Published: 15:00, 09 January 2017
A company that has taken over the running of a popular and historic seaside lift is "calling it a day" due to financial difficulties.
The Leas Lift Community Interest Company (LLCIC), who operates the Leas Lift in Folkestone, will be giving up its licence at the end of this month.
In a statement released by business manager Terry Begent it said that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) had dubbed the lift's braking system "unreliable and prone to failure."
The original mechanism has safely carried more than 35 million passengers in the past 131 years.
It issued an improvement notice with a deadline for work to be completed by March.
Failure to do so would render the operators of the lift liable to prosecution for breaches of the Health and Safety Act.
This includes the fitting of an entirely new system totaling £80,000 - funding that the company has not been able to obtain in that specific time-frame.
Company chairman Terry Begent said: “The HSE gave us just five months to come up with a working design for a new braking system, get listed building planning consent, find the money and get the work done.
"This didn’t give us enough time to look for alternative sources of funding once the first one failed and we have all been shocked at just how quickly events have overtaken us since.
"We have devoted the past six years to refurbishing the lift and restoring it to its former glory.
"In doing so, we have found out so much about its past that we have been able to get it upgraded to Grade II* listing status to give it greater protection in the future - so it is heart-breaking for us to walk away and leave it to its fate."
The company has faced a number of challenges since it took over the running of the lift and has overseen a number of project that will leave the lift in the best condition it has been in since it first opened in September 1885.
Mr Begent said that if the lift is not in service, the company will not generate any money and will therefore not be able to front the costs of staff and its overheads.
"Once this experienced team has been disbanded, it is unlikely that they will ever be able to get back together again," he said.
The lift is closed for the winter and the company was expecting to open at the start of the new season at Easter.
Instead, it will be spending the next few weeks “mothballing” the lift to protect it as much as possible for the future.
Mr Begent said, “It is possible, of course, that a new group may be found in the future to take over from where we left off and we would be happy to pass on our expertise to help them get going.
All we can do in the meantime is to thank the public, the Folkestone Estate and all the other funding bodies that have supported us since we opened.”
On Friday, January 27, the company will be holding a reception for invited guests before parking the carriages mid-track for the last time at midday.
They will then shut down the installation and hand the keys back to the owners, the Folkestone Estate.
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