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Folkestone seafront homes designs go on display for the first time

By Molly Mileham-Chappell

More than 500 people flocked to a coastal harbour to take a first look at plans for new seafront homes.

Detailed plans for the Folkestone Harbour went on display for the first time to the public at Customs House over the weekend.

The exhibition followed approvals by planning chiefs to increase some building plots by a couple of storeys, while others will rise from 20.5 to 29.5 metres.

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Proposed view from Marine Parade. Picture: Folkestone Harbour Company
Proposed view from Marine Parade. Picture: Folkestone Harbour Company

Buildings on South Quay, next to the harbour, will potentially tower 12-storeys high, at 41 metres.

The event, hosted by developer Folkestone Harbour Company, focused specifically on the design, landscape and materials to be used for the first phase of the development, located at the west end of the site, next to the Leas Lift.

Previous images in the outline planning application only showed concepts and maximum dimensions.

Friedrich Ludewig, director at ACME architects, said at the exhibition: "What we've tried to do is not to build lots of individual homes with small gardens, but actually unify the houses in something that forms larger crescents that form public shingle beaches in-between.

"The first phase is the smallest part of the site, closest to the Leas Lift.

More than 500 people attended over the weekend
More than 500 people attended over the weekend

"What we've tried to do is liberate part of the site and leave it open for future planting.

"We will learn a lot. As we will learn, we will see which things work best and which things are maybe not quite as successful and we can go from there."

Mr Ludewig confirmed that concerns such as seagulls, storm events and algae have all been addressed in the design.

Peter Bettley from the Folkestone Harbour Company said: "It forms one of the bookends for the Leas Lift Square, which is a new public space that we will be creating.

"Once the Leas Lift is repaired, that will create a new and improved arrival space at the foot of the Leas for people coming from the town."

Talking about reactions to the computer-generated images, he said: "There's been a great mix of views. The designs are taking their cue from an existing building, Marine Crescent, which is a historical building.

"It's the first time that they (the public) have seen detailed designs for any of the buildings so I think they're quite taken with them. But there are other people who are probably opposed to anything happening on what they consider to be the beach.

"We're trying to take our trouble to remind people that actually the space in front of there isn't the beach - the beach will still be there, in fact it will be bigger than it was before.

"There'll be lots of public spaces - squares, shingled gardens - and I think when people hear that, they're reasonably reassured."

Friedrich Ludewig from ACME architects
Friedrich Ludewig from ACME architects
Proposed view across Shingle Beach. Picture: Folkestone Harbour Company
Proposed view across Shingle Beach. Picture: Folkestone Harbour Company

In 2015, Folkestone Harbour Company was granted outline planning permission for a mixed use development, including new homes, cafés and restaurants but a series of amendments to the masterplan were approved this year, where the height of seven plots were proposed to increase.

Plot H will reduce by 15m back to 20m and beach sports facilities will be built in phase five of the development, but now scattered within the estate rather than in one building.

Folkestone Harbour Company also pledged £750,000 to support the re-opening of the Leas Lift as well as a £3.5 million agreement to give funds to the existing Folkestone Sea Sports company on the Stade.

The first phase building creates 86 new homes in a crescent shape with eight-storeys on either end, with three to four storeys in the middle.

Peter Bettley
Peter Bettley
Proposed view across Shingle Gardens. Picture: Folkestone Harbour Company
Proposed view across Shingle Gardens. Picture: Folkestone Harbour Company

It is made up of a range of accommodation, including one bedroom apartments and four bedroom town houses. Resident parking is situated under the building and there is a private garden at the back.

There would also be a shingle garden, exercise facilities and children's play space.

Once reserved matters are approved, developers hope building on the site will begin early 2019.

Planning obligations known as section 106 agreements included that there should be 8% shared ownership across the site, but none is scheduled for the first phase. There are different models, but they are typically arranged in conjunction with a housing association where people buy a share of a property, anywhere between 25% and 75% depending on their circumstances, and pay rent on the rest.

Proposed view of Leas Lift Square. Picture: Folkestone Harbour Company
Proposed view of Leas Lift Square. Picture: Folkestone Harbour Company

The exhibition itself produced a mixed reaction from visitors.

One resident who lives in the West End said: "I think it has the potential to be a really positive thing for the town but I don't like the look of it."

An East Cliff resident said: "I don't know who they are aiming the homes at. Who's going to be able to afford it?"

A woman who lives in Dover Road, but did not wish to be named, said: "They need to get the lift working first. At the moment it's going to rack and ruin.

"I think it's sad that people who have lived here a long time are going to lose their views."

Customs House hosting the harbour homes exhibition
Customs House hosting the harbour homes exhibition

Jason Walker, however, said: "I have always been quite excited about the plan but what concerns me is the affordability of the apartments.

"I'm quite impressed with the plans and to get the Leas Lift running, but it's all just a question of when.

"I think the exhibition is good. They need to open up and have more."

Graham Faux from Folkestone West added that he hopes the development won't create an 'upper' and 'lower' town: "One thing that needs to be addressed is the Leas Lift. It has to be all joined up to the old town."

Cllr Mary Lawes
Cllr Mary Lawes

Cllr Mary Lawes (Ind), who represents the Folkestone Harbour ward, also attended the presentation on Saturday.

She said: "A concern is still parking. I know they're working on it but it's a major concern.

"It's going to benefit people from elsewhere, not my ward.

"I have been speaking to the FHC and they are talking in the right way for my residents to get play areas and things like that, but I just hope they listen to some of the other concerns.

"I hope my ward does gain from it and not lose out."

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