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Cafe to open in Folkestone's Leas Lift

Folkestone's beloved but run-down Leas Lift is to be brought back to life when a new cafe opens up this summer.

Having been closed since 2017, the lower station of the Grade II listed building will be transformed into the cafe and provide refreshments to beach goers, visitors and dog walkers.

There are plans to open a cafe in the lower station of the Leas Lift
There are plans to open a cafe in the lower station of the Leas Lift

The Folkestone Leas Lift Company CIC - a trust which campaigns for the future operation of the site - are behind the move.

Spokesman James Walker-Osborn said: "We are excited that we are at the stage where we can help breathe life into the historic building at the foot of the Leas Lift, whilst we continue to raise funding to restore the Leas Lift to its Victorian glory.

"The café will help raise these much-needed funds."

The Leas Lift, which connects Folkestone town with the beach, was built in 1885 and is a very rare cliff funicular railway.

It is one of only three remaining water-balanced lifts in the UK but closed three years ago due to safety issues with the braking system.

The Leas Lift while it was still operational. Photo: Ray Hollands
The Leas Lift while it was still operational. Photo: Ray Hollands

Since then, the buildings, tracks and machinery have degraded further.

In 2019, the landmark was added to Historic England's Heritage at Risk Register, which helps safeguard it for the future.

The trust are still planning to bring it back into use, and hope to secure a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to pay for the maintenance.

The idea for the new cafe has been supported in feedback from a public consultation carried out by the CIC.

Mr Walker-Osborn added: "We appreciate these are challenging times for many businesses in the local area, but we have been encouraged by the feedback we have received as part of a public consultation we are currently undertaking to test interest in Leas Lift, including visitor facilities and a café.

The Leas Lift sits close to the ongoing development of 84 new seaside homes in Folkestone. Picture: Juliette Joyce Felton of ‎Folkestone Residents Group on Facebook
The Leas Lift sits close to the ongoing development of 84 new seaside homes in Folkestone. Picture: Juliette Joyce Felton of ‎Folkestone Residents Group on Facebook

"Nearly 700 people have taken part so far and there has been overwhelming support for a café.

"The consultation forms part of our preparation for an application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

"We can’t wait until the Leas Lift café becomes part of this beautiful seafront again.”

Now, businesses are invited to express their interest to operate the new cafe, which will sit close to the ongoing construction of 84 new seafront homes, near the Lower Leas Coastal Park.

The development is phase one of a planned seaside overhaul for Folkestone, which when complete will include 1,000 homes, restaurants and shops.

Expressions of interest in running the café can be made via the Leas Lift Facebook page, at www.leaslift.co.uk or by emailing LeasLift@vidi.co.uk before 4pm on July 2.

In addition, to take part in the survey, visit bit.ly/LeasLift2020Consultation

Read more: All the latest news from Folkestone


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