By Brian Pain
Photo by Alex Law
On the morning of Monday, 9 December, the huge crane was finally in place and due to lift the swing bridge at 11am.
The plan was to hoist the main deck section from its position, swing it over to the Brents bank and lower it on to two girder trestles. Surveyors and technical assessors would then examine otherwise inaccessible parts on Tuesday.
With light winds forecast, contractors hoped to lift it back into position on Wednesday. Unfortunately, Monday’s high winds, gusting up to 40 miles per hour, prevented the operation from going ahead on schedule.
The delay disappointed many onlookers who braved the nasty weather to observe this historic event (especially this writer, who rather wished that the strong winds might cause the bridge bridge to swing out of control and demolish the Shepherd Neame bottling plant, surely one of the ugliest buildings in Kent).
The lift was finally attempted in late afternoon, once the wind had subsided. But engineers discovered extra pig iron ballast on the south side of the bridge which made it too heavy, even for the giant crane to manage.
So another large crane was brought in. At about 8.30pm, the bridge was finally lifted, slowly swung and lowered on to its creekside trestles.
Following detailed examination of the structure, its mechanical parts and assemblies, Kent Council Council decided further consideration was needed on whether to repair or replace the bridge.
So a temporary replacement will be installed (hopefully before our publication date) while KCC engineers make their assessment.
Meanwhile the footpath alongside Morrisons and the allotments has been improved and temporary lighting installed.
When the repair or replace question is resolved, a detailed specification will be produced and tenders invited to undertake the work. We have been impressed by the professional and thorough approach of the KCC project team, under the leadership of Simon Jones, who are working as fast as possible. With luck, actual construction could start in Spring 2021.
THE TOWN JETTY
Work has finally started on the jetty, undertaken by the Faversham Creek Navigation Company, a not-for-profit community interest company.
It is hoped that, weather permitting, the lower half will be repaired and put back into commission by the end of January, then repopulated with boats.
In the new year, Faversham Creek Navigation Company will submit details of the works necessary to return the upstream half of the jetty to safe use to Faversham Town Council. It is hoped that jetty will be fully restored by next Summer.
THE CREEK'S FUTURE
Kent County Council has shown that the commitment to “getting the creek bridge sorted” made by ex-leader Paul Carter was not just another vacuous gesture.
There is now real cause for optimism that the creek and basin will, in the not-too-distant future, once again become a centre for marine activity bringing visitors, boats and jobs to Faversham.
However, as reported in an earlier edition of the Eye, much more needs to be done apart from the opening bridge.
It will be necessary to dredge the creek from the basin down to Nagden. This will also allow the lock gates and cill to be repaired or replaced and effective sluice gates installed to help keep the waterway navigable.
The basin also needs to be made usable by small craft with moorings provided for visiting boats.
This is possible if our local councils and planners use the the next year constructively to negotiate with landowners around the basin, in particular BMM Weston and Shepherd Neame. A compromise must be achieved that allows development benefiting all parties.
Ordnance Wharf, behind Morrisons’ car park – a small and uneconomic site on which to attempt to build flats or houses – could be registered by Swale Borough Council as an “Asset of Community Value” under the Localism Act. The community could then buy the site if the current landowner decides to sell.
Almost certainly financially unviable for housing development, Ordnance Wharf could have a hugely beneficial role in the basin’s rehabilitation.
It would make a wonderful centre for for water activities, such as dinghy sailing, rowing and canoeing and provide a much-needed base for the Town’s Sea Scouts and Cadets.
Finally, pressure needs to be exerted on Southern Water to tackle the scandalous pumping of raw sewage into Creek.