Published: 00:00, 18 September 2020
Plans to restore the run-down Leas Pavilion in Folkestone and create an eye-catching nine-storey apartment block above it are expected to be approved next week.
The ambitious and controversial planning application seeks permission to build 91 flats on land surrounding the former Edwardian tearoom and theatre, with each apartment promising views over The Leas and English Channel.
The sale of the luxury homes, which will be a mix of one, two and three bedroomed flats, will pay for the extensive restoration of the neglected and beloved pavilion, which has stood empty for a decade and is now suffering from water damage and timber decay .
A report has been released ahead of next week's planning meeting, where the multi-million pound development will be discussed by members of Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC) for the first time since the application was submitted in May by developer Kantion .
Offices have recommended that the scheme - designed by Hollaway architects - be approved.
The documents reveal more details of the regeneration project, which will see the Grade II listed Leas Pavilion, also known as the Leas Club, brought back to its former glory.
The main hall will also be used by community groups for events and activities such as musical performances, lectures or theatre performances, for example.
Documents reveal that the space will not be used for larger events however, such as gigs, with noise levels limited to 90 decibels maximum.
In addition, the venue would only have capacity for 100 people, would have time restrictions and could not be used for more than 100 days a year as a community space.
The decisions on who uses it and when would fall on a trust, which would be formed by residents, a representative of the Friends of the Leas Pavilion, a council member and an immediate neighbouring resident.
Residents in the new flats will also pay a service charge each year to ensure the upkeep of the space.
The apartment block - compared to a cruise ship by one objector - would rise to a total of nine-storeys - five full storeys, with setbacks to the upper four-storeys - and would stand at 32.6 metres high.
It will be created on either side of the pavilion - incorporating the two existing car parks in Cheriton Place and Longford Terrace - as well as ‘bridge’ across it.
The new apartments would sit upon a terracotta plinth, which seeks to replicate the character of the existing sunken building, which is covered in terracotta tiles.
As part of the restoration plans, these terracotta tiles, which have cracked over the years, as well as the Art Nouveau stained glass windows on the front facade, are due to be repaired.
A total of 65 car parking spaces are planned, less than one space per apartment, and no social housing is to be included.
More than 150 neighbours were consulted by letter on the scheme, with FHDC receiving 124 objections and 29 letters of support.
Concerns included blocked sunlight to nearby properties, over-development, lack of parking, construction noise and dirt, loss of privacy, lack of social housing, height of development, pressure on infrastructure and soundproofing fears.
One objector compared the scheme to a "modern cruise ship and "a floating ugly block of flats".
Included in the reasons to support the project are that it will improve The Leas, create employment and "will bring the pavilion back to its former grandeur, enhance the town centre and bring exciting architecture to the town".
The Leas Pavilion has served as a tearoom, theatre, snooker hall, bowling alley and nightclub over the years.
The unique building, first built in 1902, is currently still owned by Churchgate, but will be bought by Kantion subject to planning approval.
Churchgate was previously granted planning permission to overhaul the site into a health club with 68 flats but missed the deadline.
The new planning application will be discussed on Tuesday (September 22) night by FHDC's planning committee, via virtual meeting.
Council literature states: "The report concludes that the development is of a high-quality design respecting The Leas and the surrounding historic context, whilst sensitively integrating the Leas Pavilion within the scheme.
"The scheme would also result in the Pavilion’s restoration and secure its long-term future, including some community use.
"A viability assessment has been submitted in support of the proposals which demonstrates that due to the abnormal costs of the repair of the Leas Pavilion, no affordable housing could be made, although CIL would be paid.
"It is considered that the repair and restoration of the Leas Pavilion as an integral part of the scheme is an overriding consideration in this case, and as such the proposal is considered, on balance, to be acceptable."
Listed building consent for the project is also expected to be granted at the same meeting.