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Petition against Folkestone Debenhams store being converted into a cinema reaches 1000 signatures

ByMolly Mileham-Chappell

Almost 1000 people have signed a petition opposing drastic renovation proposals for a doomed Debenhams store.

The Change.org website was set up at the weekend after it was announced on Friday that the Folkestone department store, which is earmarked for closure, could be converted into a cinema.

Proposals to change the building into a picture house were revealed by Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC) just hours after the struggling high street store listed the names of 22 sites set to close in 2020, including four in Kent.

The Debenhams petition on Thursday morning (9530544)
The Debenhams petition on Thursday morning (9530544)

FHDC said that while the news was sad on national scale, measures were being taken by council bosses and other industry experts to upgrade the town centre, where Debenhams currently serves as the flagship store on the corner of Sandgate Road and Bouverie Place.

The huge announcement came as part of the council's town centre regeneration plan, which also includes ideas for residential properties, food and bars to be built into the heart of the high street.

The authority added that they had been 'working for some time' with Ellandi, the owners of Bouverie Place and the owner of the Debenhams store, on plans to revitalise the shopping area.

But the recommendations received a mixed response online from residents, with many saying a cinema was not needed in place of the department store.

Callum Oakley was one of those frustrated by the proposals, prompting him to set up the online appeal entitled 'Say no to putting a cinema in the Debenhams building in Folkestone'.

The petition reads: "Folkestone and Hythe have very quickly released plans to turn our beautiful Debenhams building to a cinema, do we really need that when we have our lovely Silver Screen cinema? No we don't. The building could be used for so much more!"

Debenhams, Folkestone..Mystery Picture..Picture: Gary Browne FM3142642. (8428674)
Debenhams, Folkestone..Mystery Picture..Picture: Gary Browne FM3142642. (8428674)

Speaking to KentOnline's sister newspaper the Folkestone and Hythe Express, Mr Oakley said: "I've been in Folkestone my whole life. It's such a big space and Folkestone's really on the up.

"I just think we could put so many other things in there rather than a cinema."

On the petition, aggravated residents said the site could be utilised for other entertainment facilities, such as a bowling alley, lazer tag centre or an ice rink.

Callum Oakley from Folkestone (9530569)
Callum Oakley from Folkestone (9530569)

Mr Oakley hopes to take the petition to FHDC. He added: "It's to show that before plans go ahead, it's not actually what Folkestone wants."

Mr Oakley previously petitioned against funding cuts to bus services in the county.

To sign the petition, click here.

Click here to read reactions from shoppers in Folkestone about the planned Debenhams store closure.

For more Kent business news, click here.

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