I'm a multi-millionaire – people say I've ruined seaside town but I've improved it… even though locals are priced out | The Sun

A MULTI-MILLIONAIRE insists he is not ruining a popular seaside town – despite locals being priced out of the area.

Sir Roger De Haan, 74, is behind a block of 84 newly-constructed luxury flats along the seafront of Folkestone, Kent.

The philanthropist and former Saga boss, one of the richest people in Britain, has attracted criticism after admitting the new development will be particularly attractive to Londoners and is likely to be too expensive for local residents.

The penthouse at the top of the Shoreline Crescent building will be on the market for up to £1.8million, while the cheapest property will be £430,000 – more than double the average price of a flat in the town.

But Sir Roger has refuted allegations he is trying to gentrify the town, instead highlighting how he has invested millions of pounds to improve the area for locals over the last two decades.

He told KentOnline: "I think the people who come to live here will help the economy. I think it will help with shopping centres. It will help the restaurants, the bars and so on – local businesses.

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"It will help Folkestone and hopefully improve the lives and prospects of people living in the town. I suppose it’s a sort of gentrification in the sense that many of the homes on the seafront are going to be fairly pricey.

"But I think the whole community will benefit from this investment."

Sir Roger's wealth comes from the Saga holiday and insurance company, which his father Sidney created in the 1950s.

He took over the company alongside his brother upon his father's retirement in 1984, before selling the firm for £1.35billion in 2004.

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He received a knighthood for services to education and charity in 2014.

The businessman has amassed a wealth of £905m alongside his brother, according to last year's Sunday Times Rich List.

Over the past 20 years, he has spent millions redeveloping his local seaside town through his Folkestone Harbour Seafront Development Company.

His investments include purchasing Folkestone's harbour for £11m andturning it into one of the town's most popular attractions, alongside transforming its High Street into a "Creative Quarter" that now boasts trendy bars and art galleries.

Sir Roger says the town was in "serious decline" prior to his investment, whereas now it is "thriving" and more than half of all homebuyers come from London.

The Shoreline Crescent development is part of plans to build 1,000 new homes in the area, which will also encompass space for new restaurants, shops and public spaces.

It comes as residents fear the landscape of their town is being "changed forever" by his projects, with locals also frustrated that many are being purchased as second homes and used as holiday lets.

But Sir Roger says he will impose covenants in sale agreements to avoid prospective buyers purchasing properties and letting them out as Airbnbs.

He insists he is passionate about the town and has been successful in improving its overall look.

However, demand for properties in Folkestone continues to increase amid a rise in popularity for tourists.

Two-bedroom homes in Shoreline Crescent will be on the market from £640,000 and are expected to be ready for August.

Some of the more expensive properties will provide balconies looking over the beach, while underground parking is also available.

Defending the price of the luxury flats, Sir Roger admitted "only certain people" will be able to afford them, but said the project was "very expensive" and was constructed to a high standard with non-rusting materials.

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He believes property prices will drop as more properties are built, each featuring different styles.

Developers FHSDC say Shoreline Crescent is "timeless" and will be one of the country's most impressive coastal developments upon completion.

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