Ambitious new images show what a proposed memorial park in honour of forces’ sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn could look like.
Located at Western Heights in Dover, the park could include green spaces, views over the sea and harbour, multi-levelled seating and an outdoor amphitheatre with a sculptural focal point.
The park would honour the sites’s rich history as a former barracks and would also provide an outdoor venue for music, culture and entertainment.
A visitor centre, café, toilets, managers space, ticket entrance and restaurant are also included in the plans.
A standalone exhibition centre for Dame Vera Lynn is also proposed in Dover town centre, where installations, events and exhibits in Dame Vera’s name will be hosted across the year.
The multi-million pound scheme has been unveiled in a report from landowner Dover District Council and design team Atkins.
The design report states: “We strive to create a piece of modern landscape design that is unique to Dover yet respectful to its historic context.
“We recognised that Dame Vera Lynn and the town of Dover deserved for a radical approach to put the Western Heights on map as gateway to Britain and a national landmark.
“The design which follows we believe achieves this aspiration and will create a catalyst for the future regeneration of Dover.”
The council is hoping to fund the majority of the project with cash from central government’s Levelling Up Fund, which is designed to deliver ‘high priority projects’ that will make a ‘visible impact in local areas’.
The combined cost of the Dame Vera Lynn Memorial Park, plus a new proposed statue, and the related proposals for the town centre is £29.5 million, of which the Dame Vera Lynn Memorial Trust hopes to raise £3 million in charitable fundraising.
Dover District Council is asking for £26.5 million from the Levelling Up Fund.
The proposal for a memorial park comes as Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, joined personalities like Sir Paul McCartney and Katherine Jenkins to support a scheme for a Dame Vera Lynn statue.
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday, he backed the campaign after being asked to by Dover and Deal MP Natalie Elphicke.
Renowned sculptor, Paul Day, whose work includes the Battle of Britain Memorial on the Embankment has agreed to design and create the statue.
Dame Vera died on June 18, 2020, aged 103.
She was known as the forces’ sweetheart, and is a wartime icon because of the popularity of uniting songs like We’ll Meet Again.
But it was her 1942 epic (There’ll be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover, that bore a lifetime association to the Kent port town.
In her lifetime she backed many campaigns for the benefit of the town, including to keep a hospital here, and to create the People’s Port of Dover.
Her most recent was to fundraise £1m so the National Trust could buy a section of land and return it to chalk grassland.
That was successful and the area – now kept in trust for the nation – is a haven for a plethora of wildlife.
Named Dame Vera Lynn Down, it was re-named ahead of the first anniversary of her death last month.
This was on the same day that a section of the North Downs Way connecting the town to the cliffs was re-named Dame Vera Lynn Way.
The day after the £3m fundraising campaign was launched with a song called Irreplaceable, the money of which goes to the fund.
With the backing of politicians Sir David Amess and Natalie Elphicke, and celebrities like Sir Paul McCartney and Catherine Jenkins, it is accepted that Dover is the rightful place for the bronze memorial.
The memorial is set to be sited at the Western Heights on the White Cliffs of Dover, reflecting one of Dame Vera’s most famous songs – the same location of the now proposed memorial park.
Speaking in Prime Minister’s Questions, Mrs Elphicke said: “Dame Vera Lynn did so much for our nation.
“Now a fitting memorial is planned on the White Cliffs of Dover to ensure this national icon continues to be celebrated for decades to come.
“Does my right honourable friend, the Prime Minister, agree that Dame Vera was a great inspiration to women – showing the difference we can make and her contribution throughout the whole of her life to our national life.
“Will he extend his support to this important Dame Vera Lynn national memorial project?”
The Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, said it was something on which the House could “all unite” and the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, also gave his full support to it.
For more about the memorial, and to download Irreplaceable, click here.
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