A huge town centre regeneration plan has been unveiled with proposals to turn vacant Debenhams into a cinema.
Folkestone & Hythe District Council has released the masterplan as the department store announced it would leave Sandgate Road early next year.
It is one of four Kent branches to close, with 1,200 jobs threatened nationally.
But within hours of the sad news making the headlines, the council has pinpointed its vision for the High Street.
Town team boss reveals plan of action for Folkestone’s doomed Debenhams store
While no timescale has been given, it says the departure of Debenhams next year means the scheme can be accelerated.
A statement from the council, released this afternoon, said: “The council has been working for “some time” with Ellandi, the owners of Bouverie Place and the owner of the Debenhams store, on exciting plans to regenerate Folkestone town centre.
“The intention was to commence consultation on these plans in the coming months, but the announcement that Debenhams will be closing in 2020 has given the council and their partners an opportunity to accelerate this work.
“Over the coming weeks Folkestone & Hythe’s Accelerated Delivery Board, will share some of the early ideas for the future use of the Debenhams building and how it can continue to play a part in Folkestone’s renaissance as a modern seaside town, with fantastic transport links and a thriving economy.”
A spokesman added: “It has been clear for some time that Debenhams has been in difficulty nationwide.
“This decision is sadly due to the company’s performance across the UK rather than the success or otherwise of the chain’s Folkestone store.
“These regeneration plans will show how the town centre can continue to thrive and accommodate changes in shopping behaviour.
“In particular, we will demonstrate how new uses can make Folkestone an even more attractive and vibrant place to shop, visit, work and live.”
Here’s the masterplan and what it shows
The masterplan hoped to shape the future of Folkestone town centre
Debenhams is labelled in pink, with the corner in a light blue colour.
The pink represents a cinema, and the blue residential.
The council has remained tight lipped on the finer details, such as whether its in any talks with any major brands.
Mark Robinson, Ellandi founder and managing director, added: “With the new retailer replacing Peacocks, Bouverie Place will shortly once again be 100% occupied, showing how resilient Folkestone has been in a tough nationwide retail market.
“A number of major stakeholders have been liaising in respect of regeneration plans for the surrounding area and while it is sad to see a major High Street name in trouble, we aim to come forward shortly with exciting new plans to build on the success of Bouverie Place.”
Town team chairman Ray Johnson spoke to Kent Live earlier today and said: “We need to make sure Folkestone still has a good retail offering and work through a plan of how that will be achieved.
“In Folkestone we are in a slightly better position because we don’t have much retail space over size.
“It is up and coming, it is developing and there is good foot flow.
“Taking that into account we can come up with something that will fit the whole of the site.”
Source: Kent Live