Published: 06:00, 06 February 2020
| Updated: 12:55, 06 February 2020
Construction is underway to create a new artisan food and drink hall in Folkestone, as part of a scheme to revive the town centre.
The exciting and unique project is due to open in the basement of Rendezvous Street restaurant Market Square, which opened last year and serves healthy brunches, lunches, dinners and cocktails.
In total, 15 food producers will be able to sell their goods, with wine, vegetables, cheese and charcuterie expected to be on offer, as well as fresh bread prepared at the soon-to-be-built on-site bakery.
Vendors will set-up in the alcoves of the huge hall, while stalls will also run down the middle to form a second aisle.
Some will be permanent stalls, others temporary or pop ups.
A seating area for customers will also be added
A team are currently renovating the underground room, which includes restoring the existing floorboards, removing and replacing the ceiling, cleaning the original tiles, adding ventilation, fire-proofing, sorting electrics and painting the walls.
The hall will then open in the spring, it is planned.
Ben Cuthbert, who owns Market Square with wife Lucy, said: "The idea is that it will be a place when you can shop for artisan products and also speak to the experts behind them.
"It will also be a space when people can take classes, such as wine tasting, or watch chef demonstrations.
"It is a place for retail, but will also have a community feel and generate more footfall for the town.
"Our intention is to offer spaces for free for a time and we've already got a few feelers out there."
Market Square is part of a chain which also incorporates The Harbour Inn, Luben's Pizza and The Pullman, all in Folkestone.
And this latest project has been made possible by a £33,000 grant from Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC) after they accepted Mr Cuthbert's application to the £3m High Streets Fund (HSF).
This huge pot of money was approved last year and is set aside for projects that will boost the town centres across the district.
Of the total, £2.2m has been allocated to Folkestone and the remaining £800,000 is to be split between other towns in the district, such as Cheriton, Hythe, New Romney, Lydd, Dymchurch and Sellindge, plus others.
Mr Cuthbert's application was for 50% match funding.
He said: "We wasn't sure whether to start the project ourselves but funding was limited. So we looked at the HSF and that inspired us to carry on.
"So if it wasn't for the grant we would have shelved it until a later date. But why leave such a great space empty when it can be used?
"It was an easy process to go through and the council can help support and guide you."
Cllr David Wimble, FHDC's cabinet member for economy, added: "This application is exactly what we had in mind when we approved the HSF.
"Ben came to us and obviously had experience, knew what he was doing and we had confidence in him.
"What we don't want to do with the HSF is give money for fireworks or one off events, but things that are sustainable in the long run."
Since October 1 2019, there have been 27 applications submitted for the council's HSF.
Thirteen have been approved totalling £256,183, while others have been turned down and some are still pending.
Of the projects awarded grants, four are in Folkestone, two in Sandgate and one in Cheriton. A further two in Dymchurch, three in Hythe and one in New Romney have also been agreed.
Big Boys Fine Burger Co., in Old High Street, is one of the four successful applicants in Folkestone so far.
They will use their grant to update their signs, instal outdoor heating, replace their lighting, repair their railing and add a fresh coating of paint.
To apply, visit here.