Faversham Creek urgently needs our help once again.
Readers will remember that a little while ago I appealed to readers to sign a petition calling for action to save Standard Quay as a working boatyard and to retain the business and skills already in place.
Many of those businesses will have moved out by the end of this month, but efforts to protect and improve the Creek are continuing.
This time the threat is a consultant’s report to Swale Borough Council that proposes abandoning important measures that would help maintain the creek as a navigable waterway and would open the door to developers to build more lucrative housing, restaurants and so on.
Known as the Fullwood Report, these proposals are now open for consultation – which means those of us who disagree with its proposals for the area have until the 24th June to tell planners what we think.
Everyone who reads the report will have different views on what’s wrong with it – for example, you might take a moment to check out the Faversham Creek Consortium view, and those of the traditional craftsmen and women that have now been forced to leave Standard Quay.
While no-one wants the Creek to become a sad unusable ditch, Fullwood seems to have taken the view that developers should be allowed to do their worst because local authorities cannot afford to get involved with expensive projects.
Not everyone agrees with this approach, not least because the Creek has much to offer in terms of both tourism and maritime industry. There are other reasons for optimism also: the Faversham Creek Trust’s campaigners say that ‘just because the Council do not have the funds, does not mean that it cannot be done. This is where not-for-profit organisations such as the Trust, volunteers and the wider society take over’.
Let’s be specific about some of the key points.
Fullwood is weak on the important area at the top of the creek, including the crucially important swing bridge that could allow vessels to use the upper part of the creek, and the sluice, which should be reinstated for its purpose of washing silt down the channel to keep it navigable.
It fails to deal properly with the issue of access to the creek – in some areas in Faversham itself, developers have been allowed to re-route established footpaths away from the creek and to eliminate wharf areas where vessels can moor. This kind of thing must be prevented in future, and where possible footways and mooring facilities must be reinstated.
The report also proposes re-designating areas subject to flooding so that housing can be built upon them if certain criteria are met – for example flats might be built above ground floor business premises. There seems to be some debate about whether Faversham is in need of more housing, but if it is this probably isn’t the right way to provide it. If anyone would like to know how unpopular a council can become when housing projects are allowed and are then affected by suffer flooding, I suggest they ask the people of Lewes.
Yet another problem is that the banks of the creek include some important old buildings – the Hasarde building dating back to the 15th century was used for trading and is now the home of a corps of Sea Cadets, while at Standard Quay there is a magnificent 17th century granary that is currently subdivided for the use of a variety of businesses offering antiques, bric-a-brac, a small garden centre and teas.
The Fullwood Report is available online; please send your comments to Natalie Earl at email@example.com by the 24th.
Also on the subject of Faversham Creek, I’d like to add that a one-hour version of independent film-maker Richard Fleury’s beautifully shot film The Quay is now available online.