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Folkestone Leas Lift secures funding from National Lottery Heritage Fund


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A beloved but run-down cliff-side lift could be given a new lease of life.

The historic Leas Lift in Folkestone has been awarded a grant of £344,828 to help preserve it for the future.

The Leas Lift funicular railway will benefit from a new £344,828 grant
The Leas Lift funicular railway will benefit from a new £344,828 grant

The Grade II*-listed red lift connects the town to the seafront and has been a much-loved part of Folkestone for more than 100 years.

The rare cliff funicular railway was built in 1885 and is one of only eight water balance lifts in the country, of which only three operate using their original system.

It has retained its original engineering system, including its 1890 reciprocating pumps and the only working band brake in a funicular railway worldwide.

It was last operational in 2017 but had to close due to a safety issue with its brakes.

The lift has further degraded since then and in 2019 was placed on the heritage at risk register by Historic England.

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

The cash for the development phase has come from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and gives the Folkestone Leas Lift charity two years to complete further works, engage with the community and to raise further funding of £400,000.

The team can then apply to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for the second phase grant to develop and restore the Leas Lift in its entirety.

Cathy Beare, chair of the Folkestone Leas Lift Company CIC, said: "Success in the development phase of the National Lottery Heritage Fund is an endorsement of our plan to expand the site and ensure a sustainable and inclusive future for The Lift.

"We are delighted that the works we can now undertake will allow us to submit a bid to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for the delivery stage of this project, allowing the lift to reopen to the public in a more accessible way.

"Massive thanks are due to the volunteer board for the work which has brought us to this milestone."

Inside the Leas Lift cafe. Picture: Leas Lift CIC
Inside the Leas Lift cafe. Picture: Leas Lift CIC

In addition to the £400,000 the charity still needs to raise, the Folkestone Harbour & Seafront Development Company (FHSDC) has committed funding to the lift as part of the planning application for its seafront development.

This includes 84 homes which are currently being built on the beach in front of the Leas Lift.

This development, a mix of flats and town houses, is stage one of the FHSDC's masterplan for Folkestone seafront, which will include 1,000 homes and reach all the way to the Harbour Arm.

Both the FHSDC and Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC) are committed to aligning the release of this extra funding to support the second phase of the National Lottery Heritage Fund application.

An additional £15,000 has come from the Architectural Heritage Fund.

As part of the renovation process of the Leas Lift, the existing building will be upgraded to improve accessibility and sustainability.

Money will also come from the Folkestone Harbour & Seafront Development Company, which is building homes on the seafront in front of the Leas Lift. Picture shows CGI of the development
Money will also come from the Folkestone Harbour & Seafront Development Company, which is building homes on the seafront in front of the Leas Lift. Picture shows CGI of the development

This will include a new café space, to build on the success of the Leas Lift Café which opened last year, and a space to hold events for the community.

James Walker-Osborn, from the CIC, added: "It is a great day for the people of Folkestone and a tremendous reward for the hard work and determination of all those who would not allow the Leas Lift to be abandoned.

"This is a brilliant decision by the National Lottery Heritage Fund for the future of the lift and the future of this important Folkestone heritage landmark.

"The commitment and support of everyone involved has been crucial to this success and the CIC is indebted to a great many people and organisations.

"We will continue to rely on this support and enthusiasm as the project moves to its next, exciting phase; there is still so much to do and money to raise.

"We know how important this message will be to the Folkestone community and we are overwhelmed to be able to share the good news."

Cllr David Wimble (Ind), FHDC's cabinet member for economy, said: "We welcome the support and funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

"This is an important next step in the project to get The Leas Lift running again and we look forward to the planned consultation and engagement with the local community."

An escape room, called Leas Lift Lockout, has also opened in Folkestone, with profits being pumped into the restoration of the lift.

Read more: All the latest news from Folkestone

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