Standard Quay planning application

The planning application to convert the black building into a restaurant and gallery/function room goes before the Swale Borough Council planning committee on 11 April at 7pm, in the council chamber of Swale House, Sittingbourne.

Faversham Town Council opposes the application, as do many other people, but Graham Thomas, the area planning officer, recommends approval. The conclusion of his report says:

“I note the concerns raised by the objectors, and would agree that this is a difficult proposal to determine. However, it should be noted that three applications made in the 1990s which had maritime purposes (sail-making, boat building and repairs) were approved by the Council. The Council has therefore been extremely supportive of proposed maritime uses here but, in each case the approvals issued were never implemented. It is therefore only reasonable for the Council to consider other sustainable uses for this building.

I believe that the proposed use will ensure the preservation of this simple but interesting warehouse building, also creating jobs and another reason to visit this historic part of the town. It must be remembered that a fire some fifty years ago removed much of the original fabric of the building, so that a significant proportion of what can be seen today is not the original fabric anyway. If the works are carried out in a sensitive manner (and the above conditions should ensure that they are), the end result will be a preserved, vibrant and useful listed building.”

See full report and recommendations – pages 33-49 (PDF), 30-36 (printed document)

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18 thoughts on “Standard Quay planning application

  1. The Quay

    In light of some of the shameless rewriting of history being perpetrated by some of those promoting the Standard Quay restaurant proposal, we’ve put together a handy, illustrated print-out-and-keep, fib-spotter’s guide to Standard Quay in pdf format.

    Please download it from http://www.thequayfilm.net and SHARE.

    Councillors will visit the quay on Monday, April 29 at 10.30am and make their decision at Swale House, Sittingbourne on Thursday, May 9. Time is running out.

    Reply
  2. Graham Warner

    Visit Kent have now sent me some details of their research. Here’s the email I received:
    “Dear Mr Warner
    Further to your email , whilst Visit Kent have nothing further to add to my last email I am very happy to share the relevant research with you as follows:
    • Volume and Value study is conducted by independent researchers Tourism South East via the Cambridge Model (impact model) which is used as benchmark model across the UK
    • Kent and Medway Tourism Development Framework was produced by an external consultant following wide stakeholder engagement
    • Visitor Survey conducted by independent researchers QA Research
    • Conversion Research conducted by Visit Kent
    The following steps were taken by Visit Kent in pulling the letter of support together:
    • Further points of clarification with the developer
    • Research into Swale Borough Council’s and Faversham Town Council ‘s View
    • Research online regarding the application and local comments expressed
    • Consultation of a range of reports
    Based on the evidence Visit Kent felt there was an argument from a tourism perspective for the conversion and that issues around access, traffic and heritage conservation would be considered more fully by Swale Borough Council as the planning authority who have knowledge of the local implications.
    As I stated in my last email it is now a matter for the local authority to weigh the arguments for and against and Visit Kent feel we are unable to add anything further to the discussion at this stage .

    Best wishes

    Ruth “

    I haven’t had time to look at the attached documents in any detail, but I’d like to share them so that others can give them a critical once-over if they wish. I’ve uploaded them to WeTransfer.com at http://we.tl/33Ptw1kFGW . You can download from there without signing up to anything. This link will remain active until for two weeks from today 21st April 2013, so get them while they’re hot 😉

    The files are
    10._SWALE_Tourism_Economic_Impact_Estimates_2011_FINAL.pdf -383kbytes
    Conversion 2011 FINAL.doc -1117 kbytes
    Development-Framework.pdf -735 kbytes
    Kent Economic Impact.pdf -1316Kbytes
    Visitor_Research_Report_2012_Final.pdf -1303 kbtytes

    Hope this is useful.

    Reply
    1. Jill holder

      Graham, Your letter was excellent and deserved a better response. Maybe you should copy it and the reply to her CEO and the chairman of Visit Kent? I am sure that such an organisation would not wish to be seen as biased.
      I would also agree with your observation that it does not appear that ‘Ruth’ did take the trouble to visit the site.

      Reply
      1. Graham Warner

        In fact, I’ve already done that, and I wondered whether that was what prompted Visit Kent to reply with the files. From what I can see so far, these are largely beside the point.

  3. Jill holder

    A very significant proportion of the fabric of Thames Barges is not original either. That does not mean they are less important.

    Reply
  4. The Quay

    Since Ruth Wood from Visit Kent is apparently declining to answer queries re: her support for the Standard Quay restaurant scheme from lowly members of the public, perhaps her bosses would care to defend Visit Kent’s position instead?

    Their contact details are:

    Amanda Cottrell
    (Chairman)
    01227 812909 chairman@visitkent.co.uk

    Sandra Matthews-Marsh
    (Chief Executive)
    01227 812900 sandra.matthewsmarsh@visitkent.co.uk

    Might be worth cc’ing to their PR Manager julie.edwards@visitkent.co.uk

    And local media too:

    lfruen@thekmgroup.co.uk
    claire.mcwethy@krnmedia.co.uk
    nick.ames@kosmedia.co.uk
    kent@bbc.co.uk

    And, for good measure, all the planning committee members whose emails are posted below by Graham Warner.

    http://www.thequayfilm.net
    http://www.facebook.com/thequayfilm

    Reply
  5. Nathalie Banaigs

    I too wrote to Ruth Wood to express my amazement at Visit Kent lack of understanding of the significance of Standard Quay.
    This is the response I got:

    “Thank you for your email. We take on board your concerns.
    Now that the letter has been submitted we are happy to answer any further questions from the planning authority if deemed necessary.
    Best wishes
    Ruth”

    Reply
  6. The Quay

    Dear Ms Wood

    My name is Richard Fleury, I’m an independent journalist and film maker.

    In 2010, I began filming at Standard Quay, recording what would turn out to be the final year of Faversham’s last traditional ship-building yard. I spent more than a year filming activities there and covering the campaign to preserve the quay as a working boatyard.

    The resulting short documentary film, The Quay, was screened at several national and international film and documentary festivals including Rushes Soho and Sheffield Doc/Fest

    I’m writing to you, as you’ve probably guessed, because you contacted Swale Borough Council in support of a planning application to turn one of Standard Quay’s buildings, formerly a shipwright’s workshop, into a restaurant.

    As I’m sure you know, the proposal is a controversial one, and unpopular locally as demonstrated by this petitiion: http://www.swale.gov.uk/epetitions/petitiondetail.aspx?petitionid=110

    The Guardian also covered the issue in 2011, while shipwrights were still working at the quay. The feature is online here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jan/10/standard-guay-thames-barges

    As far as I know you are one of just a handful of people who have registered their support and I believe Visit Kent is the only organisation to date publicly backing the scheme.

    I’m very interested in the reasons behind this and would like to include an interview with you in an updated and extended version of The Quay.

    I would be happy to film the interview at your office or wherever would be most convenient for you. Please let me know if you’re happy to proceed in principle and we can work out a suitable date etc.

    Best regards

    Richard Fleury

    http://www.thequayfilm.net
    https://www.facebook.com/thequayfilm

    Reply
  7. Graham Warner

    One of the few submissions that support the restaurant application is from Visit Kent’s Head of Research and Strategy, Ruth Wood : ruth.wood@visitkent.co.uk, telephone 01227 812919. It strikes me that there is a danger that this might be influential with the Swale Planning Committee, so I’ve sent the reply below, and I’m going to send this to the relevant Planning Committee members too. I’d suggest that other people might want to counter some of the arguments in this submission, which you can read at http://www.ukplanning.com/ukp/doc/Support%20Comment-9704999.txt?extension=.txt&id=9704999&location=VOLUME7&contentType=text/plain&pageCount=1

    Ruth Wood
    2nd Floor, Invicta House, Maidstone, Kent, ME14 1XX
    Dear Ms Wood,

    I see that you have provided a letter of support on behalf of Visit Kent for the application to set up a restaurant in Standard Quay, Faversham, Application Number: SW/12/1523.
    I have a number of questions related to this, and some comments.
    Questions:
    1) You refer to ‘Visit Kent research’ in the letter of support. Who actually undertook this research, that is, was in Visit Kent itself, or another organisation on your behalf? Please supply me with the details that will allow me to obtain the full text of the research, including full results and methodology.
    2) Your comment refers to generic conclusions applicable to Kent as a whole.
    a. Please tell me what steps you have taken to examine the specific details of this proposal in its local context. In particular, what steps have you taken to research and evaluate the costs as well as the benefits to the Faversham area, and the impact on its attractiveness as a visitor destination, from the proposed development and its impact on the existing maritime heritage of the quay and creek?
    b. Furthermore, what local community and conservation organisations have you consulted to obtain an informed view on this matter, and how have you evaluated their responses?
    Now I would like to offer some personal comments;
    Your support for the application relies on one main line of argument; that food in general and fine dining in particular are attractive to visitors. I would agree in the abstract. Indeed, if I had been asked, I would have been one of the respondents who mentioned this as a ‘pull factor’.
    However, I know through my own experience of conducting and using social science research that such results must be used with care, and in their full context. For instance, if the respondents had been asked to balance the attraction of a restaurant against the possibility of harm to the other factors attracting them to an area, I suggest that the positive response rate would have plummeted. Since they probably were not asked that, it is the responsibility of your organisation to evaluate that balance, both on behalf of visitors and of local residents, as well as that of local entrepreneurs.
    In this case, I believe that this restaurant would be harmful to the Standard Quay area and its distinctive character, especially to its living maritime tradition.
    You state that “(t)his is why one of the actions from the Kent and Medway Tourism Development Framework is to have a coordinated focus on the reuse of buildings which have the potential to become landmark restaurants”
    This is fine when referring to buildings with no current use, whose loss in their present form would not be harmful. I do not believe it should be taken to mean “reuse at any cost” which would be the case in this instance.
    While it’s true, as you write that “Faversham, in particularly, has a strong association with food and local produce”, this is not the main attractive feature of Standard Quay, nor is it the distinctive feature that draws visitor there; that is its maritime tradition. Since taking ownership, Mr Michael White has shown himself to be anything but a friend to that tradition, despite his claims to the contrary.
    I’d also point out that there are already eight other restaurants of varying character within an easy walk of this location, not counting cafes and takeaways. The nearest is about 100 metres from the proposed restaurant site. There’s no lack of good eating places, and one more would not greatly increase the attractiveness of the site; certainly not to the degree that would compensate for the losses involved in this application.
    One well-known feature of the restaurant trade is that, in general, it has a high turnover of businesses opening and closing. Let us assume that the promised ‘celebrity chef’ ever materialises – though I notice that this would not be a condition of granting the application, and so could be quietly dropped once permission was granted. I would be willing to make a substantial bet with you that this restaurant will not exist in the promised form within ten years of opening , or perhaps even five; but the maritime facilities will still be gone, and would be much harder to re-establish. This restaurant may be gone altogether, or it may be yet another pizza place, or another duplicate of the existing eating places nearby. Isn’t that an entirely credible, even probable outcome? And would it do anything to enhance the attractiveness of Faversham, to compensate for the qualities we will have lost?
    The greatest irony is that your letter of support itself makes a cogent argument against this development;
    “The Kent and Medway Tourism Development Framework has identified the following objective:
    to focus on local distinctiveness to enable Kent and its individual destinations
    to stand out from the crowd. Local distinctiveness is the essence of destinations.
    It is what distinguishes one place from another and is at the heart of why people
    choose where to visit in the first place. In a world of globalisation and homogeneity,
    visitors of all types are responding more and more to the different, the unique,
    and the distinct. “

    Precisely; and that is exactly what is threatened by the clear direction of Mr White’s intentions for the Quay. If he has his way, an authentic tradition will be replaced at best with a debased, disneyfied ‘heritage industry’ version, simply because it’s profitable for him in the short term.

    Please, think again. At least, suspend your support while you open a dialogue with the independent voices that really have Faversham’s interests at heart, such as the Creek Trust and the Faversham Society. Without their efforts in the past, this town would not have any character left to attract anybody; it would have reduced to a dull standardised mess, like so many less fortunate towns. And the arguments and motivations behind that destruction would have been precisely the same ones Mr White advances in pursuit of his interests. It’s said that if we do not learn from our past, we are condemned to repeat it. In Faversham, we did learn, from the ‘60s onwards. Please join us, talk with us, and withdraw your support for this ill-advised venture.
    Please note that these comments are distinct from the questions above; these are in no sense rhetorical. I do look forward to your response.

    Yours sincerely

    Graham Warner
    If and when I receive any reply, I’ll update here.

    Reply
    1. Alan Wood

      An excellent response, thank you Graham. It echoes everything that I think about the situation but is presented in a much more eloquent way than I could achieve.

      Reply
    2. Graham Warner

      An update

      First, the Swale Planning Committee members will be visiting the site on Standard Quay on Monday 29th April 2013 at approximately 10:30 am. Anyone concerned about the application can come and express their views.

      Second, you may have seen the Visit Kent support for the application reported in the Faversham Times, April 18th, page 4. I’ve sent a reply based on my post here; if you agree, you might want to write or email the paper.

      Finally, I have had a reply of sorts from Ruth Wood at Visit Kent;

      “Dear Graham
      Thank you for your email. We take on board your concerns.
      Now that the letter has been submitted we are happy to answer any further questions from the planning authority if deemed necessary.

      Best wishes
      Ruth”

      Not very impressive, and it seems to be saying that they will only answer questions from “the planning authority, not from the public.”

      I’ve responded to them;

      “Dear Ms Wood

      Thank you for your reply. I must say that I find the meaning of your second paragraph slightly obscure. I take it to refer to the questions I posed. Should I understand it to mean that you are only willing to respond to questions from ‘the planning’ authority’?

      I must point out that the Swale Planning Committee (in the first instance) is not the only stakeholder in this matter; indeed they are ultimately answerable to the electorate and in immediate terms it is part of their role to be open and responsive to the informed views of the public.

      As part of this process, Visit Kent surely has a responsibility to make available the information which you yourself state is the basis of your position. Indeed as I understand it Visit Kent draws substantial on public funding and so we can be said to have contributed to the research in question.”

      I’ve also repeated my questions in the post above.. I’m not sure whether Visit Kent is legal subject to Freedom of Information requests, but I might try that next, if they are still unforthcoming.

      Reply
    3. Graham Warner

      In case you want to email members of the Swale planning committee, here are all the addresses I could find:
      davidsimmons@swale.gov.uk,
      rickbarnicott@swale.gov.uk,
      colinprescott@swale.gov.uk,
      george.bobbin@btinternet.com,
      andybooth@swale.gov.uk,
      derekconway@swale.gov.uk,
      Adrian.crowther@kent.gov.uk,
      cllr.markellen@yahoo.co.uk,
      mr.michaelhenderson@virgin.net,
      ingham989@btinternet.com,
      bryanmulhern@btinternet.com,
      bryanmulhern@swale.gov.uk,
      patriciasandle@aol.com,
      labourleader@swale.gov.uk,
      ghlinwhelan@blueyonder.co.uk,
      nick_p_williams@yahoo.co.uk,
      alanwillicombe@swale.gov.uk,
      jeanwillicombe@swale.gov.uk

      It might be useful if lots of people encouraged them all to turn up (apparently last time there was a site visit on Standard Quay, some of them said they couldn’t find it!)

      Graham

      Reply
      1. Jill holder

        If any members of the planning team are unsure where to find this site on Monday I would be happy to meet them inthe Telco car park and take them. It is a short walk so there is no limit to numbers and it would give them all a chance to see the area properly.

  8. Anna Bales

    Swale’s Localism Policy

    Localism Prospectus

    Local First

    Central government is committed to passing new powers and freedoms to local councils. We in Swale believe that power should be exercised at the lowest practical level – close to the people who are affected by decisions, rather than distant from them. We want to see a huge shift in power not just from Whitehall to local councils, but from local councils to communities and individuals. This will help local people and their elected representatives to achieve their own ambitions for their communities. This is the essence of the Big Society.

    ‘Local First’ is one way of making the Big Society happen in Swale. We want to encourage people to think local first, with more localised decision-making, and more people having a say in how services are commissioned. But we also know that our aspirations for the future will not happen overnight there will be challenges both for the council in managing what will be a significant programme of change, but more so for local communities, through our many town and parish councils, and through our hundreds of community and voluntary sector organisations, to become fully prepared to take on these roles.

    Reply
  9. Debbie Lawther

    The previous planning guidance was not implemented, did not result in maritime industry, because the owner of the land is not interested in this use for his property. His lack of interest in Faversham’s maritime heritage, and his interest is making money from using his property for anodyne development which could happen anywhere, do not invalidate the previous Swale Planning decisions about the value of the Creek, of his creek-side property, to the overall vision for the Creek and Faversham’s wider development.

    Reply
  10. Michael Maloney

    I am pleased to see that the Faversham Town Council opposes this latest application. This will not enhance Standard Quay in anyway. If Swale Borough Council as claimed are extremely supportive of proposed maritime uses, reject this proposal and support the maritime industries. We need to create jobs in Faversham that not only reflect the character of the town but will have a lasting influence on the maritime heritage that is attached to Standard Quay. We need visionary people, not greedy people.

    Reply

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