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Plans for temporary visitor centre on bomb site in Tontine Street, Folkestone branded disrespectful

ByVictoria Chessum

Plans for a temporary visitor centre to be built on a site where a German bomb killed 61 people in the First World War “shows a total lack of respect” a campaign group has said.

The building has been proposed by the Creative Foundation for Tontine Street in Folkestone, at the memorial garden next to the Brewery Tap.

It will be the first purpose-built premises for the Folkestone Triennial art festival in September.

The proposed visitor centre to open in Tontine Street, Folkestone, as part of the Folkestone Triennial 2017. Picture: Carmody Groarke
The proposed visitor centre to open in Tontine Street, Folkestone, as part of the Folkestone Triennial 2017. Picture: Carmody Groarke

The planning application was lodged to Shepway District Council, which would need to give it permission before work starts.

A Facebook page called Stop the Triennial Building in Tontine Street has been set up to protest at the proposals.

Jan Pedersen, the group’s chairman, said: “It is in a conservation area and totally out of character.

"It is a memorial site and it shows a total lack of respect for those who lost their lives in that tragic raid, the centenary of which we are approaching.”

On Friday, May 25, 1917, at about 6.20pm, the explosive was dropped from a German Gotha bomber, killing 61 people and injuring many more.

The shops after the May 1917 bombing
The shops after the May 1917 bombing

The site housed Stokes Brothers’ greengrocers until it was destroyed in the air raid. William Stokes, 46, died along with Arthur Stokes, 14.

The site had become overgrown but the fenced-off garden has now been slabbed and decorated. The centenary is due to be marked next month, when a renewed plaque marking the site will be installed.

The current plaque reads: “This tablet marks the place where on May 25 1917 a bomb was dropped from a German aeroplane killing 60 persons and injuring many others.”

Research by a relative of the Stokes family, Margaret Care, has evealed that an extra person was killed taking the total to 61. She has been tracking down other people who are relatives of those who died in one of the town’s biggest disasters.

The Creative Foundation declined to comment.

A plaque on the Tontine Street bomb site
A plaque on the Tontine Street bomb site

Comments about the application and on KentOnline's story showed a range of views.

Michael Hamilton said: “I strongly object to this because it is within a conservation area. It will be built on a memorial garden – this use of the area does not respect the victims.”

George Clift said: “Along with the Quarterhouse, Cube and Workshop, it will be a modernist structure that does sit neatly within its surroundings, a mixture of older and modern architecture. This will be a much needed project that will make this open space something new and interesting to visit again.”

Dylan Jeffrey said: “Grey, ugly, tasteless and uninspiring building that should not be built on a site that has huge local historical significance. No thank you Creative Foundation.”

Frédéric Guyot du Repaireall said: “Good idea. It will attract visitors in that part of the town and boost local businesses. Nobody ever uses that garden and it is currently fenced.”

Mark Hourahane said: “Absolutely disgusting to do this in the centennial year of the air raid.”

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