Folkestone and Hythe Council say plans to create a new medical centre with state-of-the-art facilities in Folkestone town centre are ‘taking shape’.
Cabinet members agreed to the proposed terms of a 150-year ground lease of the Victorian part of the Folca site last September to allow the project to be developed.
Since then, Folkestone & Hythe District Council has progressed the development in partnership with two local GP practices, specialist healthcare facility providers and the NHS Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group.
Any plans for general practice services will have to go through the normal approval NHS processes to make sure patients’ needs are met.
£16m medical centre
If approved, the new £16m medical centre would see the relocation of the current Manor Road and Guildhall Street practices and provide services for all 19,000 of their patients. There would also be space to accommodate additional numbers in the future.
It would be situated on the Victorian part of the site – on the corner of Sandgate Road and Bouverie Place – and take up approximately one third of the Folca complex. Options for specialist and training facilities are also being explored.
To fulfil design standards for a modern medical centre, that section of the building will need to be rebuilt to make it suitable for its new purpose.
Residents will have a chance to comment on the proposals, which seek to reflect the existing design, through a series of public engagement sessions which will be held over the summer before a planning application is submitted.
Dr Manuel Fernandes of The Manor Clinic said: “We are delighted to be working with partners to develop this new state-of-the-art facility in a key town centre location.
“Our design team have worked through all options and the Victorian part of the site isn’t capable of housing the range of services that the project seeks to provide. Therefore a new build approach is needed.
“This scheme will provide a high quality and sustainable landmark building that complements Folkestone town centre, and improve both the accessibility and quality of healthcare available to residents.
“The current facilities at Manor Road and Guildhall Street are outdated, under severe capacity pressure and do not provide for the best possible patient experience.
“Our ambition is to provide a new medical centre that will meet the needs of patients both now and in the future – and attract new GPs and healthcare professionals to Folkestone & Hythe.”
Ever since Folkestone & Hythe District Council bought the former department store in 2020, the delivery of a new health centre has always been the key priority.
This is part of its proactive project to secure the long-term future of Folkestone town centre – as well as ensure new employment opportunities and increasing footfall.
Leader Cllr David Monk said: “One of the reasons we bought Folca was to provide an opportunity to bring new uses to the building which would add value to the town centre.
“Whilst regrettable that the Victorian part of the site can’t accommodate the new medical centre, progressing with this vision will have a truly transformational impact.
“It will provide much-needed services for residents and bring increased footfall to the town centre, which also helps support local businesses.”
The health centre project forms part of the first phase of Folca’s redevelopment. Work around a potential mix of new housing, retail and commercial space in the larger, Art Deco part of the building is ongoing.