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Work planned to improve Folkestone's run down Leas Pavilion

Work is being planned to ensure the future preservation of the dilapidated and historic Leas Pavilion.

A planning application has been submitted to Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC) to remove the existing canopy from the front of the Grade II listed building, along The Leas in the seaside town.

The proposal has been submitted by Leas View Development Ltd, which, according to Companies House, is the new name of former controversial Churchgate, who own the site.

The Leas Pavilion, Folkestone. Picture: Gary Browne
The Leas Pavilion, Folkestone. Picture: Gary Browne

Previously, the Essex based developer was given permission to overhaul the former Victorian tearoom into a health club with 68 flats, but nothing ever came of this.

In February this year, FHDC issued a legal repairs notice detailing six pages of works necessary to protect the building and preserve it for the future.

Failure to complete the repairs by a deadline could result in the council asking the Secretary of State to issue a compulsory purchase order, meaning it could buy the building.

But now a fresh application has been submitted by the owners to the local authority in regards to the iron and glazed veranda attached to the frontage.

Documents state: "The veranda is in poor condition, all of the glazed roof is broken and much of the steel supporting structure is badly rusted.

An artist's impression shows Churchgate's initial plans for the redevelopment of the pavilion
An artist's impression shows Churchgate's initial plans for the redevelopment of the pavilion

"In our opinion the veranda adds very little to the appearance of the building and is of no real architectural merit.

"In addition to this in order to facilitate the necessary future restoration of the terracotta elevations, removal of this structure is required."

The literature states that the removal of the canopy is part of "enabling works and precedes a future application in respect of further works".

The beloved Leas Pavilion, also known as the Leas Club, first opened as tearooms in 1902.

It also housed the town's first cinema and was used by soldiers billeted in Folkestone during the First World War. It was converted into a theatre until its closure in 1985.

Its last use was as a nightclub before the venue shut its doors in 2010.

The Leas Pavilion, shown here in 1904 - just two years after it opened
The Leas Pavilion, shown here in 1904 - just two years after it opened

The building is very unusual, having being built sunken into the street due to the ‘ancient lights’ clause in leases for hotels on either side meaning no building could be built more than 7ft above street level.

This was to ensure daylight would not be blocked from these buildings.

Churchgate brought the pavilion in 2007 for £3.2 million on a 150 year lease. They were given planning permission to develop the site into flats and a gym. But the deadline for this has since expired and no new plans have been submitted by the owners.

Campaign group Friends of the Leas Pavilion (FLP) was set up in an attempt to keep the old Victoria tearoom as a community space.

They have received support from actors including Sir Ian McKellen and June Brown and comedian Vic Reeves.

Sir Ian McKellen has shown support for the site
Sir Ian McKellen has shown support for the site

In 2017 the owners carried thousands of pounds of repairs which saw improvements made to the roof and walls.

But further work is needed and the site is still subject to the repairs notice.

Cllr Stuart Peall, Cabinet Member for Enforcement, Regulatory Services, Waste and Building Control said: "We are keen to see this much loved building restored or improved to reflect the lovely aspect of the Leas.

"The legal repairs notice has not been withdrawn.

"The council will be reviewing the situation in the coming weeks."

A decision on the application, reference Y19/0665/FH, is due to be made mid August.

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