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ACME regenerates Folkestone harbour seafront in Kent

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The regeneration project for Folkestone Harbour and Seafront Development Company includes a boardwalk, public lift and staircase and station refurbishment

London-based practice ACME has designed a new beach boardwalk, refurbished the harbour station and the town’s Old Customs House, built a new lift and staircase, preserved and extended the station canopies and created a new public walkway on Folkestone’s harbour viaduct as part of a masterplan to regenerate the seafront.

Construction has also started on the first residential buildings on the western edge of the site.

The route through the renovated viaduct and former station completes the new network of footpaths and walkways around Folkestone’s harbour and seafront. The boardwalk is made from recycled tropical hardwood railway sleepers, while the station and viaduct rail tracks have been preserved in situ. Asphalt has been added between the tracks where trains used to run to create public walkways with a coastal garden.

161 acme folkestone harbour 008 folkestone station acme

Timber benches and steps have been added to reduce the gap between the platform and track bed, as well as creating a space for seating. All of the colours for the station have been selected based on traces found on site from the original South Eastern Railways livery. Matching lighting and bilingual signs have been installed.

The viaduct and swing bridge have also been adapted for public use with a linear garden of naturally occurring and sturdy coastal plants in between the original tracks, designed by Macfarlane Associates, and a new viewing platform sitting on the remains of two brick buttresses to the east of the viaduct. Access to the viaduct has been created through a lift and public stairs on Harbour Square. 

The boardwalk connects the upper part of the Harbour Arm to the west end of the beach and the Coastal Path and will become an important link for the forthcoming residential development. Its winding layout reflects the shapes of the future plots, while the use of reclaimed hardwood sleepers relates back to the site’s industrial heritage.

161 acme folkestone harbour 013 view from the viaduct acme

Architect’s view

Folkestone’s location in the English Channel made it an important fishing town for centuries. Smuggling also notoriously boosted its fortunes. The 1840s saw the construction of the port and its connection to the railway network, creating a frequent ferry service for goods and passengers between England and France, and making Folkestone a pleasant weekend beach destination for Londoners.

Folkestone’s popularity as a holiday destination declined with the advent of cheap air travel, and the 1995 opening of the Channel Tunnel made ferry traffic from Folkestone redundant. Over the past 10 years, the Folkestone Harbour Company and a number of charities have invested in the town to shape a new identity and purpose.

The site of the harbour and Harbour Parade have changed from a bustling port with railway sidings and a Victorian Pleasure Pier in the 19th century to a fairground with slides, rollercoasters and nightclubs in the 1960s and 1970s. Following the closure of the fairground and the last night club in the 1990s, the site became a truck parking area for stops on the way through Dover.

ACME’s work on the regeneration of Folkestone harbour and seafront has included, since 2016, amending the consented masterplan, designing the new boardwalk on the shingle beach and the transformation of the Harbour Station and the listed viaduct into a pedestrian walkway. Construction has also started on the first residential buildings on the western edge of the site.

Duarte Lobo Antunes, associate, ACME

161 folkestone harbour acme 001 plot b site plan

Site plan

Client’s view

The Department for Transport formally closed the branch railway to Folkestone Harbour in 2014, following many years of disuse, during which time very little had been done to maintain the former station and the viaduct that carried the line over the harbour.

Once the railway surrendered their lease, we began to consider how we might repurpose these historic structures as part of our wider plans to regenerate the harbour and seafront area.

Acme’s imaginative approach has enabled us to celebrate the heritage of the port and to incorporate it into a series of walkways, promenades and other spaces that are open to the public, improving connections between various parts of Folkestone and recreating the connection between the town and the sea.

Folkestone Harbour and Seafront Development Company

161 acme folkestone harbour 012 lift and staircase acme

Project data

Start on site 2016
Completion 2017 (station), 2019 (lift)
Form of contract Traditional
Construction cost Undisclosed
Architect ACME
Client Folkestone Harbour and Seafront Development Company
Structural engineer BuroHappold
M&E consultant BuroHappold
QS Betteridge&Milsom (lift), Deacon & Jones (harbour station, viaduct and boardwalk)
Landscape consultant Macfarlane Associates
Project manager Spider
Main contractor Walker Construction (harbour station, viaduct and boardwalk), Red Key (lift concept stage)
CAD software used AutoCAD

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Good to see the steel / ironwork painted in the Southern Railway's shade of 'malachite green'.
    No mention of boardwalk maintenance - will the sea occasionally rip it up?

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