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This is what will happen to Debenhams in Ashford, Canterbury, Chatham and Folkestone

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In April 2019 another High Street giant announced it will be going into administration. Debenhams stores in Ashford, Chatham, Canterbury and Folkestone all closed their doors in January, despite a legal battle in the High Court.

The store survived in Westwood Cross in Broadstairs and Gravesend. But this has created a new opportunity for many town centres to do something creative with the space.

KMTV reporting on the closures planned for next year

Here's what is happening in your town.


The Ashford International Model Railway Excellence Centre, also known as AIMREC is in talks with the owners of the store in County Square about using part of the building.

Before this announcement, there was wild speculation over Primark taking over the premises in the future.

The site is across three storeys and so big enough to hold the retailer.

In April, chief executive of Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce Jo James said: "I would like to see another big chain go in there.

Ashford Debenhams
Ashford Debenhams

"Debenhams is a very sizeable store, it would have the space to accommodate Primark if Ashford is a proposition to them, but it is in such close proximity to other stores, with stores already in Folkestone and Canterbury."

The loss of Debenhams was the second blow to the town centre in quick succession with M&S closing shortly after the announcement.


Big plans for the store were revealed in September and approved in early January.

The £25million project has been put forward to the city council to combine the store with others on the High Street, Guildhall Street, Buttermarket and Mercery Lane to greate the Guildhall Quarter.

Debenhams in Canterbury High Street will redeveloped (16989975)
Debenhams in Canterbury High Street will redeveloped (16989975)

It will see the huge site in the High Street and Guildhall Street redeveloped with 12 new retail/cafe units with 74 flats above.

Cllr Nick Eden-Green called it a 'text book case' of how such a scheme should be done with everyone given a chance to have their say.

Cllr Neil Baker added: "It's an absolutely great example of what can be done within the constraints of an historic setting."

The vision for Debenhams in Guildhall Street, Canterbury (16814415)
The vision for Debenhams in Guildhall Street, Canterbury (16814415)


For the Medway town, losing Debenhams will be a big loss in the new year.

The closure was predicted by Labour group leader Cllr Vince Maple who last October said: "If the language and narrative from their chief executive is anything to go by, it says the Chatham store is probably on that list of 50.

Debenhams In Chatham High Street (9206991)
Debenhams In Chatham High Street (9206991)

“This would have a huge impact for Chatham’s economy, Medway’s economy, and – frankly – for the council’s chief finance officer’s expectations around business rates.

“I dread to think the potential business rates loss for that particular site, because it’s a big site.”

The council responded by saying they were looking to see how they can mitigate any negative impacts as a result of the closure but no plans have currently been made.


Despite a petition to save the store in Folkestone attracting more than 1,000 signatures, it still made it on the list.

It has since been purchased by the district council for an undisclosed sum.

The sale came about in March this year when Folkestone and Hythe District Council revealed their plans to turn the building in Sandgate Road into a mixed use development.

Jean Spain outside Debenhams in Sandgate Road, Folkestone. Picture: Chris Davey
Jean Spain outside Debenhams in Sandgate Road, Folkestone. Picture: Chris Davey

This will include a health centre, leisure facilities, flexible work space and residential properties.

The council had previously announced plans to instal a cinema in the store.

But the U-turn could possibly be down to opposition from bosses at Silver Screen, the town's existing movie theatre.

But until new tenants can be found for Debenhams, the council has assisted a number of independent businesses which have clubbed together to animate the windows of the empty store with vinyl displays.

It is not known when these are expected to be installed.

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