KENT FEDERATION OF AMENITY SOCIETIES
KFAS Bulletin 40
The Federation acts in the service of its member societies to safeguard, by all practicable means, the heritage and the future of Kent’s countryside and towns. www.kfas.org.uk
John Walker, KFAS Chairman & recently elected Civic Voice Trustee, Annual Report - page 2
Issue No 40 Summer 2010
Town Hall closed to public in Tunbridge Wells - page 5
Profile on Jocelyn McCarthy, Chairman of the Ramsgate Society - back page
Anne Tyson, The Malling Society, reports on the KFAS Conference - page 6
Sittingbourne Paper Mill demolition - the town seems to be losing all the character it ever had. - page 4
History of Margate’s letter boxes - page 4
WILL DEVOLVED PLANNING INVOLVE POPULAR SUPPORT? The government has set about a rapid and radical reform of the planning system. It has abandoned regional strategies, and abolished the topdown approach, in favour of returning ‘decision-making powers on housing and planning to local councils’. This meets with long-held KFAS views, but, although the direction of travel is applauded, the final destination is, as yet, not clear. A letter, accompanying Eric Pickles’ statement, from the department’s Chief Planning Officer, attempts to preserve existing Local Development Framework plans, where these have been approved, but obviously, with the relaxation of housing targets, there is scope for revision and doubt. KFAS has expressed the virtues of returning to county structure planning, but it is clear that this is not a popular view with Borough and District Councils. Instead, it is proposed that the driving of
development will be undertaken by Local Enterprise Partnerships: ‘We will support the creation of Local Enterprise Partnerships - joint local authority-business bodies, brought forward by local authorities themselves, to promote local economic development - to replace Regional Development Agencies’. How do the general public get a handle on this quango-like body? Much of the planning rhetoric is devoted to pushing forward development, and here there has to be some concern: ‘imposed central targets will be replaced with powerful incentives so that people see the benefits of building. . . those local authorities which take action now to consent and support the construction of new homes will receive direct and substantial benefit from their actions’. Financial incentives may well prove attractive to local authorities, but it is not a measure that will necessarily
improve environmental factors or appeal to local people – especially those living in the South East, where the over-riding concerns are congestion and an over-stressed infrastructure. It is confidently claimed that: ‘the revocation of Regional Strategies will make local spatial plans, drawn up in conformity with national policy, the basis for local planning decisions. The new planning system will be clear, efficient and will put greater power in the hands of local people, rather than regional bodies. But local plans cannot deal with cross-boundary issues, such as transport: how does Kent resolve the proliferation of airports at Lydd, Manston or even the Thames Estuary? Maybe the South East England Councils, in partnership, can produce voluntary agreements to resolve and to promote regional issues - based on local consensus. (see back page). 1
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KFAS Chairman presents the 2009/2010 Annual Report
John Walker, Chairman, presented the Annual Report at the Annual General Meeting, held on 15th April, at the Pines Calyx Conference Centre. He is accompanied by Laura Sandys MP , KFAS President, and to his left, Philip Whitbourn, KFAS Vice President, who conducted the election of officers and members of the executive committee.
I begin my report by stating the purpose of KFAS in its simplest form, which is to support our member societies as much as possible and to be the voice of the civic and amenity society movement in Kent. Winston Churchill said that to retain the attention and goodwill of the House, an ordinary member should make just one point, after which he should sit down. A minister, he said, may make two points but a Prime Minister can make three. I would like this morning to make four points, so I ask for your patience and indulgence before I start but I promise to be brief. The first is that shortly after our AGM in May last year we asked Laura Sandys if she would consider becoming the KFAS President and she kindly agreed.
Her credentials in the Civic Society movement are excellent, but also unique, in that she is the daughter of Duncan Sandys, the founder of the original Civic Trust and the driving force behind the 1967 Civic Amenities Act, which was the first piece of legislation specifically passed to protect and enhance the Civic Realm. We are delighted that Laura agreed to take us on, following in the footsteps of our former President Lord Sandy Bruce Lockhart, and I know that she will be a great KFAS President and a champion for the movement in Kent over the coming years. The second major event since our last AGM has been the formation and official launch in April 2010 of Civic Voice, the replacement for the Civic Trust, which ran into financial difficulties and was forced to wind itself up just over a year ago.
Most of you will be aware of the tremendous hard work that has been put in by a great may people all over the country to bring Civic Voice into existence, so I wonâ€™t go into all that just now, but it is clear to everyone concerned that there has never been a greater need for a single national voice for the civic society movement than there is today. The new President, Griff Rhys Jones, officially launched the new organization on 17th April. A ballot of all societies, who had registered with Civic Voice, elected six trustees who had their first meeting in Birmingham on 28th April and immediately started work on a 3year- plan to make the organization financially sound. This is the top priority at the moment. The movement voted overwhelmingly for Civic Voice and they make it clear that they wanted it 2
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to be financially independent, but the committees of many civic societies hesitated when asked for the quite paltry sum of £1.50 per annum, per society member. There was a feeling that this would not be acceptable to their members. This is a great disappointment to me personally but I quite understand the reasons for their uncertainty at this stage. I am confident however that many more societies up and down the country, and not just in Kent, will see the value of having a national voice over the next few years and will be much more willing to find ways of providing the necessary financial support for what in effect is their National Association.
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much as possible whilst retaining our individual identities. To this end we have formed a joint committee to liaise on matters of common concern. We are currently working together on the Local Development Frameworks in Kent and on an idea for a prestigious annual lecture and I hope we will see the results of these efforts over the next 12 months. My fourth and final point is to outline some of the issues that KFAS have addressed during the year. We have made representations to Ministers about the opposition in Kent to Regional layers of local government. We want more decisions taken locally and we want our Kent Structure Plan back, as the basis for CIVIC VOICE: all planning in Kent. We have made detailed submissions I am confident on PPS15, the government’s proposals for the protection of our however that many historic heritage. more societies up and We have addressed some of the major threats to Kent at the moment down the country, including: and not just in Kent, • the proposed Estuary Airport (which would be an environmental will see the value of disaster), • Nuclear and Coal Power Plants at having a national Dungeness and on the Medway, voice over the next • the proposed new Thames Crossing, few years • The effects of Climate Change on The third point is that, during the food security, agriculture and last year, we at KFAS have started to energy use, work much more closely with our • the expansion of Lydd and friends in CPRE Kent, now known as Manston airports, Protect Kent. • the Kent International Gateway. Protect Kent is well resourced and • The Borough Green Freight professionally organized. It is a very terminal, and effective campaigning organization • Operation Stack, which continues and has a successful track record in to block up the M20 whenever our protecting our environment here in French friends on the other side of Kent. Both KFAS and Protect Kent the Channel feel like it. recognize that we are in effect toiling To these and other issues we will in adjacent fields and we have continue to address our attention and decided to work much more closely to represent the voice of our together and to support each other as members throughout Kent. KFAS Bulletin
SPEAKING UP FOR KENT Laura Sandys MP, KFAS President, recently elected for Thanet South, was given a warm welcome by the conference. Speaking with her usual enthusiasm, she said that top-down regional planning will be abandoned in favour of local decision making; and therefore local organisations become important in view of this ‘reversal of power’. There would be no ‘massive infrastructure investment’ and we would have ‘to work with what we have got’. She took enormous pride in the quality of East Kent’s environment and made this point in her maiden speech: ‘I live in and represent one of the best-kept secrets in the country - a series of towns and villages that demonstrates what is best about this country. I know how beautiful, how surprising and how unique each of the towns is that I represent, but over the last four years it has been particularly rewarding to see the number of supporters who came to South Thanet - (some of them are here tonight) - and who gasped with excitement when they saw the beauty of Ramsgate harbour, who saw that Broadstairs is one of the most perfect seaside towns, and who were staggered by Sandwich, which is considered nationally the most perfect medieval town. Even in Cliftonville, the poorest ward in the South-East, people recognised its architecture and its potential.’ 3
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EXCERPTS FROM SOCIETY NEWSLETTERS
J U S T B E F O R E B R E A K I N G H I S A R M I N A FA L L
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Ladies working in the old paper mill during the first World War. . . the town seems to be losing all the character it ever had.
The old paper mill in Sittingbourne has been sold for £5.65 million to property consultants “Essential Land”, who promptly set about demolishing the mill in order to prepare the site for a mixed development, including housing. Their plan is to create 250 homes, complete with a food store and retail park. It is very sad to see such a building go. It would have been preferable to see it retained for another use, like the old brewery at Faversham’s conversion into a supermarket. The town seems to be losing all the character it ever had. We have heard rumours that attempts are being made to list the building, which would afford it a measure of protection, but the outcome of that is uncertain. The developers are using a historian to record the building before it is knocked down, but that is a very poor substitute for retaining one of the more iconic structures in the town. We understand that Swale Borough Council asked the developers not to start demolition, but they ignored the request.
THE SANDWICH SOCIETY John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792), lived in London where aristocrats and men of wealth and power enjoyed many of the pleasures of the capital, such as the theatre, the Vauxhall pleasure gardens and the gambling clubs. The 4th Earl was an inveterate gambler and, not wishing to leave the gambling table to eat, he often sent for cold meat between two slices of bread. In this way he created a rough and ready snack without interrupting the game. . . From the 4th Earl’s day until Victorian times the sandwich remained a rough and ready meal. This is a brilliantly-written, illustrated and amusingly attractive guide-book.
MARGATE CIVIC SOCIETY Robin Fleet writes: the first pillar-boxes in the Margate area date back to the Victorian era, to the final years of the 19th century, There are eight of these in Margate. Two are in the High Street and one in Northdown Parade. Four more are to be found in Cliftonville. The final box is on the Ramsgate Road. . . However, the Victorian pillar-box still stands, with its history on a plate. This shows that the box started life in 1903 in Helena Avenue. In 1935, it moved to Buckingham Road and finally to its present positon. It was sealed off in 1977. There seems to be an unwritten agreement between English Heritage and the Royal Mail that old historic boxes should be left in situ. However, this does not always work - as in the case of the box in Broadstairs, which was eventually listed by Thanet District Council to prevent its removal by the Royal Mail.
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THE CANTERBURY SOCIETY Comment on Conservation Area Appraisal: . . .we thought that there could be more emphasis on protecting the historic view of the Cathedral, surrounded by much lower buildings and keeping any higher developments outside the city walls. The document does say that the Bell Harry Tower, ‘Still has a major visual impact today’. However, recent developments, such as those in Whitefriars, on the Tannery site or for the new theatre, risk reducing the magnificence of the first sight of the Cathedral from the outskirts of the city.
. . . more emphasis on protecting the historic view of the cathedral surrounded by much lower buildings. . .
ROYAL TUNBRIDGE WELLS CIVIC SOCIETY Dr Alastair Tod writes: So the Council has produced a plan for moving the Town Hall offices, with others, to the Land Registry building at Hawkenbury. We’ve known of their wish to move out of the listed complex in the town centre ever since the opening of the Gateway, and have questioned the Council Leader and Chief Executive about it. We are concerned at the threat to the unique complex, whose historic features are said to make it unsuitable as a town hall. We also oppose the removal of town hall activites from a central site, as we oppose any other barriers to public access or those working for us. But Hawkenbury is not as inaccessible as some alternatives that have been mentioned, and we support bringing public functions together. At a reported price of more than £10m why can’t they be brought together at the Town Hall?
We also oppose the removal of town hall activities from a central site. . .
THE DEAL SOCIETY Tim Lloyd writes: Air Commodore Bill Croydon gave us a fascinating lecture on the birth of flying in England, which all began at Sheppey, when a gathering of enthusiasts realized the potential of powered flight and formed the Aero Club there. This came about in spite of the officials in Whitehall, who felt that flying could only be of value for target-spotting from balloons. The Club saw the visit of the Wright Brothers, who had successfully flown a number of flights in America, and who inspired Shorts to open the first ever aeroplane factory in the world at Sheppey. The early flyers are now legendary names, whose dedication and persistence brought about the production of the first aircraft. It was flown by MooreBrabazon over the weekend of 29 April - 2 May 1909: he made three sustained flights, making 500 yards on his third attempt. He subsequently obtained the first pilot’s licence in this country. The airfield used was a strip at Leysdown, which soon proved too soggy, and the entire complex moved to Eastchurch, where Sir Francis McLean sold three acres to Shorts for £25, as a site for their factory. By 1910 eighteen sheds had been erected at Eastchurch and in December that year Tom Sopwith won £4,000, by flying the longest distance from there to Thirlemonth, in Belgium, a distance of 177.5 miles.
. . .the birth of flying in England all began at Sheppey. . .Wright Brothers . . .inspired Shorts to open the first ever aeroplane factory in the world at Sheppey.
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2010 Conference Report
Anne Tyson, The Malling Society, writes about her impressions of the KFAS Conference, held on 15th May 2010, at the Pines Calyx, St Margaret’s Bay.
The Pines Calyx, the conference venue, is a delightful building, within a marvellous park land setting.
The Kent Federation of Amenity Societies chose a perfect location for its AGM and Conference this year – The Pines Calyx at St. Margaret’s Bay, near Dover. This is a new, eco-friendly, circular building, set in six acres of beautiful gardens with views to the sea. Approximately 50 members attended and received a warm welcome and a cup of coffee before proceedings got under way at 9.30am. The Chairman introduced Laura Sandys, the newly-elected Member of Parliament for Thanet South, who has kindly agreed to be the President of KFAS. The Chairman began with a report of the last year and thanked the Officers and Committee members for their hard work, energy, and commitment. Following the adoption of the accounts, they were all re-elected, en bloc, unanimously. Laura Sandys then shared her thoughts on changes expected to be implemented by the new Government, mainly aiming to give ‘more power to the people’ and a strong voice. Thus, in a reversal of power, neighbourhoods would have a big say in planning proposals and could develop community needs. Kent has great economic assets on which we can build. An example of this is the fact that Ramsgate is taking over ownership of coastal buildings rather than having them remain in the hands of the Local Authority. Allowing volunteers to revitalise the environment and culture is seen as a sensible way forward. In AOB, Richard Knox-Johnston, President of CPRE (now known as Protect Kent), told members that it may be a worthwhile idea for the two groups to work together where there are areas of synergie. Protect Kent could offer office support at Smeeth, near Ashford, and expertise regarding local development framework. They also have a Historic Buildings committee, as Kent has the highest number of castles and other historic buildings in the whole country. There followed three invited speakers who all gave informative illustrated talks on the Kent Coastal Network. It came as a surprise to many that so much work is taking place to protect marine wildlife, in the same way that our National Parks protect wildlife inland. Apparently we lag behind many other countries, who have designated areas to protect marine life. Agencies representing coastal recreation, RNLI, RSPB, the fishing industry, and many others, are all contributing to the project to identify and protect coastal and marine habitats. After lunch, nineteen members decided to take part in a guided field trip around the South Foreland Valley, an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Apart from a couple of steep climbs, it was a leisurely, two-hour, very enjoyable walk, taking in the South Foreland Lighthouse, which is owned by the National Trust, and which has the highest lantern, due to the fact that it is a long way above sea level, although it is only quite a ‘squat’ structure. We were shown a contained area of the dreaded Japanese Knotweed, and a large area which has been cleared of large Hawthorn bushes, as the small blue butterflies were unable to fly over them. This proved to be a good introduction to the International Year of Bio-diversity.
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There were 42 delegates attending the AGM & Conference and enjoying the excellent facilities of Pines Calyx and its surroundings.
Tony Child, Thanet Coast Project Manager, gave an interesting talk about his hands-on approach for managing the Thanet Coastal Project.
Richard Knox-Johnston, Chairman Protect Kent (CPRE Kent), strongly supported the working arrangement between his organisation and KFAS. He announced the formation of a Historic Buildings Committee. Chris Drake, KCC Kent Coastal Officer, provided an overview of the Kent Coastal Network.
Sue Wells, Project Manager, Durrell Institute for Conservation and Ecology, University of Kent, spoke about the Marine & Coastal Access Bill.
Cllr Alan Jarrett, Deputy Leader Medway Council and Chairman of the Medway Swale Estuary Partnership, gave an enthusisatic talk about the work of The Medway Swale Estuary Partnership.
Jack Woolford was re-lected as KFAS Honorary Secretary and is seen here with KFAS President, Laura Sandys MP.
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News in brief KFAS JOINS CIVIC VOICE INDIVIDUAL MEMBERSHIP IS ALSO AVAILABLE Nearly 300 societies have signed up to Civic Voice since its launch on 17th April at the Building Design Centre, London. Individual membership is available at just £10.00 and for this you will be able to attend meetings, receive all publications, join and shape campaigns and benefit from personal insurances provided by Bluefin. In this way you can support and have a direct line to Civic Voice. Further details can be obtained from: www.civicvoice.org.uk/join or by post: Unit 101, 82 Wood Street, The Tea Factory Liverpool L1 4DQ.
FIX-MY-STREET This is a brilliant website for reporting problems directly to the relevant local authority. Enter the postcode, locate the problem on a map of the area, and describe the problem: this is sent to the council on your behalf. This can involve graffiti, flytipping, broken paving or street lighting. You can expect to receive an acknowledgement from the council by return, together with information on action taken and how you can follow-up on the issue raised, as well as seeing what has concerned other people. www.fixmystreet.com/
PRESIDENT’S LUNCH ON 28TH SEPTEMBER IN RAMSGATE This is an opportunity to meet Laura Sandys MP, our President, and some of our Vice Presidents and members of your executive committee, in the relaxed surroundings of the Royal Temple Yacht Club - with splendid views of the harbour. If you wish to attend the lunch - cost about £21.00 - please let the Chairman know. Telephone (01227) 700987 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org SOUTH EAST ENGLAND COUNCILS SEEC’s primary objectives are to be a representative voice for the region, to provide a coordinated framework for action, to monitor the state of the region, and to develop and implement regional strategic policies. It has the almost universal support of the region’s 74 councils. www.secouncils.gov.uk/ WOOLFORD LECTURE Preliminary steps have been taken to establish an annual lecture to commemorate the exceptional life-time
contribution Jack Woolford has made to the amenity movement in Kent. KFAS will engage a speaker to make a significant statement about a civic amenity issue. This will take place at the Annual General Meeting and replace the conference event.
SOUTH EAST WATER ENQUIRY Protect Kent has made a submission which, in summary, says: 1. ‘Restoring Sustainable Abstraction’ (RSA) programme should be
Jocelyn McCarthy Chairman of the Ramsgate Society Jocelyn McCarthy, aged 76, has proved to be a vigorous and successful chairman of the Ramsgate Society for the past five years. Prior to that he worked for 10 years as a landscape designer in the Middle East. He also ran and owned two flower shops in London, before settling in Ramsgate in the mid-eighties. He established a Residents’ Association in Vale Square. When the library burnt down, he formed a Friends of the Library group and by raising over fifteen thousand pounds, he managed to get it rebuilt, after a four-year battle with Kent County Council. There followed a competition amongst local schools to have a window designed to commemorate the fire. Jocelyn was invited to become Vice-Chairman of the Ramsgate Society by the executive committee, and after six months, he was elected chairman and has been in office for the past five years. Jocelyn says: ‘I have a wonderful committee; we try to work amicably with our two local councils. We have several projects in hand and, at present, we are looking at the formation of a Building Preservation Trust for our Town.’ Active projects include encouraging sympathetic development in the Western part of the harbour, how best to take forward the renovation of five significant buildings for disposal by Thanet District Council, the renovation of nine seafront shelters with National Lottery funding, and increasing the society’s membership from 550 to 1000 within a year.
brought forward, because the flows of the River Stour are at threat from overpumping. Although the Environment Agency has demonstrated this, it is not insisting on water company action. 2. There needs to be far more indirect waste water re-use, so that water is used more than once before flowing out to sea. 3. More work needs to be done on transferring water from the Thames Basin, and even the Midlands. Protect Kent also objects to construction of a large offstream reservoir at Broadoak, near Canterbury, as this would draw heavily on flows from the Stour.
The following were elected to the Executive Committee at the AGM on 15th May 2010
Officers John Walker (Canterbury Society) Chairman Robert Ratcliffe (City of Rochester Society) Vice Chairman Jack Woolford (Dover Society) Hon Secretary Philip Robinson (Associate Member) Hon Treasurer Crispin Davis (Associate Member) Membership Secretary
Committee Members Roy Adsett (Ramsgate Society) Joan Clark-Hall (Weald of Kent Protection Society) Bill Richardson (Associate Member) Gill Twells (Royal Tunbridge Wells Civic Society) Peter York (Tonbridge Civic Society)
Published by Jack Woolford MA 37, Albany House, Albany Place, Dover CT17 9AU. Registered Charity No 255727.