Blue Boys Inn at Matfield… we’re moving towards the end game (for now!)

The Blue Boys Inn… work is under way although it would appear that not all planning conditions have been fulfilled

Coming soon… burgers and chips

The latest chapter in the long and colourful tale of the Blue Boys Inn at Kippings Cross, Matfield, appears to be winding to its conclusion.
After any number of planning applications, proposals and exchanges of views about its future, the Grade II-listed building is being transformed into a Burger King take-away.
Whatever your views on such an outcome, it does at least mean the inn’s dilapidated state is being addressed, even if the demolition of its oldest part cannot be reversed and some aspects of the redevelopment are less than satisfactory.
At one point, demolition of the entire inn was on the table, but now the new outlet will be built into the remaining structure, ensuring some element of its historical significance.
CPRE Kent’s Tunbridge Wells and historic buildings committees had been watching, with growing concern, the situation unfold, last year writing to the chief executive of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council in a bid to halt the building’s decline.
You can read about this here and here, but Lady Akenhead, chairman of the Tunbridge Wells CPRE committee, brings us up to date with proceedings.
“Both the Tunbridge Wells and historic buildings committees objected to the details of recent applications connected with the approved plan to turn the Blue Boys into a fast-food take-away, now to be occupied by Burger King,” she said.
“Following our objections, some amended details were submitted that satisfied the council’s conservation officer regarding the listed building and advertisement applications.
“Some of the applications still await approval, presumably while the applicant seeks a solution that will satisfy the council concerning the various points raised.
“Meanwhile, construction of the extension to the Blue Boys continues apace, although the details concerning contamination and landscaping whose approval was required prior to commencement of the development under the planning permissions granted in 2016 have not yet been approved!
“The planning officer records having visited the site on three occasions in September and October this year but appears to have made no effort to enforce the landscaping condition, merely appending it again to the delegated approval he has granted for the recent listed-building application.”
Not wholly desirable, by any stretch, but the fact the Blue Boys Inn still exists at all (even if as a burger joint) is thanks in to small part to the work of CPRE Kent’s Tunbridge Wells and historic buildings committees. Well done!

Monday, November 19, 2018

Will you join campaign to boost protection of our listed buildings?

Down House, the former home of Charles Darwin at Downe, is Grade I-listed

The case of the Blue Boys Inn at Matfield (see here and here) is a depressing example of how some of our most important and historic buildings do not have the protection they merit.

The inn, which is subject to a planning application, is Grade II-listed but in a state of desperately poor repair, in part at least because of a weakness in planning legislation.

Now CPRE Kent is getting behind a campaign to tighten up protection for our most treasured architectural gems.

The issue concerns the listing of buildings, a process overseen by government agency Historic England, whose website states:

“Listing marks and celebrates a building’s special architectural and historic interest, and also brings it under the consideration of the planning system, so that it can be protected for future generations.”
Most of us are familiar with the concept of listing, but fewer know how levels of designation are decided upon, so here they are:

  • Grade I buildings are of exceptional interest; only 2.5% of listed buildings are Grade I.
  • Grade II* buildings are particularly important buildings of more than special interest; 5.8% of listed buildings are Grade II*.
  • Grade II buildings are of special interest; 91.7% of all listed buildings are in this class.

Anyone can nominate a building to be listed, while Historic England has its own programme of listing priorities. Either way, the agency makes its recommendations to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), who makes the final decision.

Once listed, a building has a measure of protection, with owners who want to make any structural changes having to make a listed building planning application separate to the ‘standard’ one to the local authority.

However, a potentially important building is vulnerable up to that point, even during the period when it is being assessed by Historic England for potential listing.

To tackle that failing, a petition has been set up by Bristol campaigner Neil McKay, who wrote to John Wotton, chairman of CPRE Kent’s historic buildings committee:

“There has been a long-standing problem in the UK with lack of protection for buildings which are undergoing assessment for listing.

“On numerous occasions owners or developers have exploited this weakness in current legislation to deliberately destroy historic assets to prevent possible listing.

“In a draft bill which was proposed in 2008, amongst other matters measures were proposed to provide automatic interim protection during the listing process.

“Unfortunately, this bill did not make it on to the statute books, and the loophole remains.

“Local authorities can choose to serve a Building Preservation Notice on a building considered to be at risk. But this is rarely done.”

Mr McKay notes that the Welsh Assembly has introduced legislation giving the necessary protection to historic buildings in Wales, but England has not followed suit.

To that end, he is petitioning the DCMS to give automatic interim protection to buildings proposed for listing in this country.

“I hope CPRE will agree that it simply makes no sense to allow historic assets to be destroyed before Historic England can even consider their merits for listing,” he wrote.

“The campaign is also supported by numerous heritage organisations including the SPAB [Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings], the C20 Society, the Georgian Group, Bristol Heritage Forum and the Victorian Society,” he continued.

CPRE Kent’s board and the branch’s historic buildings committee have endorsed his campaign and Mr Wotton has signed the petition, as has Lady Akenhead, chairman of CPRE Kent’s Tunbridge Wells committee.

Mr Wotton said: “The lamentable condition of the Blue Boys serves as a stark reminder of the damage that can be done to a prominent heritage asset while Historic England decides whether to list it.

“The petition has now attracted around 6,400 signatures and I urge fellow CPRE Kent members to support it.”

You can sign the petition here

Friday, November 10, 2017

Blue Boys Inn: council pledges to take action

A long way from its former glories: the Blue Boys at Matfield

A small victory, perhaps, in Tunbridge Wells district, but CPRE Kent has prompted some action in the long-running saga of the Blue Boys Inn at Kippings Cross, Matfield.

You can read the full background to the story here, but, briefly, Lady Akenhead, chairman of the Tunbridge Wells CPRE committee, and John Wotton, chairman of CPRE Kent’s historic buildings committee, wrote to the chief executive of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council asking the local authority to act to reverse the decline of the Grade II-listed building, which is subject to a planning application for a restaurant and take-away.

The letter read:

“We write to ask you, as a matter of urgency,
a) To ensure that the council acts to secure the proper preservation of the fabric and prevent further deterioration, by issuing an Urgent Works Notice;
b) To ensure that the submissions of details are decided promptly so that any further delay in the reconstruction of the building is not due to council inaction.”

In response, Stephen Baughen, the council’s building control and development manager, wrote that an Urgent Works Notice could not be issued because the building had been “left open in its current state prior to listing”.

Such a notice can only be used to return a building to its state at the time of listing.

However, Mr Baughen does state: “With regard to the prevention of further deterioration, the council has been in discussions with the owners since your letter and has confirmed that measures will be taken within the next week to repair the protective sheeting which covers the exposed areas and secure the building.

“As an authority we have on a number of occasions requested that the sheeting be reattached or adjusted when we have noticed or been notified that it has deteriorated. The owner has always complied within a few days of notification.”

He adds: “With regard to the conditions pursuant to the approved planning application, details have been submitted and are currently be[ing] assessed/negotiated.

“There have been some delays in this process but progress is now being made and several of the conditions have been discharged.

“Several conditions remain outstanding but discussions are taking place to satisfy these elements.

“Officers are in communication with the applicant regarding the timescales for the implementation of the permission.

“The council is committed to see the preservation and restoration of this building and will progress the outstanding matters as soon as possible.

“We will be monitoring the site in the next week to check that the sheeting has been appropriately secured.”

And if the council does not monitor the site, you can rest assured that CPRE Kent will be!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Take action on this listed building now, CPRE urges council

A long way from former glories: the Blue Boys at Matfield

It cuts a sorry sight now, but the Blue Boys Inn at Kippings Cross, Matfield, has a rich and much-loved history. Its name reportedly refers to the occasion George IV called by to have two of his horses shod, his coach drivers being clothed in a royal blue livery, while the building has had incarnations over the years as a pub, a restaurant and a café.
And in 2014 another appeared to be on the cards when McDonald’s applied for planning permission to develop a drive-through eatery on the site.
The burgers and fries never arrived, which pleased some local people, but the subsequent demolition of the oldest part of the Grade II-listed building was certainly no cause for celebration.
Now the Blue Boys stands in a desperately tatty – and worsening – state, something that the Tunbridge Wells CPRE committee is determined to reverse.
In a joint letter to the chief executive of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, Lady Akenhead, chairman of the Tunbridge Wells CPRE committee, and John Wotton, chairman of CPRE Kent’s historic buildings committee, ask the local authority to take steps to reverse the listed building’s decline.
“More than three years have passed since the owners of the Blue Boys demolished the oldest part of this building during English Heritage’s consultation period (this would not have happened if Tunbridge Wells Borough Council had used its powers to issue a temporary stop notice, as CPRE Kent had requested),” they write.
“Since that time the remaining parts of the building have been open to the elements, protected to some degree by a corrugated iron roof and by tarpaulins, but these are sagging and in tatters.
“CPRE Kent members have previously complained to the council about the poor state of the tarpaulins.
“Following the demolition, the owner applied for planning permission to ‘reconstruct’ and enlarge the building, which was granted in February 2016.
“Seven submissions of details have been made by the applicant to TWBC between early December 2016 and early May 2017, yet only one of these appears to have been decided.
“We write to ask you, as a matter of urgency,
a) To ensure that the council acts to secure the proper preservation of the fabric and prevent further deterioration, by issuing an Urgent Works Notice;
b) To ensure that the submissions of details are decided promptly so that any further delay in the reconstruction of the building is not due to council inaction.”

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

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

Download the full report here

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?

Continue reading

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