Protecting our heritage – new guide

Kent is blessed with an exceptional wealth of historic buildings and structures and archaeological sites – from our cathedrals of Canterbury and Rochester and great houses, like Knole, to tiny cottages and barns, and from well-known sites like Richborough and Kit’s Coty to medieval hedgerows and field boundaries. This rich heritage is under severe threat from intense development to accelerate house-building, promote economic growth and improve roads and other infrastructure.

Landscape by Vicky Ellis

CPRE Kent has produced a new guide to protecting that heritage. “Looking after heritage through the planning system” deals in turn with listed and unlisted historic buildings, conservation areas, scheduled monuments and archaeological sites, parks, gardens and battlefields and heritage landscapes. It sets out as simply and briefly as possible the legal protections which apply and the procedures to be followed by developers and local planning authorities in addressing them.

Oak tree by Vicky Ellis

We hope people will will find it both of interest and of practical use in engaging with the planning process, when Kent’s precious heritage is at stake. It is available to download below or do contact us on if you require a printed copy (donations requested to offset our costs).

looking after heritage through the planning system June 2017

July 4th 2017.

How can they harm our landscape and heritage?

mug shots Rose 006  By Rose Lister
When driving down the A2070 on the Eastern edge of Ashford you may notice the startling juxtaposition of industrial and retail buildings on the one side and a beautiful rural landscape on the other. You may be saddened to discover that this rural idyll presided over by the stunning Grade I listed St Mary’s church has been earmarked for employment development.

St Mary's Church, Sevington, photo The Village Alliance

St Mary’s Church, Sevington, photo The Village Alliance

‘Surely not!’ I hear you cry. ‘The rural church is set in rural surroundings, how can they be so harmful to our built and landscaped heritage?’ Unfortunately they can -the details can be found in the U19 policy and on the Ashford Borough Council’s (ABC) planning website. Our job is to ensure that everything that can be done to limit the harmful impacts of the site on the countryside and everything contained within it (man-made or living) is done. The current masterplan is a dull and uninspiring creation that has not currently been accepted by ABC. The little detail the masterplan has includes seven units of varying size, from large to massive, with suggested landscaping, new road links and parking. I shall be honest, these buildings are not to my taste. Their size, scale and suggested building material are unsustainable and harmful to the historic and living landscape, and that’s even before we consider the transport issues.

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Stour Park will harm landscape and heritage

We have raised concerns about the huge scale of a planned warehouse development near Ashford and its impact on the important landscape and heritage setting.

The developers of Stour Park, Friends Life Ltd, have applied for permission to build enormous warehouses, 16 metres tall and covering an area the size of 31 football pitches (160,000 sq m). The site, next to Sevington and Mersham villages, is identified for commercial development in the local plan.

Sevington, photo The Village Alliance

Sevington, photo The Village Alliance

We are concerned that the masterplan does not provide sufficient guidance to ensure that the harm to sensitive heritage, landscapes and communities is minimised and appropriately mitigated. The site is close to the medieval grade 1 listed St Mary’s Church and the North Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is essential that a sensitive approach to important views (heritage and landscapes), ecological mitigation, landscaping and building heights, colour, materials and orientation are agreed from the outset.

St Mary's Church, Sevington, photo The Village Alliance

St Mary’s Church, Sevington, photo The Village Alliance

Chairman of CPRE Kent’s Ashford Committee, Dr Hilary Moorby said: “We need to protect the setting of this important church and the AONB. The sheer scale of these giant buildings will change this beautiful rural area dramatically and everything possible must be done to minimise the harm.” Continue reading

Regeneration through heritage

Words and photos by By Rose Lister

In recent years the idea of creating a sense of place has been reoccurring through planning. But what does this mean? In broad terms it is finding the individual character of a place and encouraging it to create a thriving community. So what better way to do this than with an area’s heritage assets? Listed buildings, scheduled monuments, green spaces – all these can be used to drive regeneration and reignite community spirit. In 2013 the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) commissioned a report looking at how breathing new life into old buildings can help spark new business and regenerate an area. It looked into what businesses wanted when searching for a location and how the effect of working in a heritage area benefited them. The findings confirmed that the new ideas of the past were the perfect places for the new ideas of the future to be sparked.

Canterbury jan 2016 chimmy changa Canterbury jan 2016 library

Now Kent, with an estimated 18,400 listed buildingsContinue reading

New chair of Kent Historic Buildings Committee

The Kent Historic Buildings Committee, which works to preserve Kent’s rich built heritage, has a new chair. A short biography appears below:

John Wotton

John Wotton

“I have lived in Kent since 1983 and have family connections with the County going back several generations. My home for the past 23 years has been a Grade II* listed, timber-framed house in Cranbrook, where I garden and grow fruit. I have been a CPRE member for many years and joined the Tunbridge Wells District Committee and Kent Historic Buildings Committee in 2013. I have been involved in conservation since I was a student and am a supporter of the Weald of Kent Protection Society, Kent Gardens Trust and Woodland Trust and am a trustee of Fauna & Flora International, a charity concerned with the protection of threatened habitats and species throughout the world. I have spent most of my career as a lawyer in the City of London and am now an Inquiry Chair with the Competition & Markets Authority.”

John takes over from Robert Baxter, who joined CPRE Kent in 1995 as conservation officer before becoming director and then chairman of KHBC. He has now stepped down and at the 2015 was awarded “for his fantastic commitment”.

February 8th 2016

Developing new homes AND our heritage

Rose Lister, who has joined our team at CPRE Kent as an intern specialising in heritage, shares her thoughts below on the planned development of Connaught Barracks and the heritage implications.

Heritage can mainly be seen in our built environment, however it is all that is green and growing and all that flurries and scuttles too. Our rivers and wildlife, green open spaces and villages are where we find our identity. England’s green and pleasant land is so rarely found in our towns and cities, but as the pressure to build expands ever outwards and threatens our environmental heritage it is important to realise that what we have is precious and worth fighting for.

Connaught barracks

That is not to say that we cannot develop our heritage. Development is needed and is indicative of a healthy society. Rather we would see that it is done right. A golden example of this is the prospective development of the Connaught Barracks in Dover. The sight ticks so many boxes that it is the perfect place for a local planning authority to regenerate.

  • It is a brownfield site.
  • It has been empty and unused for a decade.
  • The majority of the buildings are of little historical and architectural value.
  • It is not in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

Fort Burgoyne 3 by Wevsky Fort Burgoyne 2 by Wevsky

Fort Burgoyne photos above by Wevsky


That said it is home to a Victorian fort, Fort Burgoyne. Though overgrown and derelict, the fort is part of our military history and should be treated with respect. Therefore the question is not should Connaught Barracks be developed but rather can it be done right?

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Local Lists and Regeneration

Over 40 people were at Turner Contemporary on Tuesday (17th March) to discuss the role of heritage in regeneration, promotion of tourism and preparation of local heritage lists.  The meeting was a follow-up to our own workshop in November.

James Kennell, Director of Economic Development Resource Centre

James Kennell, Director of Economic Development Resource Centre

James Kennell of Greenwich University provoked a lot of discussion with his review of different approaches to “regeneration”, giving examples throughout the UK and abroad, and of how successive governments have approached regeneration issues. He described some key factors needed to attract tourists to an area and increase their contribution to the local economy. He emphasised that it is not enough to just have heritage assets; they need to be presented in the right way.




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Date set for Heritage Symposium at Turner Contemporary

Margate Civic Society and the Margate Neighbourhood Plan Forum are hosting a symposium at Turner Contemporary on 17th March 2015 for all who are interested in preparing Local Lists of historic buildings.  This is a follow-up to our own meeting last November, targeted at the East Kent area, but open to all to attend.  It is an all-day event that will explore the process in more detail.

The keynote address will be given by James Kennell of the University of Greenwich Business School, who has written extensively on coastal cultural regeneration and tourism.  The Sevenoaks Society will update us on their local listing project in Sevenoaks Town, and our own Historic Buildings Committee will illustrate the need for Local Lists with some recent case notes.  The agenda is on the Margate Civic Society website.

Local Lists will be a record of the buildings which are treasured by the community and will help district councils in preparing their heritage policies for Local Plans and in determining planning applications.  CPRE Kent Historic Buildings Committee wants to see all planning authorities in Kent and Medway adopting such lists and is keen to get all civic societies and local historical societies involved, as well as those preparing Neighbourhood Plans.

To register your interest in the symposium, contact Geoff Orton at Margate Civic Society.

Your Built Heritage – Update

Our meeting in November brought together a number of people and organisations from all over the county with an interest in helping district planning authorities prepare local lists of heritage assets.  Members of the Sevenoaks Society described their project to list historic buildings in Sevenoaks town and the meeting discussed how similar projects could be progressed elsewhere.  The record of the meeting is here.

Things are moving on in Thanet, with a follow-up meeting being organised for February/March.  Representatives from the main civic societies in Thanet are involved, as well as colleagues in Sandwich and Deal.  If you want to be kept informed, contact our Historic Buildings Committee at

Your Built Heritage

CPRE Kent is encouraging everyone in the county to take more notice of the quality and history of the buildings where they live. More than 30 people representing heritage and amenity associations from across Kent attended a workshop today (Thursday 13 November) to find out about getting involved in drawing up Local Lists.

KHB workshop VE 007KHB Workshop VE (7) (3)


There are more listed buildings in Kent than in any other county, but there are many thousands more which are worth protecting from demolition or unsympathetic conversion.  At best, they might enjoy the protection of a conservation area, but most do not and their value may not even be recognised by the community.

Sittingbourne mill_1918Blue Boys Postcard mid c20

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Standing up for Kent’s built heritage

Campaigners are calling on people living in Kent to identify thousands of valuable historic buildings in the county which need protection from demolition or ruin.

The Historic Buildings Committee, part of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) Kent, is holding a workshop for people and organisations interested in saving important heritage buildings in their area which are not on the national list kept by English Heritage.

Blue Boys Hodges photo c 1880Postcard mid c20

It is aiming to persuade all 13 district councils in Kent and Medway to make a Local List to give these buildings protection from demolition or inappropriate change.

Chairman of the CPRE Kent Historic Buildings Committee, Bob Baxter, said: “There are more listed buildings in Kent than in any other county, but there are thousands more which could be pulled down or changed forever if they do not get protection. As planning laws are relaxed, historians, conservationists, architects and archaeologists have become increasingly concerned about loss of buildings which mean something to their local community but may not be protected by the English Heritage national list.” Continue reading

Innovative Rennie building reprieved at Sheerness

Mast House NE

Mast House north-east face

The CPRE Protect Kent Historic Buildings Committee is always on the lookout for threats to the County’s unmatched stock of listed and other valuable buildings. It speaks on these issues on behalf of the Council for British Archaeology (CBA) who recently described the Committee as one of its most active agents.

Early this year, the Committee joined with a number of other heritage conservation organisations to oppose the demolition of the Grade II* listed Working Mast House at Sheerness Docks to make way for a wind turbine manufacturing plant. The developer (Vestas) touted the environmental benefits of wind power and job creation as reasons why the demolition should be considered “wholly exceptional” under the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). This argument was accepted by Swale Borough Council who voted to approve. We could not accept, though, that the demolition was absolutely necessary to obtain these benefits. We had submitted three alternative layouts for the facility, clearly demonstrating that there were solutions which did not involve loss of the heritage assets.

Sketch 2

One of the layouts submitted to the Planning Committee

Before the approval was issued Vestas withdrew but the port itself (supported by the Borough and County Councils) was keen to get planning consent so as to attract alternative investors. Swale now accepted our argument that any new developer might have very different ideas about how to lay out the site. The demolition applications for the Mast House and the Pumphouse for the dry-docks were withdrawn and outline planning permission for the rest has now been granted. Probably, the case for demolition will be made again should a new developer emerge.

The Working Mast House (1826) is one of the few remaining buildings from the time of the re-building of the Royal Naval Dockyard which John Rennie Snr designed. It is a brick-walled two-storey building with a cast iron internal structure and roof. The modular scheme developed by architect Edward Holl, and perhaps Rennie himself, was innovative and must have made for very economic and quick construction. Although parts of the structure are missing, as are many windows, the building still says a lot about the early days of metal-framed structures and the latter days of wooden shipbuilding.

The case raised a number of issues about the balance between public benefits and harm to an important heritage asset. In particular, the CBA’s specialist conservation team questioned the legitimacy of using the environmental benefits of wind power to outweigh any heritage arguments. There was also much debate about the value of reconstructing the building on a remote site, divorced from its associated structures, all of which are now hidden from view. The developer convinced the Council and English Heritage that it was better to spend money on smartening up the remaining heritage assets in the Dockyard (including the Grade I Boat Store) and providing for some public access to them. In our opinion however, what was proposed barely exceeded the port’s existing obligation to protect and preserve the heritage in the Docks.

Dover Heritage Strategy Response

CPRE Protect Kent has sent detailed comments on Dover District’s draft Heritage Strategy and how it intends to include it in the forthcoming land allocations development plan document. The branch has welcomed the initiative taken by Dover, but we think that the balance in the strategy is skewed too much in favour of using heritage assets to further the Council’s regeneration objectives rather than recognising that assets need to be protected for future generation. Although there are many good examples of where heritage assets have played a central part in regeneration projects, it will not always be the case that the protection and future use of heritage assets will be secured through regeneration proposals.  We have called on the Council to amend the strategy to acknowledge and emphasise that regeneration will only be appropriate where it enhances and not threatens heritage assets. Without this there is the real risk of heritage being seen as an obstacle to be overcome rather than an asset to be embraced.  Our responses in full can be viewed here:

Hythe Lifeboat Stations Saved

Hythe Lifeboat

The 1936 building (1893 building beyond).

The two lifeboat station buildings on Hythe’s Fishermans Beach were proposed to be demolished as part of a beach-side development.  The development was opposed by local residents because of the very intensive use of the site and the loss of these buildings and other facilities used by the small remaining fishing fleet.  If lost, the last remnants of infrastructure associated with the maritime activities of this Cinque Port would be gone.

The Historic Buildings Committee submitted an application for listed status for the lifeboat buildings, which was successful, and they are now being re-used in the development (which has also been scaled down).  It was the historical connections of the buildings to the lifeboatmen (mostly fishermen) and the community, rather than the architectural merit, which persuaded English Heritage to support the application.  Their military role (they were used as a watchtower for doodlebugs and for maintaining the land mines along the beach during WW II) was also considered important.