half Track' to symbolise closure. Picture: Gary Browne FM4656884

But in a statement released today, a Folkestone Leas Lift CIC (FLLCIC) spokesman confirmed the revised deadline of this summer would also not be met.

He said: "Subject to significant sums of funding, we are poised to commence the works and submit planning.

"The good news is that the majority of the engineering work does not require listing building consent but this means, disappointingly, that the Lift will not be ready for 2019.

"There has been much progress so far but it remains that the project has had to grow beyond solely fixing the braking system in order to avoid opening and closing at a later date for much need remedial works which everyone is keen to avoid."

The news comes after a recent engineering survey, commissioned using funds donated by the Folkestone Estate and The Roger De Haan Charitable Trust, identified initial work needed to repair the lift and ensure that it is compliant with appropriate legislation.

The estimated cost of these works has now been put in the region of £750,000 to deliver the working lift with minimum repairs.

Cathy Beare, chair of the Folkestone Leas Lift CIC
Cathy Beare, chair of the Folkestone Leas Lift CIC

Despite significant monetary and timing setbacks, there have been some positive outcomes for the project though so far.

At a recent meeting with the Folkestone Harbour and Seafront Development Company, it was announced the lift would be a major beneficiary of funding from the Section 106 agreements of the Seafront development being built, subject to phase one.

The board now say that architects, ACME, have donated their time and expertise to illustrate the potential of the site, and their designs will be shared in the near future, along with suggested timelines and financial and sustainability plans.

While the business plan is complete, FLLCIC is also in talks with Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC) to secure a bid writer to investigate the potential funding from organisations such as Heritage Lottery and Coastal Communities Fund.

Cathy Beare, chair of the FLLCIC, said: “Our biggest challenge is to ensure the site is financially sustainable for the next generation to enjoy. It is our intention to expand the footprint of our site to deliver increased financial security and access for all."

During the last few months, Rapid Engineering has also completed the engineering aspect of the planning application.

In addition to previous fundraising for the project, the FLLCIC has raised a further £15,000 of the required £50,000 for the next phase of work, which involves removing and testing the sheave wheel as required by the health and safety executive.

Built in 1885, the lift is one of the last of it's kind in the country.

It was forced to close in January 2017, when health and safety experts ruled it needed a second brake system.

Campaigners initially said they needed to stump up £500,000 to re-open the lift with the money going towards bringing the current safety legislation in and to keep it running for the first year.

So far, The Radnor Estate and The Roger De Haan Charitable Trust have made the bulk of donations.

Restaurant owners in the town also joined the fundraising efforts last year, asking guests for donations, while others organised nightclub revival nights.

For more information or to make a pledge visit the campaign website.

Read more: All the latest news from Folkestone.

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