Town centre businesses and tourism chiefs are calling for the controversial 'Welcome to Dover' sign to be torn down. I agree that the horrible hoarding in Townwall Street needs scrapping.
I met with local fish and chip shop owner Silvio Macari and White Cliffs Country Tourism Association chairman Graham Hutchison. We also invited Dover District Council's regeneration supremo Tim Ingleton to see the former Crypt site in Bench Street – which has been left to ruin for decades.
The 'Welcome to Dover' sign and the Crypt are just a stone's throw away from the hugely successful St James development which opened earlier this year. When I visited last Thursday lunchtime (June 7th), nearly all of the 445 St James parking spaces were taken. I am proposing a three-point plan to tackle the problems – to tear down the 'Welcome to Dover' sign, clear up the Crypt and deliver more town centre car parking.
The 'Welcome to Dover' sign, put up by the Labour mayor and the 'town team', was well-intentioned – but it's become a laughing stock. It's time to tear down this horrible hoarding.
Just round the corner, the former Crypt site is still left to ruin – more than 40 years since the building was devastated by fire. This area urgently needs clearing up, while the Banksy must continue to be protected.
Barely a stone's throw away, business is booming at the St James site, with hardly a spare parking space to be found. Right next door is Dover Leisure Centre, which could be used as a site for lots more parking, as well as shops or cafes, once it closes. We've come a long way over the past few years – yet we must keep working to make Dover town centre the best it can be.
Mr Hutchison pointed out that visitors to Dover travelling along the A20 are dazzled by the iconic Banksy on the corner of York Street, only to then be faced with the worn-out 'Welcome to Dover' sign. The hoarding was commissioned by Dover Town Team – whose directors include Labour mayor Sue Jones – and created by K College in 2014. Yet it has since had graffiti sprayed over it, become discoloured and some of the signage is peeling off. It is placed directly in front of a rundown site, with weeds and trees hanging over the top.
The Godden family own the area and buildings covering the Crypt and the Banksy. The Crypt was erected in 1840. There were bars and restaurants on the lower floors and residential accommodation upstairs. Tragedy struck on March 27, 1977, when seven people died after a devastating fire ripped through the four-storey building. Since then the shell has been left to decay in the heart of Dover town centre.
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