Folkestone last week received a multi-million pound regeneration boost from the government’s Levelling Up fund. Following a successful bid from Folkestone and Hythe District Council, we will receive an over £19million grant from the government which will be invested in improving the town centre. Over the past decade we have seen a tremendous regeneration of the harbour and old town areas of Folkestone, which has been led by Roger De Haan’s Creative Foundation, and the Seafront development company. This activity has also been supported by other business investment which has created jobs and brought more visitors back into the town. However, we want to do more to improve the retail centre of Folkestone and its connection to Folkestone Central station. The Levelling-Up fund grant for Folkestone will be used to improve the town’s bus station, create new public spaces, and support the regeneration of Folca, the former Debenhams store in Sandgate Road.
For too long Middelburg Square and Shellons Street have acted as a barrier between the town centre and the approach into Folkestone from the north. This road scheme was designed for a time when traffic was being directed from the A20 towards the old ferry port. The Levelling Up fund will now allow us to reconfigure the road system next to Bouverie Square to create a more pedestrian friendly road environment. This will include relocating the bus station with new stops and shelters along Middleburg Square, creating a more pedestrian-friendly transport hub environment. The former bus station will become a new public space which will attract residents and visitors as they arrive in the centre of the town. Shellons Street will also become two-way to traffic allowing Forresters Way to become a public space where pedestrian crossings will improve accessibility to the town centre.
Last Friday I hosted my ninth local jobs fair at the Leas Cliff Hall in Folkestone. We had over forty local organisations, representing businesses from right across the district, all of whom had job vacancies and training opportunities they were looking to fill. We also had a record number of people who pre-registered to attend, and nearly 1000 people who joined us on the day for the event. It is great to see such support for the jobs fair from both employers and job seekers alike, and I would like to thank everyone who helped to make it possible. Jobs Fairs are a great way not just to help people find their next opportunity, but also to create an informal environment where jobseekers can find out more about the kinds of vacancies that local employers are looking to fill. I look forward to hosting my tenth jobs fair next year.
Finally on 24 January, I held a debate in parliament at Westminster Hall focused on the future of the nuclear industry at Dungeness. I have long campaigned for a new generation of nuclear power for Romney Marsh, and the arrival of technologies, like small modular nuclear reactors, can help make this a reality. I was pleased that the Energy Minister has agreed to meet with me, as well as Kent County Council and Folkestone and Hythe District Council, to discuss the importance of Dungeness, as the government reviews its site list for new nuclear facilities.