Published: 07:45, 20 May 2022
| Updated: 14:25, 20 May 2022
A Victorian building that was previously home to a town's branch of Debenhams will be demolished to make way for a new health centre.
The three-storey property on the corner of Sandgate Road and Bouverie Place in Folkestone is part of what is now known as the 'Folca' site, owned by Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC).
In September the council agreed to lease the land on which the building stands, which makes up around one third of the whole site, to allow for the creation of what medics have called a "state-of-the-art" £16 million health centre.
If approved, the proposal would see the relocation of the town's existing Manor Road and Guildhall Street GP practices, providing services for all 19,000 of their patients.
There would also be space to accommodate additional numbers in the future.
Local people will be given the chance to comment on the proposals, which FHDC says will seek to reflect the existing design, through a series of public engagement sessions to be held over the summer before a planning application is submitted.
Dr Manuel Fernandes, of The Manor Clinic, said: "We are delighted to be working with partners to develop this new state-of-the-art facility in a key town centre location.
'Our ambition is to provide a new medical centre that will meet the needs of patients...'
"Our design team have worked through all options and the Victorian part of the site isn't capable of housing the range of services that the project seeks to provide. Therefore a new build approach is needed.
"The current facilities at Manor Road and Guildhall Street are outdated, under severe capacity pressure and do not provide for the best possible patient experience.
"Our ambition is to provide a new medical centre that will meet the needs of patients both now and in the future, and attract new GPs and healthcare professionals to Folkestone and Hythe."
Since FHDC bought the former department store in 2020, the local authority has made the delivery of a new health centre on the site its priority.
The council argues that the potential for new employment opportunities and increased footfall will benefit the long-term future of Folkestone town centre.
Council leader Cllr David Monk said: "One of the reasons we bought Folca was to provide an opportunity to bring new uses to the building which would add value to the town centre.
"Whilst regrettable that the Victorian part of the site can’t accommodate the new medical centre, progressing with this vision will have a truly transformational impact.
"It will provide much-needed services for residents and bring increased footfall to the town centre, which also helps support local businesses.”
The health centre project forms part of the first phase of Folca's redevelopment.
FHDC says it continues to explore opportunities for a mix of housing, retail and commercial development of the larger, Art Deco part of the building on Sandgate Road.