On Friday I travelled to Dover to a meeting of Dover Pride (click here to access the Dover Pride website), the partnership board working on the regeneration of the town and its surroundings. Within minutes of the start of the meeting, my colleagues were gracious enough to have approved me as their new Chairman, and we then enjoyed some excellent presentations from consultant Stephen Pritchard at BBP Regeneration, from Paul Wookey of Locate in Kent, and from Anne Knight, the new Programme Director of Dover Pride.
The meeting lasted for just over two hours, then board members walked down to the site of the new Dover Sea Sports Centre, where we saw at first hand the amazing potential of this stunning new building. Panoramic views over the water and the new marina site; bar and cafe area with huge meeting spaces; and downstairs, gym and changing facilities with a space for training and presentation of the professional skills needed to carry forward Dover’s reputation as a water sport venue.
I had made a request to ‘go walkabout’ and see Dover’s potential for myself, so after the Sea Sports Centre I joined my Vice Chairman, Leader of Dover District Council Paul Watkins and officers from the District and County Councils, to meet the curator of Dover Museum up on Dover’s Western Heights.
The next hour was both magical and unforgettable, as we walked around the fortifications which date back to the Napoleonic Wars of the 1800’s. Drop Redoubt, The Grand Shaft and the North Centre Bastion – these are just some of the hidden jewels of Dover. My colleagues brought Dover’s history alive for me, and I began to see just how much potential the area has for visitors from across the county, across the Channel, indeed across the country to visit the area, rather than simply passing through it en route to or from Europe.
Of course there are challenges – how to cope with Dover’s growing throughput of freight and passenger traffic. But the prize is a vibrant, dynamic town with a clear identity, making the most of its heritage and history. I’m going back next week with my kids to walk around Dover again, ans to show them at first hand this hidden Kentish treasure.