Alan Kilshaw’s letter to SBC

I am writing to you to express my concern over the future of Faversham creek and its related maritime industries.  I live in Faversham and my sole concern is for the creek and its industries to prosper once more. I’m not an expert on town planning or related issues or on Thames barges but over the 25 years that I have lived in the town I have grown to love and revere the uniqueness of the creek and its craft.  It would be criminal if these were lost to unfortunate development and the creek was not completely restored.

I have read various official reports and comment in the local and national press and my conclusions from this research are that the position concerning the creek’s future is really good and the amount of investment needed may not be as great as perceived.  However, certain actions are required on a sooner rather than later basis if the maritime industries around Standard Quay are not to be lost to the town and if the creek is to be navigable along its entire length i.e. by sailing craft of the Thames sailing barge size up to the basin beyond the swing bridge.

The creek and its environs and the future of its related industries should be the first priority of regeneration plans; ahead of housing or other developments as it is the creek and only the creek that holds the key to the successful regeneration of the area.  A waterway is a fantastic, priceless asset for a town to have but what is a waterway without ships and the activities that they generate?  This just cannot be over emphasised.  The creek is an absolute jewel.  Just consider that Birmingham has renovated its canals, the Manchester Ship Canal is being re-vitalised etc. etc.  So, the creek should be the first priority. Who knows in these days of ever increasing fuel prices whether the creek may have commercial uses not considered at present  perhaps Sheps will deliver beer to their London pubs by sea!

NAVIGATION

Medway Ports Authority (MPA) hold the key to this issue as they are the body responsible for licensing and the management of the navigation. MPA are accepting their responsibilities as they are repairing the sluice gates in the swing bridge which should allow a better head of water to flow and help to clear the channel. MPA also appear to accept that dredging the creek is also their responsibility.  If this continues  then the creek could be maintained for navigation without recourse to public/planning funding.

The swing bridge is absolutely critical as it gives access to the basin which as mentioned above its sluice gates assist in maintaining water levels.  Clarification needs to be made as to the operating capacity of the bridge and of the sluice gates.  This should not be delayed.  The role of the basin seems to have been down played as the present occupiers of the land surrounding it have no need for it.  This is taking a short term view as the availability of the basin to Thames barge sized vessels ( Cambria for example) would enhance not only the area itself but greatly assist in maintaining the navigation of the creek.  There was also talk, a few years ago of a maritime museum in the basin area which would include the Graveney boat.  Is this a potential use for the purifier building as part of a museum.

MARITIME RELATED INDUSTRIES

The existing businesses must remain at all costs so that the creek will continue to be a living, working environment.  This will have several benefits but perhaps the two main ones will be:-

1. Retaining the unique skills in Faversham necessary to restore and repair historic craft.  There are a number of benefits from this;  up to 50 jobs has been mentioned, training young people in crafts that will stand them in good stead for their working lives.  Can we afford to allow 50 skilled jobs to disappear?

2. A working creek will be a far more exciting place to visit than one with a sterile, museum appearance; a couple of ships berthed more for effect than anything else.

This is an issue that I feel very strongly about and it is one that is crucial to Faversham’s future.  It is not one where comprimises should be made.  The creek should be fully restored first before development.  There is already enough housing around the creek ( often of a very poor aesthetic quality) and retail/cafe development must be questionable because of access.

Alan Kilshaw

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