Bridging loan

Some good news in the minutes of the Faversham Town Council finance meeting held on 19 January, at which the council agreed its budget for 2014/15:

“The Mayor said that KCC had allocated £400,000 in its budget for a replacement bridge, which was the cost of a fixed bridge. If an opening bridge was agreed, an additional amount of £600,000 would be needed. Faversham Town Council might want to consider investigating taking out a loan of £175,000 to enable the new bridge to be a swing bridge. Swale Borough Council might be minded to match the Town Council’s contribution and another body might be minded to contribute another £100,000. Other commercial and community organisations were also considering whether they could contribute.

However, Swale Borough Council’s support for a loan was dependent on Peel Ports acknowledging their responsibility for the gates and sluices, and the successful adoption of the Faversham Creek Neighbourhood Plan as currently drafted.

Preserving the maritime heritage of Faversham by getting the Creek Basin back into use, which at one stage looked impossible, now appeared to be a distinct possibility given a fair wind and support from all quarters. Members expressed concern about the Town Council taking on a loan as it had been debt-free, but recognised the once in a lifetime opportunity to revive the Creek. The idea of a swing bridge was one that had almost universal support from the whole town. The two points made by Swale Borough Council were critical, and had to be borne in mind by the Town Council if it decided to consider a loan. Having a swing bridge that enabled water (through the sluices and gates) to be retained in the inner basin would be a significant tourism boost to the town.

The Mayor proposed and, on being put to the meeting, it was:
RESOLVED that the Town Council was minded to consider taking out a loan of a maximum of £175,000. The loan would be over 30/40 years, payments to begin to be made in 2016/17. The loan would be conditional on other parties’ support.”

Sour note
The one sour note here is the suggestion that funding from Swale Borough Council is conditional on “the successful adoption of the Faversham Creek Neighbourhood Plan as currently drafted”.*

During the development of the Neighbourhood Plan it was frequently pointed out by the steering group that the plan does not have the power to deliver an opening bridge – but now Swale seems to be expecting an opening bridge to deliver the Neighbourhood Plan. It is difficult to see the logic of this. If the bridge will revive the Creek and boost tourism, and has “almost universal support from the whole town”, then it deserves support from our borough council regardless of the outcome of the Neighbourhood Plan.

Whose plan is it anyway?
Those of a suspicious nature might interpret Swale’s stance as a form of blackmail – you won’t get an opening bridge unless you support the Neighbourhood Plan the way we want it.

This is not Swale’s plan. It is Faversham’s plan. In statute, the role of the borough council is merely to support, not to dictate or direct. Swale’s insistence that the plan as currently drafted must go through sends a clear signal as to whose plan this really is.

* Whatever happens, it is highly improbable that the plan would ever be adopted “as currently drafted”. Independent Examiners always find things that need changing, even in the best-written plans.

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9 thoughts on “Bridging loan

  1. w de koning

    Just wondered what is happening with the mud in the Creek? The entire area looks utterly derelict and shamefully neglected; appalling really. Whoever owns the Creek and the mud (Countess Sondes perhaps?) should face responsibility and take action. And yes, development around the Creek would be a very good idea indeed.
    And I would also like to know when the new Bridge will be built?
    Please let me know… somebody out there!

    Reply
    1. Bob telford

      The responsibility for the management of the Creek as a waterway, lies with the Harbour Authority, Peel Ports [ex Medway Ports Ltd]. However, since they abrogated their responsibility, many years ago, on the basis that there is no commercial shipping therefore no return for them, a local Community Interest Company, the Faversham Creek Navigation Co, has taken on the responsibility for dredging the Creek. This involved applying for a block licence on behalf of all the riparian owners, which was issued 18months ago. FCNV also were awarded the [Capital] licence to dredge the Basin last year.

      The Creek has been progressively dredged over the last two years, within the limits of the licence, to make it accessible for its current use, ie leisure craft, with relatively shallow draft. However, it is the responsibility of the owners of the creekside properties, the riparian owners, to maintain their own banks. I am surprise that you have never seen the dredger in action!

      Much of the creekside has already been developed, with no benefit to the creek itself, and almost none for creek users, by way of moorings or facilities. It has simply been exploited as a street, with a view. Developers have no interest in public access, only in exploiting location.

      The new Swing Bridge is currently being planned and prepared for tender by KCC and will be installed in late 2018. By then the Basin will have further dredging carried out, and I am also surprised that you have not seen the publicity in the local press about that earlier this year, when two different dredgers were manoeuvred under the bridge.

      Lady Sondes, as owner of the Creek bed, is highly supportive of the restoration of the Creek as a whole, especially the Basin, and to that end is a Patron of the Faversham Creek Trust, for whom that Restoration is their prime goal.

      If you were interested in helping or supporting the Trust, you would be most welcome. See their website, Favershamcreektrust.com.

      Reply
  2. eric glynn

    Surely , for the reasons you have given, Swale can’t be making such a condition on funding for the Bridge…. it’s not the first time that the powers that be in Faversham have DREAMT UP reasons why the Neighbourhood Plan should stay as they have drafted it.. this so sounds like another one… but let’s trust they are wasting their energies ; the Plan is now in the hands of the Adjudicator… and so is the brilliant document of objections to it from the Creek Trust…..

    Reply
    1. Visions of a Creek Post author

      Just for the record, the document referred to was a joint submission by the Faversham Creek Trust and the Brents Community Association. Swale Borough Council has said it will be “summarising” responses to the last consultation; these two organisations are seeking assurances that their submission will or has been forwarded to the Independent Examiner in full.

      Reply
  3. Anni Bales

    My question remains the same, why is a handful of people so utterly and apparently ruthlessly determined to ignore the basic tenets of localism and foist upon us new housing that will only benefit the speculators? They have ignored the basic conditions required for a Neighbourhood Plan, they have ignored the voices of Faversham residents, and now it appears that they will ignore the views of English Heritage as well. I just don’t understand why.

    Reply
  4. Don C

    No doubt this has already been considered but the problem from an opening bridge perspective may be the weight of the bridge itself. The fixed bridge will have to have a load bearing capacity to take the largest vehicle that needs access to BMM Weston and the Brents Industrial estate as well as removal / delivery vehicles. Currently the bridge is the only viable access for large vehicles. Hence the lifting gear – most probably 21st version equipment similar to the original jack-and-swing – will have to have capacity for that.

    Also, it seems also that there are significant “May” aspects to achieving the additional finances needed. Contrary to the sour note expressed concerning acceptance of the neighbourhood plan , a far greater obstacle is getting Peel to commit to the gates and sluicing operation. Readers are strongly advised to look closer into this company’s approach to port operations and infrastructure maintenance at other ports within its portfolio (Clyde, Heysham, Liverpool, Manchester Ship Canal) to determine if it is really believed that a significant long term financial committment will be made to something which does not offer any financial reward to Peel nor offer any essential safety enhancement to the navigation of Faversham Creek.

    Reply
    1. Robert Telford

      Don, you are quite right of course, and the KCC Engineers are designing the new Opening Bridge to do just that, including a single wider footpath; cleverly, the new bridge will be wider overall than the existing, and using a modern hydraulic system for raising and turning.

      About the Gates; opening the Basin is not dependant on new Gates; the old ones have to be removed for the bridge works. They can be repaired or replaced in their own time, even to a new simpler design because the need for sluicing has been replaced by water injection dredging, for which we now have a licence, and a local dredger, all managed by a Community Interest Company, the Faversham Creek Navigation Company.

      So, the main benefit of having effective gates is to retain water in the Basin for social, visual and tourist reasons, something that PP will be even less inclined to fund… or will they…

      Reply
      1. Don C

        Robert, thank you. The existence and intended work of the Faversham Creek Navigation Company is something which deserves wider publicity than currently available.

  5. Robert Telford

    How can there possibly be any dependency between the Neighbourhood Plan, largely focussed on creekside housing, and the opening of the Bridge and Gates, allowing the Basin to come back into use, except that it makes the Developers plans for Ordnance Wharf much more attractive if surrounded by water rather than mud, a derelict area, faced by a tatty industrial area, but benefitting from a recently restored Industrial building alongside.
    As a local councillor announced a while ago at a public meeting, the best the Town Council could come up with as a policy was to allow the Basin to become derelict, maybe turn it into a car park.
    So it is clear that it is the Neighbourhood Plan that benefits from the opening up and restoration of the Basin, because it adds value to the creekside as a location for the housing promoted by the Plan, but there have been no offers of financial support from the landowners towards this development, although some of the Section106 levy on developments could be used towards it, but that seems to have been already allocated towards the Streetscaping.
    However, those who are actively working to develop and promote the Creek, will carry on doing so, regardless of any Plan; that is what is happening right now.

    Reply

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