Published: 19:28, 04 May 2020
| Updated: 21:10, 04 May 2020
An ambitious planning application designed to breathe new life into the neglected Leas Pavilion and create a nine-storey 'luxury' apartment block above it, has been submitted for consideration.
The proposal now appears on Folkestone and Hythe District Council's planning portal - two months after the scheme was first announced by Hollaway architects and new developer Kantion.
It seeks permission to restore the run-down Leas Pavilion, also known as the Leas Club, to its original 1902 layout when it was first opened as an Edwardian tearoom.
But with the rescue plan estimated to cost £4m, the two adjacent car parks along The Leas will be transformed and developed into a nine-storey, glass fronted block of flats, which will fund the restoration project.
In total, 91 flats are being proposed - 16 one bed, 65 two bed and 10 three bed - plus 39 car parking spaces and 91 cycling spaces.
All flats will have a balcony and a promised sea view.
The three top floors of the new build will be tiered, creating a step-like effect.
The parking level will be 'partially sunk into the ground' and will be accessed from Longford Terrace and Longford Way.
The entrance to the flats will be through the Leas Pavilion, which is expected to be returned to its one-time glory with its former columns to be re-instated and improvements made to the gallery and main hall.
Concierge is planned to be situated in the pavilion, which will be used as a lounge and storage space for residents.
But it is also to be made available for community use - and will be hired out to groups and clubs.
The application notes: "The community use of the main hall will provide opportunities for local groups to utilise the historic building for what is envisaged to be small musical, theatrical or spoken word performances, or weekly clubs."
But what the application also shows is the true extent of the damage that has over taken the beloved building, formerly a theatre and nightclub as well as a tearoom, over the years.
It closed for good in 2010 and has fallen into major disrepair since.
Current owner Churchgate was previously granted planning permission to overhaul the site into a health club with 68 flats but it missed the deadline.
In 2019, the authority issued a legal repairs notice to Churchgate listing six pages of works necessary to protect the dilapidated building.
And although some work has been carried out in recent years, water ingress, partial roof collapses and mould are present.
The proposals for inside reveal the existing columns are to be repaired, the Art Nouveau stained glass windows will be restored and the decorative ceiling will be fixed.
Original features, removed over the years to suit its changing use, will also be reinstated.
The application states: "As the building has been disused for approximately 10 years, this has contributed to the current state of the building, in that it has not been well maintained and is in need of urgent restoration.
"What was once a grand space with decorative colonnades and gallery is now somewhat lacking the grandeur, as the large, empty stage occupies most of the view.
"In pre application discussions with Historic England and the Folkestone and Hythe conservation officer, the building was visited and the proposed layout discussed.
"This led to the proposal to reinstate the northern gallery and colonnade, and the lost arches to the east and west colonnades as discussed and agreed with the various stakeholders."
If the plans are approved, work will also be carried out externally to fix the original but now cracked terracotta tiles, with specialists being brought in.
The literature reads: "The building frontage has suffered serious structural damage.
"Specialist structural work will be undertaken to stabilise the facades and restore them to their former glory, including the dismantling of the failed southern arches, under the recommendations of the structural engineer and terracotta specialist."
Planning documents also reveal a bat survey was carried out, but found no evidence of the animals roosting.
A public consultation of the proposed development was held in Folkestone in March, with more than 100 people attending.
Comments are now open on the planning application and neighbours have been informed of the plans.
No comments have yet to be made, but Friends of the Leas Pavilion, who have campaigned for the building to be brought back to life for years have thrown their support behind the scheme.
In a statement, the group said: "We would like to restate our position on the development to say that we are fully supportive of it.
"What makes this plan stand apart from the previous one (granted outline planning permission in 2008, and full permission in 2015) is that these guys are making the pavilion building the entrance to the flats, and the focal point of the development (and not wishing for it’s destruction).
"Their plan is to restore the pavilion to how it looked back in 1902 when it first opened, and for it to be in daily usage by the residents, as well as by the community, and events to be held on a regular basis.
"Yes, it’s a big development - around 90 flats over 9 floors - but in order to fund the £4m they estimate for the restoration, that’s what’s required.
"We have been in talks with them since October last year and have no doubt as to their authenticity and passion for the project.
"Although the 'new meets old' design is not everyone’s cup of tea (but who agrees on architecture?), the way we are looking at it is that one day a block of flats will exist on the site (that is a given), so is it to be a block of flats with the pavilion or without it.
"If this plan falls through and these guys walk away then the pavilion will not last another five or 10 years, so this is the best chance the pavilion has had since it closed in 2010."
The site is still currently owned by Churchgate, but will be bought by Kantion subject to planning approval.
It is not known when a decision on the application will be given, with the portal currently listing it as 'under consultation'.