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.”

Recent examples of buildings at risk in Kent include the fine Victorian office building at Sittingbourne Paper Mill and the 16th century Blue Boys Inn at Matfield – both demolished “overnight” – and the Ashford Tannery, for which demolition was approved by the council earlier this year. CPRE Kent has successfully campaigned to save unlisted buildings such as the Hythe Lifeboat Station and the Sittingbourne Magistrates Court.

“However, it is hard work when the value of these buildings is not recognised until it is nearly too late. This is where we need input from volunteers,” said Dr Baxter.

English Heritage is keen to get all planning authorities to revive the “Local Lists” of historic buildings – a move supported by the committee. These lists have fallen into disuse in the last 20 years in all but one of Kent’s administrative districts. So far, only Sevenoaks and Tunbridge Wells Councils have made any concrete steps to join Canterbury in setting up a local list and the committee wants others to follow their example.
At the meeting next month, the Sevenoaks Society will present what they have achieved to date and there will be an opportunity for other civic societies, local history societies and individuals to learn what is involved to plan their own projects.

The meeting will be on 13 November at the CPRE Office in Charing. Details are on CPRE Kent’s website at cprekent.org.uk/events.

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