From our Chairman, Sue Akhurst, to SBC Planning;
I am writing on behalf of Faversham Creek Trust to object to this application for conversion of Building No. 1 at Standard Quay into a restaurant, art gallery and Cambria museum.
FCT objects on the grounds that the change not only does nothing to enhance the maritime future and regeneration of Faversham Creek, but it would also be seriously detrimental to the character of the building, its setting, and its potential use for skilled maritime and related trades and activities. These activities need open and secure covered space alongside the Creek, with space for boats to be moored while work is conducted, and space for materials to be stored for present and future use. This area of Standard Quay was ideally suited for this purpose, and was used very effectively in this way until May 2011 when the company’s lease was not renewed by the current owner.
This application is almost identical to the previous one, which was refused Swale Borough Council and dismissed by the Planning Inspectorate on appeal (Appeal A: APP/V2255/A/13/2202894 and Appeal B: APP/V2255/E/13/2202924), with nineteen reasons being given for the dismissal. The conclusion was “For the reasons given above and having regard to all other matters raised, including the ongoing proposed Faversham Creek Neighbourhood plan and the risk of flooding, I conclude that both appeals should be dismissed.”
The same criteria for refusal on that occasion should apply to this application.
The Faversham Creek Neighbourhood Plan (FCNP) states:
Objective 3: Create, safeguard and expand hubs at Standard Quay and the Town Quay/basin to reinforce the area’s importance for maritime activity and to provide training and tourism opportunities
Access, traffic and parking
4.20 This applies particularly to Ordnance Wharf and to the downstream sites (Standard Quay, Coach Depot, Oil Depot) which are currently accessible only via Abbey Street, a narrow thoroughfare along one of the best-preserved medieval streets in south-east England. There is also restricted access at the junction of Quay Lane, Belvedere Road and Conduit Street.
The Site Specific Policies for Standard Quay in the FCNP state:
STQ1 Any uses of the black sheds, Baltic House and the oldl granary shall retain their existing external appearance and shall display the minimum of signage required t0 advertise their business.
STQ2 Establish a cluster of land uses that make this part of the Creek a visitor destination for maritime related works, leisure, retail and food and drink uses.
STQ3 Ensure that land uses and design contribute to a place that is vibrant both night and day to ensure a safe and secure place.
FCT contend that the proposed alterations to create a restaurant contravene STQ1 by altering the existing external appearance of Building No. 1, including building an extension, changes to windows and doors and other alterations. They also change the internal fabric of the building including insulation, flooring and ceiling coverings and so on.
FCT contend that the application contravenes STQ2. There are already several examples of the non-maritime related visitor attractions, including leisure, retail and food at Standard Quay, with a wine bar / restaurant and a café as well as other businesses operating in the area and a public house very close by. What is still lacking is the ‘maritime related works’ part of this policy.
The Independent Examiner’s Report on the FCNP refuses to remove this phrase, as the Examiner believed it to be a vital objective for the site. The report states:
“Site 08 Standard Quay
71. Site 8 includes an important collection of listed buildings: a grade II* listed building (the old granary) and also grade II listed buildings (former warehouses). These are of obvious and considerable importance both individually and as a group. The appearance of the site includes car-repair, which detracts from it, and antique, café and garden centre uses that appear to serve tourism. The approach of the Draft NDP, does not conflict with any basic condition. I have no power to follow the proposed ‘minor modifications’ to delete “Activities associated with maritime trades are to be encouraged” and I would not in any event consider this deletion to be appropriate in the light of SBLP policy AAP2. I do not recommend any modifications.”
Another issue of great concern is parking. There is already a great deal of parking along the quayside, compared to its former use for storage of materials and active work on moored boats. The section of the FCNP relating to Standard House says this about parking:
STH5 All vehicular access to the site shall be from New Creek Road to preserve the appearance of the open area in front of the house as a quayside.
Standard House is set back from the Quayside. This proposal includes parking right on the quayside, for a long distance.
Standard Quay is an extremely important part of Faversham’s maritime heritage, as described in the Swale Borough Council Conservation Area Character Appraisal (2004). It is also one of the few remaining areas in Faversham that are still suitable for maritime employment, including boat building and repair, as described in SBC’s Swale Employment Land Review (2008): 6.29 Boat Repair/Creekside Activities.
In addition to these points, FCT object to the proposal of a restaurant on this site on the grounds of noise, nuisance and traffic. Permission was granted about three years ago for the wine bar, BinElla, initially for indoor activities only. Since then, permission has been granted for a certain number of outdoor activities with music, up to, I believe, 11 p.m. I am told by residents of Faversham Reach and Waterside that these licensing conditions are regularly flouted, with more activities outside the restaurant taking place, with more music and for longer hours, and at significantly higher volumes than are acceptable in a residential area. These breaches have been repeatedly reported to Swale Enforcement, but no action has been taken.
BinElla started operating a restaurant, using space in the building that had received planning permission for residential use by a member of staff. Both of these applications were made retrospectively, when many of the alterations and changes to business had already been made. This has increased the nuisance to the local residents, particularly on the other side of the Creek. If another restaurant were to be established so close by, it very likely would soon be applying for permission to have tables outside, perhaps music and other events outside, and the disturbance would be greatly increased. The Creek acts like an amphitheatre, amplifying the sound to the annoyance of other people, in this otherwise quiet and peaceful area at the approach to the countryside.
The traffic nuisance should not be ignored either. Swale had to pay costs against the previous appeal because you objected on the grounds of traffic flows in Abbey Street, but had no traffic survey to back up your objection. I suspect you still do not have a traffic survey. It would be well worth while to commission one. Anyone walking or driving down Abbey Street at almost any time of the day or evening, although especially at school times, will be aware of the slalom movements required of drivers.
Finally, the whole of Standard Quay is seriously at risk of flooding. The most recent flood in December 2013 brought water up to a depth of three and even four feet over the wharf and right across the roadway on the other side of the black buildings. These flood events may not be frequent, but they happen about every 15-20 years, and should not be ignored, especially with the expected rise in sea levels and increased frequency of unusual weather.
It is very evident that the owner of Building No. 1 has neglected its repair and maintenance, as there are now holes in the walls. This is strange given that one of his agent’s arguments at the hearing of the Independent Examiner against the previous tenants was that they had not maintained the building well enough, despite the fact that they had taken it over in a derelict condition and then spent thousands of pounds on many thousands of feet of timber to reclad it. There is also an unauthorised block on the end of Building No. 1, which I believe is a toilet block, which has never received planning permission, is permanent enough to be connected to mains water and drainage, and certainly detracts from the appearance of the building. It does not show on the site maps provided by the applicant.
Faversham Creek Trust is a charity and a not-for-profit CIC with solid community support for our aims of working towards the maritime regeneration of the Creek for the benefit of the whole town, through training in heritage skills, education, tourism and employment. We have canvassed the opinions of our members as well as a wider group around the town (for example, at our Exhibition about FCNP in May 2014, attended by nearly 1,000 people), so we have evidence that we are speaking for a significant number of Faversham residents when we make these comments.
I hope that you and your fellow planners at Swale Borough Council will take these points into serious consideration when you make your recommendations regarding this application.