Thoughts on the future of Barges at Standard Quay

After the Beeching Axe, many groups set out to recover the lost Steam Railway heritage, rebuild some lines and engines and stock and keep them alive, eventually turning them into successful and financially viable tourist attractions. Also, against similar resistance, many people kept the canals open, even digging out some that had been deliberately filled to stop them being used; another enormously successful holiday and tourist resource. In both cases the infrastructure was integral to their success.

Now compare all that with the last 40 Thames Barges, the sea-going equivalent of the canal boats and the steam engines, but now in a much more vulnerable state, and wonder why some people are so set on allowing Standard Quay, one of the last refuges for barges, to become unattractive to them, and that community to drift away. This is the essential infrastructure, like canals and railways, that the barges need to survive, a home where they can be restored and maintained.

An essential part of that infrastructure are the simple Black Sheds used as workshops and storage by the maritime craftsmen. The first of these is planned to be converted into a restaurant and public exhibition areas.

The challenge was publicly laid down in the Faversham Times Jan 17,” M White said he was confident the plans would be accepted on appeal even if they were refused by local councils. …. It would be hard for a planning inspector to ignore the benefits this project would bring to the town.” Apparently, local people and their representatives are of no consequence as they do not appreciate the desperate need for more Restaurants, more Car Parking, more Gentrification.

Unfortunately the much quoted Vision of AAP2 [below] is already fading, with a desolate Quay, home to top-hampered houseboats, symptom of an inert, tidied and urbanised waterfront, embellished with flowering window boxes and washing lines, and the last working barges waiting to go somewhere else for repair; one or two showpiece barges to attract tourists, but no repairs or work that might conflict with the sanitised quayside or the Car Parking. A pastiche of the working Quay that existed until recently.

The boatbuilders have left, along with their combined skills and experience and tools and floating docks and cranes and stacks of timber and drying sails. That total facility with its cooperative management that enabled large wooden craft to be repaired and restored at a  single facility, by its many independent craftsmen, has already dispersed.

28   Standard Quay AP PC

All the effort that went into regenerating the Quay over 18 years has been ignored by the constant and disingenuous reference to the need for regeneration of the Quay, as if had not already successfully happened. No amount of appeals to the Director of Regeneration and local councillors, who admitted the lost employment and training opportunities, seemed to have any effect. Regeneration seems to mean only one thing and that is Gentrification.

Of course, they could have been retained, and could even be re-assembled, if the infrastructure, the sheds and access to the Quay side, were made available on acceptable conditions, but it would also require experienced management that has the skill and empathy with those trades. A comparable scenario is Gweek Quay in Cornwall where the ownership and management has changed but the site remains an attractive and prosperous place to work.

So, is conversion of basic affordable craftsmens’ workshops and storage, into the expensive fabric of a public access building, with restaurant and exhibition areas, a  sustainable move or simply commercial exploitation, concomitant with an increase in the value of the property, putting it forever out of reach of craftsmen; the start of a program of change of use, upgrade and revaluation; the steady gentrification of Faversham’s last working Quay,

Well, already many people are worried; just how many worriers will influence the direction of development of not just the Quay but also for the whole of the remaining developable Creekside, through the Neighbourhood Plan process. These will not just be a few “people who object to everything”. The last petition on this subject quickly raised over 1500 signatures.

The attack on AAP2 started when the Fullwood Report was published, which reduced everything to a visionless pragmatism based on a narrowly defined economic viability, focused on ‘a presumption in favour of the development of more creekside housing’;  even succeeding in changing the flood risk rules to enable development where it would previously have been refused; it wrote off the Basin and Bridge as uneconomic and unwanted resources and considered there was no economic justification for dredging the Creek.

The Trust’s acquisition of the Purifier Building and the plans for its use for Maritime Trades and Apprentice School, include a dredged Basin and opening Bridge, and showed that the assumptions of the Fullwood plan were flawed.

Then came the opportunity of the Creek Neighbourhood Plan, which enables local representatives to create a plan based on local consultation. This plan is not due to be put to a Referendum until later this year.

The application for the change of use of the No1 Black Shed, SW/12/1523/4, has the potential to improperly influence the Neighbourhood Plan. Therefore, this application should be rejected, as was the application last year to develop Ordnance Wharf, at least until the Neighbourhood Plan has been agreed by common consent at referendum and adopted into the Swale Plan.

Of course, it is possible that the Plan may be rejected; the much threatened result would be a ‘Presumption in favour of sustainable development’, widely interpreted as meaning that development anarchy would prevail. However, this may not be true, and it may be that the planning framework would revert to the current Swale 2008 Plan, which incorporates AAP2.

R Telford

Policy AAP2 - Faversham Creekside

An Area Action Plan is designated for Faversham Creekside, as shown on the Proposals Map. Within this area the Borough Council will seek to ensure that it continues to function as a place of special interest and activity with strong associations with the water, and will specifically encourage the regeneration of the creek basin for commercial and tourism purposes, including use of the basin and its wharfage for historic craft. Planning permission will not be granted for proposals that would result in the loss of land or buildings suitable for employment uses or, on appropriate sites, would not involve active use or management of the creek itself. All development proposals will:

  1. maintain or enhance a mix of uses and activity that respect the maritime, industrial and residential character, as appropriate to the varied parts of the AAP area;
  2. maintain or enhance an environment appropriate to enable traditional waterside activities to flourish, including, where appropriate, financially contributing toward improving and maintaining the navigability of the creek channel and its infrastructure, including providing wharfage and moorings;
  3. preserve or enhance the area’s special archaeological, architectural and historic character, including its open spaces; and
  4. avoid any significant adverse environmental impacts and where possible enhance the biodiversity interest of neighbouring internationally designated sites for nature conservation.

The Borough Council will expect development to:

  1. preserve or enhance landmark and other important buildings, waterside structures and details;
  2. preserve and create access to the waterside, including wharfage and moorings, and where appropriate provide for a creekside walk;
  3. by use of its grain, scale, form and theme of materials, be creekside in character;
  4. retain existing greenspace and, where appropriate provide new areas; and
  5. retain or enhance existing townscapes, including those in the views of higher ground.

A Supplementary Planning Document will be prepared and adopted by the Council to guide matters relating to the Area Action Plan.

for Standard Quay

Standard Quay: safeguarding this historically outstanding enclave of water-related and business activity; encouraging commercial uses that continue to sensitively occupy historic buildings; and promoting new employment uses to occupy appropriate sites, such as that allocated at Standard House (see Policy B16). Ensuring that traditional and other vessels continue to have access to the creekside, and that the facilities and services essential to their upkeep are maintained here, is essential. Residential development will not be permitted as it is considered likely to harm the historic interest of this area, both in terms of the existing buildings, and as a place of commercial activity.

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3 responses to “Thoughts on the future of Barges at Standard Quay

  1. Arthur Percival

    WELL DONE, BOB!

  2. Chris & Hilary Berry

    Well said. Couldn’t agree more.

  3. Paul, Storm Plover

    Well said, Bob. Nil carborundum.

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