Published: 13:59, 22 September 2021
| Updated: 15:37, 22 September 2021
A £16 million state-of-the-art health centre serving 30,000 patients could be set up in the former Debenhams in Folkestone.
The proposed centre would provide a primary care facility, diagnostic centre with MRI and X-Ray suites, laboratory facilities and training opportunities.
It would be in the Victorian side of the ex-department store, which sits on the corner of Bouverie Place and Sandgate Road.
A report on the project reveals that existing GP practices at Manor Road and Guildhall Street are proposing to come together to form the large health centre, with the two surgeries forming Premier Primarycare Ltd.
Under the new partnership, they could be granted a 150-year leasehold sale for the site, which will generate a ground rent for owner Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC).
The authority bought the former Debenhams store in 2020 for just over £2m, months after the chain exited the high street.
Literature on the project states that the new health centre will "achieve the council’s strategic objectives" by "repurposing a council asset, diversifying the range of uses in the town centre, generating additional footfall and attracting private investment".
It adds that the goals for Folca include "a new health centre which will bring modern, state-of-the-art facilities" to the town.
The report notes: "The disposal of the Victorian building for a new health centre seeks to drive the improvement of the town centre by helping bring vitality to the town centre, and help attract visitors and investment.
"To achieve this, the council is facilitating the use of the building as a new health centre with the proviso that it remains in this use, unless there should be an unlikely turn in the use of health facilities and it is no longer viable, in which case the council will have first refusal to buy back the property at market value."
The health centre, which will cost an estimated £16m, is being called phase one of the redevelopment plans for Folca.
Phase two will consist of the art deco side of the building, which faces Sandgate Road, with plans to progress this separately.
The report reads: "There is potential to include health-related services for example a pharmacy in the phase two project and this would be part of a separate commercial proposition."
The project is due to be discussed by members of FHDC's cabinet at their meeting tonight.
A time frame for the project shows that planning permission will be sought next summer, and if all goes ahead, construction could start at the end of 2022 and completed by autumn-winter 2024.
FHDC has previously revealed plans to move its council offices into Folca, to provide a council access point for services within the town centre.