The Trust AGM held last week was well received with about 100 members attending. The slight delay at the start was due not just to members renewing their subscriptions, but also to new members joining. Total membership is now over 500.
The existing Board members were unanimously elected to continue as Trustees. John Walpole presented the Accounts – we have spent £60,000 raised so far on the Purifier Building, mostly restoring the roof and windows, and installing power, but also a mandatory survey for non existent bats.
Professor Chris Wright, who represents us on the Faversham Creek Consortium, outlined the status of the Neighbourhood Plan, and the need to overcome some some controversial issues, especially the future of Ordnance Wharf, to ensure that the Neighbourhood Plan is voted through at the Referendum next year.
Speaking later, SBC Cllr Mike Cosgrove also emphasised the need to reach some agreement over Ordnance Wharf and the danger of not having a binding Creek Plan; developers would then have a virtually free rein. This is a one shot opportunity which the Town must get right, and win.
David Gwyn Jones talked about the work completed on the Purifier – over 40 tons of rubbish and scrap removed – by hand! The roof on the East end has been renewed, the gables repointed, and most of the windows restored to a usable state with temporary glazing. The main South wing has had the slates stripped, which unfortunately revealed that our estimate of the number that could be re-used was entirely wrong – none are suitable for re-use, which will significantly increase the cost.
Simon Foster outlined our proposals for a new opening bridge. KCC would like to see a fixed bridge but the project relies on an opening bridge; they are prepared to put their estimated cost of a fixed bridge, £400,000, towards an opening bridge; however we believe that an opening bridge can be installed for much less than KCC have suggested. There are many examples of modern lifting bridges in this country and in Holland, and the Trust has carried out a survey to look at all the different designs, and suppliers; conclusions will be published soon.
There was some discussion about traffic delays when the bridge opens. Comparison with other bridges shows that the roads are closed for only minutes to allow a boat through, and as boat movements can only take place at High Water, which would be once a day during daylight hours, the impact is unlikely to be significant. The issue will be fully investigated by Professor Chris Wright, who is an acknowledged expert in this field.
It is worth mentioning that when bridges open for boats, such as at St Katherine’s Dock, they always attract a crowd and are a real tourist attraction. Also, the existing historic bridge mechanism, hidden in the pump house, would make another interesting tourist attraction, as we believe it was made by the same engineers who built Tower Bridge in London, and uses a similar hydraulic mechanism which could be better displayed elsewhere.
The meeting also heard supportive statements from KCC Cllr Tom Gates, and Faversham Mayor David Simmons, and a representative from Standard Quay reminded us that there are still facilities available for boat repairs at Standard Quay.
A special thank you was given to Sixer Boorman, not just for his consistent efforts at the Purifier building, along with a team of other volunteers who also deserve special mention, but especially for organising the September Barn Dance that raised more than £2,200.
We will improve our communications with our volunteers and members, and are about to launch a new local fund-raising campaign to continue the next phase of work on the Purifier Building. Please subscribe to this website for the latest news. This would save much effort in creating and publishing separate newsletters, and would reduce the need for printed and posted newsletters.
We believe that the whole community will benefit from an estimated return of about 12 times the investment in the social economy. (KCC figures). A comparison made with Maldon in Essex, another popular barge centre of similar size, showed that their tourism is double that in Faversham.
In summary, we are on track to meet our vision to see the whole Creek energised as an active maritime centre using the Basin as a home port for barges and traditional craft, and with repair and maintenance facilities for them right here in the town centre; the Purifier will then become a true community resource at the centre.