Going for Growth

Avoid ‘brain drain,’ build a multistory skate park

In the British port town of Folkestone, so-called "brain drain" is a real issue, with many young people choosing to leave the area and move further afield.

For over a decade, residents have tried desperately to put the town "on the map" and encourage its younger population to stay put – and that's where billionaire Roger De Haan came in.

Design of the Urban Sports Center, Folkestone
Credit: Guy Hollaway Architects

The former Saga chairman and philanthropist's trust, the Roger De Haan Charitable Trust (RDHCT), wants to build a park in an effort to address to issue. But this isn't just any park – it could be the world's first multistory skate park.

RDHCT, which is collaborating with Guy Hollaway Architects and Maverick Industries, wants the project to be completed in 2017.

The designs feature multiple levels dedicated to urban sports, an 11 meter-high climbing wall and social areas with food and drink.

"Traditionally a skate park is on one deck mixing the different styles; we are splitting these styles into different levels by re-engineering the skate park to be all-inclusive," Ryan Shedden, architectural assistant at Guy Hollaway Architects, told CNBC.

Investing in the younger generation

Inside design of the Urban Sports Center, Folkestone
Credit: Guy Hollaway Architects

The project will form part of Folkestone's ongoing regeneration scheme, which include its popular arts festival, Folkestone Triennial, and a "master plan" for the town's seafront.

Guy Hollaway, principal from Guy Hollaway Architects, told CNBC that the project's key focus was "investing in the younger generation."

"If you make childhood meaningful through education, sport, recreation then it's more likely that they'll invest in their town and the future and perhaps stay and bring up their own children there – that is what true regeneration is about," Shedden said. "It's an opportunity to put Folkestone on the map."

The multilevel skate park, which will be located in the town's center, will be a symbol of the importance of its younger residents, Hollaway told CNBC, adding that the center's design will act like a protective "shroud."

A (Folkestone) dream come true?

Design of the Urban Sports Center, Folkestone
Credit: Guy Hollaway Architects

The project was been presented to local town planners in May, but the deal isn't sealed yet. "The urban sports park is still in development" Peter Bettley, an executive at De Haan's private office, told CNBC.

However, he added that with close-to universal support for the project, he "didn't anticipate any obstacles."

Planning permission has not yet been approved, but Hollaway and Bettley said they hoped it would be finalized in the coming months.

"The important thing is to get it right so that it becomes both an attraction in its own right and an inexpensive facility for local people," Bettley added.