Seeing Burlington House finally come down shows how far we've come together in recent years. Before 2010 the idea that Burlington House would come down seemed a distant dream. Back then unemployment had rocketed, our port was about to be sold off to the French or whoever and plans for a new Dover hospital had stalled.
Fast forward to the present and unemployment has halved, the new Buckland Hospital has opened its doors and we stopped the port sell off. The fall of Burlington House takes us on to the next stage. It is the firing of the starting gun for the renewal of Dover. There are exciting plans for a new cinema, great shops and improvements to the sea front.
It's all change at the port too. There are new plans for investment. Community engagement has improved. Reform will take another step forward once the community directors are appointed. The community director appointments are being held up by the Town Council. Hopefully they will end their political games soon so we can get on with the serious business of next stage port reform.
Renewal for our community is not without bumps in the road - or the rail. The failure of the railway sea wall at Dover has caused real problems. Our area has been seeing a sharp increase in commuting to work in recent years. This has been a real boost to our local economy. So the break in the line has been a serious concern. The beach by the Shakespeare Cliff was washed away following storms. This meant that the foundations of the sea wall were exposed. They were undermined and that caused the failure of the sea wall.
It had been hoped that a running repair could be made. Unfortunately the old Victorian timber viaduct the rails originally ran on has rotted away. This means a new modern viaduct will have to be built. It will stand on piles driven deep into the chalk. It will be protected by rock armour rather than a traditional sea wall. This is a very big job. It will take a long time to build.
I have asked Network Rail to give everyone a time estimate as soon as possible. Meanwhile the Task Force I am chairing is working hard to make sure repairs are taken forward as quickly as possible and that any obstacles are overcome as fast as may be.
Much has been achieved in our community in recent years. Yet there is much more to do. We will always have new challenges to overcome - like the sea wall failure. Yet it's how we deal with the challenges and overcome them that matters. More is happening in Dover now than for many decades. I am increasingly optimistic about the change we can make. There is a real sense we can make the town once again as jewel in the crown of the nation.
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