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Funding solution ends 'White Cliffs' visitor centre saga

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Van Heyningen and Haward is to go on site in September with its 1993 competition-winning scheme for a new visitor centre on the White Cliffs of Dover after the National Trust finally secured financial backing for the venture last week.

The trust has looked to European sources and local councils to raise the £673,000 required, and has negotiated a £250,000 five-year sponsorship deal with over-50s holiday firm Saga Group, whose new hq is being designed in nearby Folkestone by Michael Hopkins and Partners, employer of Birkin Haward's son. Saga agreed with Haward senior's suggestion that another presence in the area would be beneficial, especially since may of its clients are also nt property visitors.

The timber structure replaces facilities that nt director general Martin Drury branded 'inadequate and downright digraceful' and which for years have had to cope with 200,000 visits per year from people eager to take in views of the dock and out to France.

Birkin Haward said the building is intended as a 'modest gateway' to a chain of 25ha of nt land, both an Area of Outstanding Beauty and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It will contain a restaurant, kitchen, offices, meeting area, storeroom, and a central exhibition area, lit by a rooflight. The roof is sloping and grass-covered with an overhang providing shelter. The concrete columns are encased in brickwork. The cafe is on the south side, the services on the north. The middle arcade will hold the local information and details about the building.

It is scheduled to start in September and complete next Easter.

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