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Last Updated: Sunday, 11 March 2007, 12:11 GMT
Run-down port town 'needs more'
Dover Castle
The castle is one of the dramatic features of the Dover landscape
Dover's white cliffs and seafront with the castle towering above are impressive for anyone arriving by sea.

And the first glimpse of the Gateway to England is to be made even better with a recently approved 15m revamp.

Plans including a communications tower, hotel and supermarket have been praised by Gwyn Prosser MP and Dover council.

But behind the spectacular cliffs and ferries drawing into port is a run-down town needing more than a superstore at its centre, the Dover Society has said.

Chairman Derek Leach believes the supermarket will take business away from Dover's dwindling numbers of smaller shops, and would not be able to attract visitors from outside the town.

He said what the town really needs is cultural and leisure venues and a university campus.

The retired senior customs manager, who has lived in the town since the 1970s, said he had witnessed the opening of the Channel Tunnel and "considerable" expansion of the port over the decades.

We are disappointed that this area will be dominated by a supermarket
Derek Leach

But he had also seen Dover's streets give way to empty premises and charity shops.

He said the town had lost key industry with the closure of the Buckland Paper Mill after 300 years of business, and the Army, which left last year after a 1,000-year presence in the town.

Now retired, and producing an average of one local history book per year, Mr Leach responded to Dover's multi-million pound makeover saying: "It's a pity this is the best that Dover can do."

He said the Dover Society, which exists to promote high standards of planning and architecture and inform the public about heritage, was "delighted that Burlington House will at long last be demolished".

He said the office block building had been derelict for years, and was "a terrible eyesore" since the 1960s.

But he said: "We are disappointed that this area will be dominated by a supermarket.

"The area is crying out for decent leisure facilities for teenagers and adults, like a bowling alley, an ice skating rink."

Impression of Dover development
A communications tower is the centrepiece of the development

He added: "The initial planning brief was that the development should be in sympathy with the fantastic view of the castle.

"We are concerned that will be far from the truth but we are still hopeful - supermarkets are not renowned for being things of beauty."

Mr Leach said: "People pass through Dover. That's the problem. Our main tourist attraction is the castle. But that's an all-day event. People come to the castle and go home again. They never really come down to the town.

"We need to attract new people and to stop our people going to places like Canterbury to shop."

The Dover Society believes the town needs a higher education establishment, such as a university.

"The University of Kent at Canterbury has got a campus in Thanet - why not Dover?" Mr Leach asked.

"We have got a technical college at the moment and we want a higher education establishment to draw in students," he said.

Permission was granted by the district council on Thursday night for the 15m revamp which will now be considered by the Government Office of the South East.

Work is set to begin on the development in mid-2008.

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