Bill Bryson once said: “History matters because it reminds us who we are, what we’ve done and what we might do better.” It’s central to our sense of place and identity – whether we learn from the past as we go forward into the future.
Folkestone Central Ward where I am standing as a candidate for Town & District is 41.5% conservation zone, according to the Council’s Interactive map. It has the iconic Leas Lift, and Leas Pavilion within it. But it is not just these two well known pieces of heritage people love so much. The KCC Heritage map demonstrates how much we love our heritage in Folkestone Central Ward and beyond.
Local people are passionate about their heritage, their history, as those who have flocked to save the Leas Pavilion and Leas Lift in Folkestone Central ward prove. But as with many other areas of public concern, heritage is not something that can be left to a free market to address. After 11 years of promises to do something about the Leas Pavilion, nothing has happened and the building has fallen in major disrepair. The Leas lift sits idle and the ward, the town and district are something less without this functioning local icon.
Ironically, for something as popular as heritage, our Council have been slow to realise their role. Indeed, they have had to be dragged to the table by the polite insistence of the Friends of the Leas Pavilion team, to move things forward regarding the iconic Leas Pavilion.
The Pavilion is held in much affection by both local residents and past visitors. Close to the Road of Remembrance and the WW1 Memorial Arch, it is both a significant feature of local pride and a major visitor attraction, yet in its current state of deterioration the Pavilion fails to present the face local Folkestone residents would wish it to portray.
I would work with and assist in whatever way I could to see the Leas Pavilion repaired and restored to its former glory and make it available for community use. A restored Pavilion will also enhance the appearance of The Leas and would make a significant contribution to the local community as a whole. Plus I could once again play my saxophone on the stage where I played so many years ago.
We have a grand history of civic society stepping in to fill the gap between free market and local council action. Groups like the Friends of the Leas Pavilion play an important and irreplaceable role in caring for and championing our heritage, as do Shepway Heart Forum. But the Council, of course, does a critically important job – through legislation, national planning policy, funding, and its own role in managing a sizeable heritage estate; which it could promote more.
The Friends of the Leas Pavilion will be having a two week exhibition in the old now vacant Phones for you shop on the corner of Sandgate Rd & West Terrace from the 29th April.
Truly, local heritage – like national heritage – is a mixed economy, with the private, public and charitable sectors all having a crucial role to play. But over the last twenty years of local Conservative rule in our district, heritage has been confined to the smallest of council departments, an afterthought rather than a central plank of sustainability. This needs to change.
We must make history and heritage accessible and relevant to everyone, without losing its integrity – bringing places to life.
There is a final role for our Council which it must not duck and that is the wider climate that it sets: whether it recognises the importance of quality of life as well as the economy; whether it values the historic and irreplaceable alongside the need for progress.
In the last few years the loss of the Leas Lift and the re-emergence of interest in the Leas Pavilion ought to have made us question whether lessons have been learned from the past. Residents are right to worry about the value history and heritage represents to the local community, as it has been placed at the bottom of the pile. That is why it is time to change the local conservative-led administration of 20 years standing as they have done little to protect our heritage.
If you elect me I will persuade our Council that heritage has a big role to play in the economic regeneration of our ward, our town and our fabulous district. I will listen and take on board the vision and thoughts of the Shepway Heart Forum who have worked tirelessly to promote the history and culture of our district, and I for one am grateful for their efforts.
Voting for me – Bryan Rylands – a candidate in the Folkestone Central ward, standing for both District & Town Council on the 2nd May 2019 – would demonstrate that you and I have learned enough from our local history, and together can meet the challenges of the future with a better vision to offer more than is currently available.
Vote Bryan Rylands
Folkestone Central Ward – May 2nd 2019
(or use your postal vote if you have one)
Published by Bryan Rylands Flat D Avenay Court 217 Sandgate Rd Folkestone CT20 2LN