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Comedian Vic Reeves and actor George Irving in video in bid to restore Leas Pavilion, Folkestone

Developers who have been ordered to carry out “urgent” remedial works to the Leas Pavilion in Folkestone have been condemned for “dragging their feet.”

More than 50 residents piled into the Chichester Hall in Sandgate last Wednesday night for a public meeting headed by the Friends of the Leas Pavilion (FLP) community group who are campaigning for it to be restored.

The idea behind the gathering was to unveil a promotional video that had been put together, featuring comedian Vic Reeves, speaking about the Grade II listed building’s architecture and its importance to Folkestone.

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It was under a decade ago that this place was bustling with people who used to drink at the bar. Picture: Gary Browne
It was under a decade ago that this place was bustling with people who used to drink at the bar. Picture: Gary Browne

It also features George Irving, who lives in the district and has appeared in BBC soap Holby City.

People were told that the venue, built in 1902, which has been a theatre, tea room and a bar in its time, was pending remedial works for growing rot, which is understandably getting worse as colder weather draws in.

Shepway District Council issued an urgent report to its owners, Churchgate, in July for work to begin immediately.

During the meeting’s question and answer session, a resident asked why the developers were “dragging their feet” in doing the work.

Julia Jones, Allison Glen and Liz Mulqueen from the Friends of the Leas Pavilion group. Picture: Gary Browne
Julia Jones, Allison Glen and Liz Mulqueen from the Friends of the Leas Pavilion group. Picture: Gary Browne

FLP member Liz Mulqueen, who spoke at the meeting, said: “They still haven’t been completed, Shepway has allowed Churchgate to get away with too much, for too long.

“These urgent works are not permanent works, we would really like to oversee those ourselves but stopping the rot is of great importance right now.”

The inside of the building is just a shell of its former glory, with broken glass, bare brickwork on show and costly structural problems emerging.

Video created by Britflicks

The FLP has spent the last month raising money for a start-up Heritage Lottery Grant, with an initial £4,000 in mind.

But to date, more than £8,000 has been pledged and the sum keeps on rising.

The money will fund legal costs, detailed surveys, business plans and training for the group’s members.

An additional £10,000 has been pledged from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The idea behind the fundraising is to eventually restore the Pavilion to a working order and make it into a film hub, with multiple uses to the community.

The centre stage is now stripped back to the original brickwork. Picture: Gary Browne
The centre stage is now stripped back to the original brickwork. Picture: Gary Browne

Mrs Mulqueen said: “We are now talking to the owners, Churchgate, and they might be willing to give us a long lease of the building.

“Now that we have secured these funds, we are looking at becoming a community benefit society so that the lease can be put in our name,” she said.

“Our next step is to apply for the big money for restoration, we need to create a viable business plan.”

Cllr David Monk, the leader of Shepway District Council, said: “Our officers have invited the Friends group to our regular meetings with the owners of the Leas Pavilion.

“The Friends are due to attend a site visit this week when we will be meeting with the architect and structural engineer at the Pavilion to discuss survey work they have been carrying out regarding the site’s drainage and investigation of water damage to the roof.

“Once the drainage survey and the roof investigation work has been completed then the detail of the repairs and the methodology of the works can be agreed.

“We expect that work to start shortly after the site visit but due to the listed status of the building it is our job to make sure that any work carried out is appropriate and is effective at protecting the building so we are monitoring it very closely.

“Of course we welcome the interest of the Friends group and will continue to involve them in our meetings with the owner of the building.”

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