Bid to keep Kent windmills under county council care fails

Drapers Windmill

By Local Democracy Reporter Simon Finlay

An attempt to block the disposal of eight historic windmill, including Drapers Mill in Margate, has been defeated despite a huge public backlash against the plans.

Kent County Council (KCC) wants to save the £150,000 a year cost of looking after the structures by handing them over to special interest groups to run and maintain.

Members of the Environment and Transport cabinet committee debated whether the landmarks should stay in KCC hands.

Labour member Barry Lewis put forward a recommendation for KCC to keep hold of the windmills because the annual cost to do so is “chicken feed”.

The move followed the publication of a questionnaire survey completed by more than 2,300 people where around 87% said they disagreed with the proposal to offload the buildings.

Cllr Lewis said that by putting the windmills into the hands of new owners risked destroying the county’s heritage, not  protect it.

He added: “It’s an absolute scandal that a Conservative Party that has the name ‘conservative’ is opposed to the conservation of our heritage.”

Committee chairman Cllr Sean Holden said: “These windmills the council owns would probably not exist if KCC had not done a fine job of rescuing and maintaining these distinctive parts of Kent’s heritage”

He feared “the rapid undoing of seven decades of care” by divesting the sites.

Cabinet member for the environment, Cllr Robert Thomas argued the windmills are “not being closed, not being knocked down or turned into Air BnBs”.

He told members: “I do not see myself as a cultural or heritage vandal.”

Deputy cabinet member for finance, Cllr Harry Rayner said the council was facing the prospect of finding £83m in savings next year and that all discretionary spending had to be looked at.

The council currently owns the freehold of all eight, which are all located in different local authority footprints.

Drapers Mill Photo Sinead Le Blond

They are: Chillenden Mill; Union Mill, Cranbrook; Herne Mill, Draper’s Mill, Margate; Meopham Mill; Davidson’s Mill, Stelling Minnis; West Kingsdown Mill and Stocks Mill, Wittersham.

The recommendation to keep them in KCC control was defeated by eight votes to six.

They were acquired by KCC as owner between the late 1950s and the mid-1980s, some of which come with a small parcel or land or ancillary buildings.

But the council’s on-going financial constraints – caused by squeezed government funding and rocketing costs – means it is looking to “divest” them into the hands of interest or heritage groups who can pay for the windmills’ day-to-day upkeep.

Council papers report: “Financial responsibility for the maintenance and management of these eight windmill properties rests solely with KCC, apart from small-scale investment by the mill groups.

“The annual cost to the Council of maintaining the windmills portfolio in a safe structural and mechanical condition is considerable.

“Management of the windmills is only possible, however, through the work of the Friends volunteer groups who carry out small scale maintenance tasks, operate the windmills and open them to the public.”.

A nine week public consultation ended in January this year in which the vast majority of respondents to a questionnaire disagreed with KCC’s idea.

12 Comments

  1. this is a classic example of our heritage being left to rot , while millions of pounds are being ploughed into economic migrants ?

    • Curious link there. I read a government report some time ago that examined cost effectiveness of migrants. It seems they work more, takes less time off sick, access benefits less than the general population. They also tend to pay taxes and contribute positively to their local communities.
      Millions may be spent on migrants and refugees but this is, but, a drop in the ocean compared to the billions taken out of publuc funds for friends and family of Tory robber barons.
      Get rwal Real World.

      • Pirate Jenny – What planet are you on? Do you honestly believe what you have written.Do you honestly believe that a change of government is going to change much. New government cronies(robber barons) will now jump on bandwagon securing ‘advisory’ roles etc drawing large salaries. I despair.

  2. What is the point of a consultation if its results are ignored? Really bad decision. Our windmills will be lost to future generations. Get rid of one or two overpaid managers and there will be enough money for the windmills

  3. “Deputy cabinet member for finance, Cllr Harry Rayner said the council was facing the prospect of finding £83m in savings next year and that all discretionary spending had to be looked at.”

    So the £150,000 saved amounts to less than 0.2% of the total needing to be found. Not exactly a game changer lads, any other bright ideas?

  4. Idiots. Also what happens when they have nothing left? Looks like a yes sir, no sir attitude towards government cuts. Make some noise!

  5. It’s because 150k of tax payers money is seen as chicken feed that they are in such a mess. These windmills should be lottery funded or part of some charitable foundation.

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