Category Archives: Creek Dredging

Our Regeneration Plan for Faversham Creek Basin

Summary 

Since 2011 the Faversham Creek Trust has been working towards a regeneration plan that focuses on the upper part of Faversham Creek, the Basin above the Brents Swing Bridge. This plan is an updated version of the plan first submitted to the Stakeholder Workshop of the Creek Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group in November 2012, and then to Faversham Town Council in November 2013.

We believe there is a unique opportunity for restoration and development in the centre of this historic town with significant economic and social benefits for residents and visitors alike. Our plan is based on the creation of a viable maritime economic facility, with workshops, moorings and a training school to serve the existing fleet of traditional vessels in the Thames Estuary.

This plan, which now has backing from Swale Borough Council and Faversham Town Council,  will integrate the effort of several stakeholders including a charitable trust, a community association, identified private investors, and regional authorities.

The Key Elements

The replacement of the existing swing bridge by a new swing bridge – by Kent County Council as a collaborative project in partnership with the Borough Council, the Town Council and this Trust. This is the key to the Basin, and the Trust actively supports the public subscription funding opportunity that has been initiated by KCC to ensure that the bridge opens rather then remain a fixed bridge.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The regeneration of Ordnance Wharf as a maritime workshop, small boat yard and community centre, with access from Flood Lane, in conformity with the current local plan, the existing conservation area, and the plan now under preparation by the Brents Community Association. A potential purchaser has been confirmed subject to Ordnance Wharf not being re- zoned for housing. Implementation mid-2015.

Basin drawings 3 Ben White Nov13The Restored Purifier Building to be a training centre for students and apprentices to be run in conjunction with the Ordnance Wharf workshop. The five year plan envisages 18 students with an eventual capacity for 36 students per year. Implementation late 2015. There are also two specialist workshop units and a room for community activities.

Basin drawings 2 Ben White Nov13The restoration of the BMM Weston Creek frontage outside the existing car park with the co- operation of the owner. The resulting wharf will provide moorings for up to ten sailing barges and smacks and a green amenity space along the current footpath. A Community Interest company will manage the operation, when KCC has replaced the current swing bridge.

BASIN ROGER LOW 1The repair or replacement of the sluice gates by Peel Ports and their subsequent management, in conjunction with the operation of the new swing bridge.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dredging of the Basin and the Creek by the Faversham Creek Navigation Company, a new Community Interest Company. A Maintenance Dredging licence has already been issued by Peel Ports, for the creek downstream from the bridge.

For the Basin, a Capital Dredging licence has been applied for,  to the Marine Management Organisation. This involves negotiation with the Environment Agency, Natural England, Peel Ports and other agencies who look after the waterbodies and the environment in the UK.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

All these objectives are in line with feedback received from all the Neighbourhood Plan exhibitions and they also conform to the relevant Neighbourhood Plan Objectives.

The Benefits

The benefits arising from this regeneration are comprehensive:

Economic: the generation of new business turnover in marine workshops, training school and mooring fees, with a total annual value of around £500,000 excluding indirect benefits.

Job creation: the plan will create at least 50 new jobs including students and apprentices, but excluding tourism spin-off related employment in the town.

Social: the regeneration of the Creek basin would remove an eyesore from the centre of the town. It replaces a derelict and unsafe area adjoining a public footpath, by a safe waterfront and public space with a view over barges and the town skyline. The Gates would permit water retention in the basin and therefore a safe water area for community activities, sea scouts and sail training not normally available in a tidal creek. IMG_1083

Heritage: the plan as a whole provides a significant location in the Purifier Building and Ordnance Wharf workshops for a living maritime heritage centre where schoolchildren and visitors to the town can see shipwrights at work and engage with Faversham’s history.

Visitor numbers: the annual number of visitors to Faversham (15,000 in 2011) would rise by at least 25% as a consequence of a revitalised basin. The experience of Maldon with its smaller resident population but a fleet of ten Thames Barges and 30,000 visitors supports this contention.

Implementation

The future of the Basin is entirely dependant upon the continued commitment of KCC, SBC and the Town Council, to an Opening Bridge and Gates. That policy and financial commitment, along with public subscription to the Bridge Fund, is currently the main focus of the Faversham Creek Trust, to ensure that the plans for the Basin are realised, for the benefit of all.

 

How to have your say on the future of Faversham Creek

The Town Council’s Faversham Creek Neighbourhood Plan has reached the Consultation Stage of the Pre-Submission Draft Plan. This is the opportunity for every resident in Faversham to have their say about the future development of many sites along the Creek.

The Town Council has an exhibition this Saturday afternoon, 7 June, from 1.30 pm to 5.30 pm in the Assembly Rooms, Preston Street. They are also holding a drop-in event at The Vaults in Preston Street on Wednesday, 11 June from 7 pm to 10 pm, and a Market Stall on Saturday, 21 June from 10 am to 4 pm. We encourage you to visit one of these events and study the Draft Plan.

You can see the printed draft plan at the Library or by contacting the Town Clerk, and also online at http://favershamcreekneighbourhoodplan.org.uk/consultation/
You will find a link to the Town Council’s questionnaire here too, and we urge you to fill it in with your views before the deadline of 5 pm on Monday 30 June.

We have a different vision for the Creek, which will regenerate our maritime heritage as well as providing many of the other things that the town needs, including footpaths, community facilities and housing. We have joined with the Brents Community Association and BMM Weston to create an exhibition which shows some of these ideas.

Many members of Faversham Creek Trust were among the 506 people who came to our Private and Public Exhibitions last Friday and Saturday in the Alexander Centre, and many contributed to the 281 completed questionnaires which will enable us to analyse your views and wishes. We will publish the results once the consultation period ends.

You can see some of the responses to our exhibition in this video on Youtube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fuQLe1EaoIc

For those of you who were not able to come last weekend, we have moved our exhibition to the Purifier Building in Morrisons car park, and we are opening it to the public every Saturday morning in June from 10 am to 1 pm. Please come, and bring your friends, family and neighbours!

We will be happy to arrange special visits at other times for groups of people who cannot come on a Saturday morning, for example school groups or local business owners. Please email us ( favershamcreektrust@yahoo.co.uk ) with a phone contact and we will call you to arrange a suitable time and date.

Our exhibition displays some ideas about how the maritime heritage of the Royal Port of Faversham could be revived and enhanced, with space for repairing and restoring traditional vessels, moorings and storage space for boats. We plan to dredge the Basin (and continue dredging the Creek), and have an opening bridge with gates and sluices to control the water flow again. We will restore the wharves alongside BMM Weston for moorings and boat repairs.

Our vision includes workshops, skilled jobs, education and training, community facilities, a ‘living museum’, and the opportunity to make our town a much greater attraction for visitors who will bring money to the town. It also includes almost as many residential units as the Town Council’s plan, but ours will be homes to suit local people, mainly houses rather than apartments, with a large percentage of them being affordable – and they will not be on the flood plain beside the Creek, so they will not prevent the revival of our maritime heritage.

If you care about the future of Faversham, how it will look and feel for your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, please take the time to visit the exhibitions and make your views known by completing the Town Council’s questionnaire, and also ours.

You can find most of the information displayed in our exhibition on this website:

http://favershamcreekalliance.com/info.pdf

and complete our questionnaire online here:

http://surveymonkey.com/s/J3C2TNB

You can complete our survey from the link on this website, or print it and deliver it or post it to:

The Purifier Building
Morrisons Wharf
Faversham
ME13 7DY

Don’t miss this chance to shape the future of our Creek and our town for generations yet to come.

THE TRUTH ABOUT DREDGING

There seem to be a number of myths around currently about the possible future state of the Creek and the need for dredging, published in correspondence in the local press. This article may clear up some of the facts and issues of concern and offers a comment on the current priorities.

The Creek was dredged by Medway Ports in 2012, from the Bridge down to Ironwharf. The Turning circle between Standard Quay and the Bridge was widened and the gut was widened. The navigable condition of the creek is now more than adequate for the traffic that uses it.

Unfortunately, the sluice gates have been out of action for some months due to lack of maintenance, but that is being resolved now, with a local person volunteering to clear the blocked valve that controls the opening at low water and keep an eye on the operation.

More important, a licence to carry out Maintenance dredging of the whole Creek, is being applied for by this Trust. The annual limits of this licence are sufficient to maintain an adequate navigation.

It has been suggested recently that, without the Neighbourhood Plan as currently proposed in draft, the Creek would not be dredged and would become silted up. As you can see above, there is no connection between the Plan and the planned licenced dredging, and our ability to use affordable local resources to carry out that dredging as required.

There is also a perception that more dredging is needed to reduce flooding on the highest and surge tides. Unfortunately, as the Environment Agency has made clear, no amount of dredging will reduce the level of the tide. This is entirely controlled by the level of the water in the North Sea and the Thames Estuary, at any state of the tide and weather.  It can never be lower than that.

However, what is noticeable is the way in which flood water does not recede with the ebb-tide; it becomes trapped on land for various reasons, making the misery longer and damage worse. These failures are man made, and the various agencies responsible need to be pursued to fix them. Where water should simply pour back into the Creek when the level drops very rapidly after the turn of the tide, and it does not, then that needs documenting and the cause identified, and the responsible agency forced to fix it. This should be done with the support of the Town and Swale Council, and its councillors.

The only way to stop flooding is by creating one or more barriers to the water; the simplest being a bund around individual or groups of houses, and some way of preventing water spilling around from behind. These defences are all possible, but sandbagging on the day, is largely inadequate. Even preventing drains from backing up into houses is possible, though the authorities may be reluctant to cover the cost; insurance companies might be more interested if it prevented repeat claims; that is, if further insurance is still possible.

It seems unfair that with all the effort that goes into the Neighbourhood Plan to build new houses on the flood plain, very little goes into championing the solutions to the flood problems of the existing residents. Very few councillors bothered to turn up to a recent presentation by the Environment Agency, organised by Brents Community Association and this Trust, on the future of flood prevention in Faversham.

The Neighbourhood Plan solution for mitigating the effects of flooding is to build  Tall Houses on Stilts, with the flooding areas underneath used for virtually un-insurable activities and property; cars, business equipment, shops and stock.

There is really no excuse for perpetuating this formula as a solution; we are not so short of available land in this area that we have to build Houses on Stilts.

However, the NPPF bogeyman and Council Rules are being fully exploited to ensure the success of the developments, to the benefit of the speculators, and the potential future misery of the residents. What’s the betting that there is no mention of the regular, or recent, flooding on the Creek in the sales blurb for these exclusive Creekside properties.

On the other hand, if the recent claim in the local press, that these houses will mostly be bought by boat-owners, was actually true, then it might be an attractive proposition to build them as Boat Houses… now that would certainly respect the Creek as a Creek!

R Telford

Thoughts on the future of Barges at Standard Quay

After the Beeching Axe, many groups set out to recover the lost Steam Railway heritage, rebuild some lines and engines and stock and keep them alive, eventually turning them into successful and financially viable tourist attractions. Also, against similar resistance, many people kept the canals open, even digging out some that had been deliberately filled to stop them being used; another enormously successful holiday and tourist resource. In both cases the infrastructure was integral to their success.

Now compare all that with the last 40 Thames Barges, the sea-going equivalent of the canal boats and the steam engines, but now in a much more vulnerable state, and wonder why some people are so set on allowing Standard Quay, one of the last refuges for barges, to become unattractive to them, and that community to drift away. This is the essential infrastructure, like canals and railways, that the barges need to survive, a home where they can be restored and maintained.

An essential part of that infrastructure are the simple Black Sheds used as workshops and storage by the maritime craftsmen. The first of these is planned to be converted into a restaurant and public exhibition areas.

The challenge was publicly laid down in the Faversham Times Jan 17,” M White said he was confident the plans would be accepted on appeal even if they were refused by local councils. …. It would be hard for a planning inspector to ignore the benefits this project would bring to the town.” Apparently, local people and their representatives are of no consequence as they do not appreciate the desperate need for more Restaurants, more Car Parking, more Gentrification.

Unfortunately the much quoted Vision of AAP2 [below] is already fading, with a desolate Quay, home to top-hampered houseboats, symptom of an inert, tidied and urbanised waterfront, embellished with flowering window boxes and washing lines, and the last working barges waiting to go somewhere else for repair; one or two showpiece barges to attract tourists, but no repairs or work that might conflict with the sanitised quayside or the Car Parking. A pastiche of the working Quay that existed until recently.

The boatbuilders have left, along with their combined skills and experience and tools and floating docks and cranes and stacks of timber and drying sails. That total facility with its cooperative management that enabled large wooden craft to be repaired and restored at a  single facility, by its many independent craftsmen, has already dispersed.

28   Standard Quay AP PC

All the effort that went into regenerating the Quay over 18 years has been ignored by the constant and disingenuous reference to the need for regeneration of the Quay, as if had not already successfully happened. No amount of appeals to the Director of Regeneration and local councillors, who admitted the lost employment and training opportunities, seemed to have any effect. Regeneration seems to mean only one thing and that is Gentrification.

Of course, they could have been retained, and could even be re-assembled, if the infrastructure, the sheds and access to the Quay side, were made available on acceptable conditions, but it would also require experienced management that has the skill and empathy with those trades. A comparable scenario is Gweek Quay in Cornwall where the ownership and management has changed but the site remains an attractive and prosperous place to work.

So, is conversion of basic affordable craftsmens’ workshops and storage, into the expensive fabric of a public access building, with restaurant and exhibition areas, a  sustainable move or simply commercial exploitation, concomitant with an increase in the value of the property, putting it forever out of reach of craftsmen; the start of a program of change of use, upgrade and revaluation; the steady gentrification of Faversham’s last working Quay,

Well, already many people are worried; just how many worriers will influence the direction of development of not just the Quay but also for the whole of the remaining developable Creekside, through the Neighbourhood Plan process. These will not just be a few “people who object to everything”. The last petition on this subject quickly raised over 1500 signatures.

The attack on AAP2 started when the Fullwood Report was published, which reduced everything to a visionless pragmatism based on a narrowly defined economic viability, focused on ‘a presumption in favour of the development of more creekside housing’;  even succeeding in changing the flood risk rules to enable development where it would previously have been refused; it wrote off the Basin and Bridge as uneconomic and unwanted resources and considered there was no economic justification for dredging the Creek.

The Trust’s acquisition of the Purifier Building and the plans for its use for Maritime Trades and Apprentice School, include a dredged Basin and opening Bridge, and showed that the assumptions of the Fullwood plan were flawed.

Then came the opportunity of the Creek Neighbourhood Plan, which enables local representatives to create a plan based on local consultation. This plan is not due to be put to a Referendum until later this year.

The application for the change of use of the No1 Black Shed, SW/12/1523/4, has the potential to improperly influence the Neighbourhood Plan. Therefore, this application should be rejected, as was the application last year to develop Ordnance Wharf, at least until the Neighbourhood Plan has been agreed by common consent at referendum and adopted into the Swale Plan.

Of course, it is possible that the Plan may be rejected; the much threatened result would be a ‘Presumption in favour of sustainable development’, widely interpreted as meaning that development anarchy would prevail. However, this may not be true, and it may be that the planning framework would revert to the current Swale 2008 Plan, which incorporates AAP2.

R Telford

Policy AAP2 – Faversham Creekside

An Area Action Plan is designated for Faversham Creekside, as shown on the Proposals Map. Within this area the Borough Council will seek to ensure that it continues to function as a place of special interest and activity with strong associations with the water, and will specifically encourage the regeneration of the creek basin for commercial and tourism purposes, including use of the basin and its wharfage for historic craft. Planning permission will not be granted for proposals that would result in the loss of land or buildings suitable for employment uses or, on appropriate sites, would not involve active use or management of the creek itself. All development proposals will:

  1. maintain or enhance a mix of uses and activity that respect the maritime, industrial and residential character, as appropriate to the varied parts of the AAP area;
  2. maintain or enhance an environment appropriate to enable traditional waterside activities to flourish, including, where appropriate, financially contributing toward improving and maintaining the navigability of the creek channel and its infrastructure, including providing wharfage and moorings;
  3. preserve or enhance the area’s special archaeological, architectural and historic character, including its open spaces; and
  4. avoid any significant adverse environmental impacts and where possible enhance the biodiversity interest of neighbouring internationally designated sites for nature conservation.

The Borough Council will expect development to:

  1. preserve or enhance landmark and other important buildings, waterside structures and details;
  2. preserve and create access to the waterside, including wharfage and moorings, and where appropriate provide for a creekside walk;
  3. by use of its grain, scale, form and theme of materials, be creekside in character;
  4. retain existing greenspace and, where appropriate provide new areas; and
  5. retain or enhance existing townscapes, including those in the views of higher ground.

A Supplementary Planning Document will be prepared and adopted by the Council to guide matters relating to the Area Action Plan.

for Standard Quay

Standard Quay: safeguarding this historically outstanding enclave of water-related and business activity; encouraging commercial uses that continue to sensitively occupy historic buildings; and promoting new employment uses to occupy appropriate sites, such as that allocated at Standard House (see Policy B16). Ensuring that traditional and other vessels continue to have access to the creekside, and that the facilities and services essential to their upkeep are maintained here, is essential. Residential development will not be permitted as it is considered likely to harm the historic interest of this area, both in terms of the existing buildings, and as a place of commercial activity.

Good News – Sluice now flushing the Creek

Thanks to work recently completed by Medway Ports, the sluice shutter on the Creek Bridge gate is now opening automatically at each low tide, sending a surge of water down to purge the gutway of the Creek.

The effectiveness is being monitored by Medway Ports to establish whether a second shutter should be used to increase the flow.

At present, the flow moves across to the Town Quay side, before straightening up down the gut, but a second shutter, on the other gate, might straighten this up. By alternating  shutters, it might be possible to purge the wider area here.

Going going almost gone

Medway ports are also planning for the gates to be opened in time for the Nautical Festival,  21-22 July – see separate post.