Published: 06:00, 11 March 2020
| Updated: 09:10, 11 March 2020
Exciting new images have been released of a luxury apartment block proposed to be built around Folkestone's neglected Leas Pavilion.
The CGIs have been unveiled by a team at Hollaway architects, formerly Guy Hollaway, who have worked on a rescue plan for the former theatre and nightclub along The Leas.
The ambitious proposals will see £4m being invested to preserve and restore the historic and beloved pavilion, which has fallen into major disrepair over the last decade.
The cash will see the Grade II-listed building brought back to life and renovated to resemble its original design when it was built as an Edwardian tearoom in 1902.
Once updated, the building will be used as a residential and community space for the people of Folkestone - and will host a variety of events including musical performances, clubs, plays or stand up.
Architect Guy Hollaway said: "What we want to do it bring it back to its essence of when it was first conceived.
"It's been adapted over the years to accommodate when it was used as a theatre or cinema, with the columns being removed.
"But there is real historic value to bring it back to what it was.
"We want to create a very adaptable space that is complimentary to the town, one that will not compete with the existing venues.
"It could be used by a bridge club or for bingo one evening, or host a comedian or small play on another."
Surrounding the Leas Pavilion, sometimes called the Leas Club, will be a nine-storey glass-fronted apartment block including 90 flats, each with sea views over the English Channel.
The development will span the two car parks in Cheriton Place and Longford Terrace, while some part of it will 'bridge' the sunken pavilion.
Space for 42 cars will be created below the flats, with points for electric car charging available and two electric vehicles available for rental by residents.
Bike storage will also be on site, while the flats will all be accessed from inside the renovated pavilion.
Hollaway, whose past schemes include Rocksalt restaurant, the Folkestone Academy, Dreamland in Margate and the Picturehouse cinema in Ashford, worked on the plans on behalf of developer Kantion, which has experience in urban projects in Europe and Asia.
Mr Hollaway said: "As local architects we are thrilled to have this unique opportunity to restore and secure this building’s future and celebrate its evocative past by retelling stories through its renovation of times when troops departed for France in World War 1.
"With our extensive knowledge of creating buildings in coastal towns, we will ensure the highest of quality materials for the building’s longevity and a sea view across the Leas promenade for every apartment."
Hollaway have worked with The Friends of the Leas Pavilion, not-for-profit organisation which has campaigned to restore the site for many years, and the Victorian Society on the new plans.
Liz Mulqueen, chair of The Friends, says the scheme is the "last chance" to save the pavilion.
She said: "I have met with the founders of Kantion several times and they have impressed me with their professionalism, expertise and transparency.
"The Friends of the Leas Pavilion have fought for many years now to have this building restored and brought back into community use.
"We have now identified a partner who shares the same passion.
"This is undoubtedly our best, and possibly our last chance to restore the building to its glory and grace of 1902."
Many celebrities have also thrown their weight behind the campaign to preserve the pavilion, including Sir Ian McKellen, comedian Vic Reeves, and EastEnders actress June Brown, who performed at the club at the start of her career..
Last month, Harry Potter actress Miriam Margolyes revealed plans were "afoot" to develop the historic venue.
Now, she said: "I’m utterly thrilled to hear the Leas Pavilion will live again and provide beauty for the eye and live entertainment as it did in my childhood.
"It’s one of the many glories of Folkestone.Bless it and all who made this happen."
Olivier Daelemans, from Kantion added: "Working with partner Miles MacKinnon, I am thrilled to bring forward this exciting development and renovate this historic building for Folkestone.
"Utilising my expertise of developments on the Belgian coast, we are working with the Friends of the Leas Pavillion to enable their aspirations, and award-winning architects Hollaway, to produce a building of outstanding architecture."
The Leas Pavilion originally opened in 1902 as a tearoom and over the years it has housed a theatre, cinema, cafe and was used by soldiers billeted in the town during the First World War.
Its last use was as a nightclub, which shut in 2010. Since then it has fallen into rack and ruin.
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, Folkestone and Hythe District Council issued a legal repairs notice to Churchgate listing six pages of works necessary to protect the run-down building.
The noticed warned if the repairs were not made by a deadline it would seek a compulsory purchase order, meaning it could buy it.
But the authority held off stepping in further in case a new buyer came forward.
The new plans from Hollaway were revealed to the public for the first time at a consultation held at the Leas Cliff Hall yesterday (Wednesday).
A planning application for the scheme is expected to be submitted in the coming weeks.