DOVER KENT ARCHIVES

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PUB LIST PUBLIC HOUSES Paul Skelton

Spoken 1998

White Cliffs

Never opened

Market Square

Dover

From the Dover Express 5 March 1998 by John Mitchell.

White-Cliffs

A SCHEME to scrap Dover's controversial White Cliffs Experience and use the building as a leisure complex has been revealed this week.

A leaked report shows a radical rethink of the centre dubbed Dover's 'White Elephant' because of high-costs and dwindling visitor number's.

The district council is examining a number of alternatives for the building - including a theme bar, nightclub", cinema or hotel.

The redevelopment of the experience, which costs the district council 340,000 a year to run, is just one of the cost-saving options in the report.

 

Opposition

 

The report has been seized on by Dover's opposition Tories who say the Labour group should have followed the proposals they drew up two years ago.

Tories say the Experience, which opened in 1991 and cost 14 million, should have been sold to the private sector in 1996 or 1997.

Conservative councillor Kit Smith claimed the Labour group spent 1.5 million last year revamping the exhibition.

 

Attraction

 

And it would probably only attract about 108,000 visitors in the full year to this April, he added. That, he said, compares with around 100,000 the previous year despite the improvements.

He said: "At long last Labour realise what we said two years ago makes sense and that private enterprise should own and run the attraction, taking the burden off the chargepayers."

Labour council leader Terry Birkett said the Tories controlled the council when the centre opened and welcomed it then as a big tourist attraction for Dover.

He said Mr Smith's figures were sheer conjecture and nobody could tell how many visitors it would attract this summer.

 

Opening

 

He said last year's revamp cost 1.2m, not 1.5 as the Tories claimed.

Mr Birkett added: "The Tories put this millstone around our neck when they spent 14 million opening it, thinking this was the best thing since sliced bread.

"It has done its job in a way by bringing people to the town of Dover but its future is under continuous review.

"Certainly we are looking at other ways the centre could be used if, and that's a very big if, it doesn't prove to be successful."

The alternative uses include a theme pub, conference and exhibition centre, offices, entertainment centre, cinema, hotel, shopping, restaurants, night club - or a mixture to be run by a commercial operator who would take over the building and complete the work.

Other uses could be an art gallery or a theatre.

Another option is to keep one or more of the present elements of the exhibition and redevelop the rest of the complex.

The centre has drawn more than a million visitors since opening, with a spin-off benefit to the town.

 

From the Dover Mercury, 12 March, 1998

The White Cliffs Experience could become a theme pub, conference centre, offices, cinema, theatre, hotel or shops if it is closed.

As revealed in last week's Dover Mercury, local people are to be asked for their views on possible alternative uses for the centre before a decision is taken in September.

The centre, opened in 1991 at a cost of 22 million, underwent a 1.6 million renovation, but it has not attracted the number of visitors first forecast.

Dover district councillors have now been sent a discussion document about the future of the complex.

The number of tourists visiting the district has more than doubled since 1989 to more than 750,000 a year, two-thirds of them day trippers.

The White Cliffs Experience has attracted more than a million visitors since it opened, and it is claimed that up to 70 per cent of them come to Dover because of the complex.

Regeneration.

It is estimated that visitors to the centre spend 1.2 million in the district each year.

Labour councillors say the complex has made a valuable contribution to the regeneration of the centre of Dover, but the existing contract with the operators is due to expire in March 1999.

Conservative councillors say they warned against spending more than 1 million on the renovation in October 1996, urging that the centre should be privatised.

Liberal Democrat Cllr Cynthia Terry said it was  drain on the budget and other uses should be considered as a matter of priority.

Councillors will now have to decide whether to keep the centre as it is, remove all the exhibitions and find a new use for it, or keep some of the existing elements and redevelop the rest of the complex for a different use.

A report will be going to the policy and resources committee this month when a working group is expected to be set up. Consultants may be appointed to carry out a feasibility study.

 

From the Dover Express 11 June 1998

CONSULTANTS could be called in to decide the future of Dover's troubled 14 million White Cliffs Experience.

The tourist attraction, which opened seven years ago this month, has failed to capitalise on improvements made last year and faces  complete closure. Its owners, Dover District Council, now want to examine the building's future role to take it into the Millennium and beyond.

A meeting of the council's policy committee this week was told that despite improvements last year, visitor numbers had not increased.

Tourism boss Roger Madge said that of the 750,000 tourists a year visiting the district, 65 per cent claimed they came to Dover only because of the White Cliffs Experience.

"It is estimated that visitors to the White Cliffs Experience spend some 1,2 million in the Dover district each year," Mr Madge said.

It was hoped when the centre was updated that visitor numbers would be back to the all-time high of about 150,000 a year, but in fact were now about 116,000. He predicted a boost by the Bronze Age Boat exhibition which will open soon.

Mr Madge revealed the White Cliffs Experience, which has been visited by more than a million people since it opened in 1991, is expected to cost district ratepayers 370,000 to run in 1998-99.

A decision is expected by early next year.

 

 

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