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Former Debenhams store in Folkestone could become indoor market

The former Debenhams store in Folkestone could be temporarily turned into a souk.

This could see several traders setting up small businesses inside the now empty building in Sandgate Road.

Cllr Monk revealed there has been "a lot of talk about a souk" for the former Debenhams shop in Folkestone. Picture: iStock
Cllr Monk revealed there has been "a lot of talk about a souk" for the former Debenhams shop in Folkestone. Picture: iStock

The idea for a souk -which is an Arab market or marketplace - was unveiled by Cllr David Monk during Folkestone and Hythe District Council's (FHDC) virtual question and answer session.

He said that while plans for the future of the building are being worked on behind the scenes, interim ideas are also being developed.

He said: "I am actually looking into bringing forward something for the interim use and going out to consultation on that.

"I will stress interim use as it is the intention that the purchase will give us a return.

"There has has been a lot of talk about a souk or something like that."

The former Debenhams store in Folkestone was purchased by the council earlier this year
The former Debenhams store in Folkestone was purchased by the council earlier this year

Cllr Monk (Con) added however that this idea "has not been necessarily well received by the existing traders of the town".

His response was in answer to a question from Cllr Jackie Meade (Lab), who asked what the council's plans are for the future of the site, which has been empty since January.

In March, FHDC purchased the building, later revealing they had spent just over £2 million on it.

Cllr Monk said: "We are working with a whole range of organisations on plans to redevelop the building and ensure it plays a role in the future of the town centre.

"Covid has had an impact on timing for this, but the town centre is a key part of our recovery plans.

The 'new look' Debenhams after its window wrap was installed in May. Picture: FHDC
The 'new look' Debenhams after its window wrap was installed in May. Picture: FHDC

"We will come forward with the propositions as fast as we can, as we want them out as fast as anybody."

Folkestone's Debenhams was one of four to close in Kent as part of the chain's downsizing plans.

The others were in Ashford, Canterbury and Chatham.

Following the authority's purchase of the Folkestone building, FHDC revealed plans to turn it into a mixed-use development, including a health centre, leisure facilities, flexible work space and residential properties.

It is not known if this is still the council's ambition.

Cllr David Monk
Cllr David Monk

In May, a vinyl window wrap was installed in the large building, designed to promote the struggling town centre.

In addition, FHDC has now launched a competition inviting residents to re-name the historic building, which has Edwardian and Art Deco features.

A spokesman for the council said: "The council is keen to hear all ideas - a name inspired by Folkestone’s culture or heritage for example, or a name that reflects its seaside location.

"Perhaps it will be a name which represents the town’s future or named after someone or something from the area."

CllrMonk added: “We are delighted to have acquired the building earlier this year and by doing so secure its future as a central part of Folkestone’s regeneration.

"We are now seeking a new name to reflect a new era for this iconic building.

Folkestone Debenhams on its last weekend of trading in January. Picture: Paul Amos
Folkestone Debenhams on its last weekend of trading in January. Picture: Paul Amos

"We would like to ask the community to help us find a really memorable and meaningful name for the site and we will consider all suggestions."

A panel of judges will select the winning entry, with the winner also set to receive £100 as a voucher to spend in a Folkestone town centre shop of their choice.

More details, terms and conditions and an online entry form can be found at www.folkestoneandhythe.co.uk/debenhams-naming-competition.

Entries can also be posted to Corporate Communications, Folkestone & Hythe District Council, Civic Centre, Castle Hill Avenue, Folkestone CT20 2Q.

Entries should include your name, age (if under 16), address, daytime telephone number and a brief description of why you have chosen the name (up to 50 words).

The deadline for entries is Monday, August 31 and the winner will be unveiled in September.

Read more: All the latest news from Folkestone

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