Published: 13:03, 27 July 2012
by Sam Lennon
Folkestone Racecourse is closing at the end of year.
The owners decided to temporarily pull the plug after plans for housing on the site, which they say would have secured its future, stalled.
The last race meeting will be on December 18 and those already scheduled for next year will be transferred to sister courses in Surrey and Sussex.
Customers who booked tickets for early 2013 will get refunds.
Plans for 820 homes would have paid for a new racecourse and grandstand at the Westenhanger site.
Tom Kelly, managing director of owners Arena Leisure and Northern Racing, said: “Folkestone suffers from out-dated facilities and our plans have been delayed. If they succeed work to reconfigure the racecourse could commence in 2013.”
Folkestone Racecourse has 24 meetings a year and nine permanent staff who managers hope to relocate to the nearest sister courses.
ALNR made the announcement earlier today, when it also revealed the permanent shutdown of another one of its sites, Hereford Racecourse.
This was after attempts to extend its lease failed.
Mr Kelly said: “Folkestone has been the subjected of detailed discussion between the previous management, Arena Leisure, and Shepway council for several years.
“The proposal for the site incorporated significant residential development, which would have enabled a new racecourse to be constructed with much enhanced amenities.”
He said that these plan had been delayed following a recent Examination in Public of the local plan. Discussions would continue with the council so the scheme could finally be approved.
In May planning inspector Michael Hetherington rejected plans for 820 homes on the site, saying it was too many and would semi-urbanise the area.
The scheme had been supported in Shepway District Council’s core strategy.
But Mr Hetherington, following a public examination, said he did not believe the council had presented enough evidence to justify it and said it should have looked into alternatives.
The council said the core strategy was still a work in progress and his comments would be included in them.
Council leader Robert Bliss (Con) now said: “We are obviously very disappointed to learn of the temporary closure of Folkestone Racecourse - although we appreciate that difficult decIsions have to be made in the current economic climate.
“We have worked with the former owners, Arena Leisure, for many years and are confident that this good working relationship will continue with the new owners.
“We will do everything we can to secure the long-term future of the racecourse and will explore possible solutions to the challenges raised by the planning inspector.”