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Lower Leas Coastal Park: Making a Great Park Better

August 5, 2019 4:52 PM

Lower Leas Coastal Park SignThe Lower Leas Park is one of the gems of Folkestone - stretching from Radnor Cliff in Sandgate to the Leas Lift in Folkestone, the park is multi-award winning, well loved by locals and visitors alike and a great place to spend time.

However, like all great attractions, its important that the park lives in harmony with its neighbours, and some of the success of the park has had a negative impact of neighbours over recent years.

I, and other councillors and local residents, have raised these concerns repeatedly with Council Officers - I even took Folkestone and Hythe District Council Chief Executive Susan Priest for a walk to the park from Sandgate a couple of weeks ago so we could look at some of the problem areas together. Not sure Susan liked the walk up Sandgate Hill, but we did it!

I'm delighted to say that the Officer team led by Andy B have taken those talks seriously, and are actively working on addressing the issues. They are taking a number of steps to deal with the problems, while hopefully further enhancing the park for people to enjoy as it was intended.

Firstly,: car parking and vehicle access. There are two car parks near the Lower Leas Park. The main car park, at the bottom of the Park and accessed via Marine Parade, is the larger, and is wide enough for large vehicles and coaches to access and drop off too, and there is coach parking nearby. The other, at the top end off the park is smaller, accessed off Radnor Cliff, too narrow for large vehicles and coaches, and has poor turning round space. If you are driving to the Park, its is STRONGLY recommended that people use the Marine Parade / Coastal Park Car Park, which is accessed via Folkestone and the Road of Remembrance or Tram Road.

The council are updating leaflet and online guidance to direct people to the Marine Parade / Coastal Park Car Park, and Kent Highways are soon to change the signage at the junction of Radnor Cliff Crescent and Sandgate Hill to make it clear the road is unsuitable for HGVs AND Coaches.

Although there are by-laws in place to prohibit overnight camping and camper vans in the park, it is agreed that there has been insufficient signage, and enforcement of this.

A new height barrier will soon be installed at the entrance to the Park from Radnor Cliff to stop over-height vehicles, including coaches, accessing the parking at that end. New new signage will be put up throughout the park reminding all users of the park rules, including the prohibition on camping overnight. There will also be additional enforcement in the Park overnight to reinforce the no overnight camping rules, and issue fines if necessary. There are a number of excellent camping sites in or near Folkestone - the Lower Leas Park is not one of them.

Although the Park is a great place to go for a BBQ, some people have misused the facilities, leaving litter and waste, and often also not using the BBQ stands provided for BBQs, but instead putting them onto the wood tables and burning them, causing hundreds of pounds of damage.

The BBQ area in the park is to be consolidated into one area (with the area nearest houses in Radnor Cliff removed, and BBQ areas to the west of the Park) towards the East of the Park, and BBQ stands put closer to the tables. Please DO NOT put hot BBQs on tables, and remove and take home your own rubbish and waste.

Dogs ARE welcome in the Park but it is asked that people keep them on leads at all times and out of the children's play area. This will be clearly marked on the new signs. Although dogs are banned from some stretches of beach in the Summer, they ARE allowed on the stretch from Folkestone Harbour to the east side of Mermaids beach, and again from the West side of Mermaids beach to Sandgate Castle throughout the summer (and the whole beach 1 October - 30 April).

Finally enforcement teams teams will be stepping up their work to proactively enforce in the park - please clean up after your dog, do not leave litter, and do not damage the Park!

Genuinely, the Lower Leas Park is a credit to our area, and the HUGE majority of people treat it well and enjoy it exactly as intended. It is hoped the above changes will further reduce the tiny minority who do not.. If these changes do not have the required impact after they have "bedded in" then others will need to be considered.