Published: 00:01, 19 April 2018
Time is nearly up for plans to turn the stricken Leas Pavilion in Folkestone into a health club and flats, amid a looming deadline.
Developers Churchgate were given permission in 2015 to overhaul the Grade II former theatre into a health club with 68 flats.
Now the Essex firm has until April 29 to begin work on its seven-storey project with underground parking.
The Radnor Estate sold the Leas Pavilion and surrounding land to Churchgate in 2007 for £3.2 million on a 150 year lease.
It led to the campaign group Friends of the Leas Pavilion (FLP) being formed in an attempt to keep the old Victoria tearoom as a community space.
It is now headed up by chairman Liz Mulqueen, who told of the group’s hopes to restore the building.
“All we want is for the developer to grant us a 100 year lease on the building so we can restore it into a community space to serve the whole town," she said.
“We have a viable business plan we are willing to show to the developer, we are confident we can make the project work.
“If we were to run it we would set it up as a film hub, also there would be retail space we could lease out to traders.
“It’s such a beautiful building and a huge part of our heritage."
Ms Mulqueen also hit out at Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC) saying it had allowed the building to fall into disrepair.
The dilapidation triggered a £10,000 public pledge, helping the group set up the Leas Community Trust Limited.
The FLP since then has been lobbying Churchgate to keep up with the ongoing repairs and carried out a viability report.
“Due to the many conditions of the planning permission, just ‘digging a hole’ will not work for the developer," she said.
"Apparently, Churchgate has said that the sale of the flats will fund the restoration of the pavilion.
“But one of the main conditions was that the pavilion had to be restored before the flats were built."
The council has confirmed if no work is started before April 29, the planning permission will lapse.
This will mean Churchgate will have to go through the planning process again before going ahead with the construction of flats and the gym.
A Folkestone and Hythe District Council spokesman said: “If no work has started before April 29 the applicant will have to re-apply for permission.
“There is currently no way to extend the life of the permission.
“The planning permission includes works to the Leas Pavilion under the Section 106 agreement and there is also a related listed building consent which authorises these works.”
The Section 106 includes a comprehensive list of rules the developer must follow.
One rule is to repair the pavilion before work can begin on the flats.
Churchgate was unavailable for comment.