By Brian Pain
The current planning application for housing on Ordnance Wharf has attracted an exceptionally high number of objections, underlining the possible disastrous consequences of Swale granting permission to the developers to proceed with this intensive housing scheme on such a historic site at the head of Faversham Creek.
About 175 individuals and organisations have sent written objections to the proposal. These intelligent, reasoned and sometimes passionate letters present a comprehensive and compelling range of reasons as to why the application should be rejected. They are available for viewing on the Swale Planning website, Planning Reference 20/502408/FULL.
Among the many notable letters of objection are those from the Faversham Creek Trust, the Faversham Society, North Preston and Brents Community Association, and Faversham Town Council.
Of particular interest are the letters from Professor Ian Grant and chartered surveyor Milliken & Co on behalf of Shepherd Neame. They raise concerns that “this heavily contaminated site (with the presence of lead and arsenic compounds) and proposals for piling, which would involve creating a pathway through the chalk aquifer to the major aquifer below, could pose a serious threat to the purity of the brewery’s local water supply which it has relied on for the last 400 years”.
It is also worth pointing out that this piling could cause structural damage to the adjacent Purifier Building, which in the past has suffered subsidence.
However, possibly the main cause for concern is the terminal threat the development presents to the comprehensive regeneration of the basin.
To quote Sir David Melville from the Faversham and Oare Heritage Harbour Group’s letter of objection:
“Thanks to the work of many organisations and individuals, we are now confident that we will have a new opening bridge into the basin within the next two or three years, complete with lock gates and a sluicing system. This is the first vital requirement for the regeneration of the basin. There is now the political will at all levels to make this happen and we – with KCC, SBC, FTC and many others – believe that the economic and social benefits which will accrue from this investment, for many years to come, will make the capital investment very worthwhile.
Once completed, our vision is that the basin will provide safe winter moorings for barges and other traditional and historic craft, and short-term summer moorings for visitors, with a publicly accessible footpath alongside. Our concept includes facilities for these boats onshore, with toilets, showers and laundry, café/restaurant, workshops for shipwrights who can complete repairs, and workshops for boat owners to use. Such facilities will make the basin and Faversham an inviting destination for boats from the UK and Europe, as well as locally, and a magnet for local enterprise and investment.
The proposed application for massive building on Ordnance Wharf would ruin this vision entirely … and wreck all comprehensive plans for the basin.”
The Thames Sailing Barge Trust pointed out that “there are very few places left where heritage vessels can moor. North Kent has been particularly adversely affected by this type of development. This application needs to be rejected if we are to avoid sweeping away much of what forms part of Faversham’s history.”
James Dodds, an internationally famous marine artist whose current exhibition has pride of place in the National Maritime Museum in Cornwall, wrote:
“The restoration of Faversham Basin with moorings and facilities for traditional boats would be a wonderful amenity and celebration of Faversham Maritime Heritage. I am writing as a defender of maritime history and as someone not from Faversham but to emphasise the importance of the basin area to our national history. I feel that the overdevelopment of the basin area would be a great mistake and only add to the loss of Standard Quay to maritime industry.”
If these imaginative and viable plans are scuppered by allowing this inappropriate and expensive housing to go ahead, it would be a tragedy for the town and its maritime history.
An opportunity to provide a wonderful asset for Faversham, promote tourism and provide skilled employment will be lost for ever. In January 2014 a detailed 32-page professional business case for reopening the basin for marine activity was presented to FTC. It showed that an extremely sound economic argument could be made for such a development. Sadly, this document was ignored by the then Tory-controlled town council.
It is worth reporting that of the five letters sent in support of the planning application, two came from ex-councillor Michael Cosgrove and ex-mayor Andrew Osborne, who pushed through their preference for intensive housing on Ordnance Wharf (as well as Swan Quay and other sites) as leading members of the town steering group during the Creek Neighbourhood Plan consultation. The final town poll presenting their plan must be seen in the light of Cosgrove (in his role of Head of Regeneration on Swale Council) threatening to withdraw public funds for the renewal of the Swing Bridge, unless the plan was accepted.
Given that we have an emerging new town plan and incredibly strong public support for the basin’s revival for marine activity, we urge the planners to accept that there needs to be a holistic approach taken to what little remains of our maritime heritage and to reject this current application. If developers are allowed to build houses around the basin then there can be no justifiable case for more than £2m of public money being invested in the creek, which means that this last opportunity for maintaining a vital part of Faversham’s unique identity will be lost for ever.
This drawing shows a proposal put forward by the Faversham Creek Trust and other local interest groups for the development of Ordnance Wharf. The intention is to create a linked maritime and youth focus for the basin. The Purifier building as a training centre for maritime-based skills and a new mixed use community centre built on Ordnance Wharf for the Brents area of Faversham. The proposed building will also be a boat storage and club house which will encourage use of a regenerated waterfront.
FAVERSHAM GASWORKS IN AROUND 1910
This is an imaginative reconstruction of Faversham gasworks showing the Purifier Building, Ordnance Wharf, the large retort house and coal store, and two gasholders. Barges unloaded coal at the quay. The gas had impurities in it, so it had to be cleaned or ‘purified’, with various toxins, tars and ammonia being recovered and stored on the wharf. At Faversham, the purifiers were built on the old gunpowder wharf, now known as Ordnance or Purifier Wharf, which is right beside the Purifier Building. The gas was then piped into the Purifier Building for metering before being stored in the gasholders ready for distribution to households in the town.