In a nutshell
Our Victorian Shelter was burned to the ground in 2011, and not a lot has happened since, but our Council now wants us to show them that we DO want it replaced. There is an online petition on the Council website that you can sign – bit.ly/VSPET – and there is a paper petition that you can download here.
In the small hours of 30th March 2011, the CCTV camera atop the Herne Bay Sailing Club on the promenade captured images of the first flames. By the time the Fire Brigade arrived, the Shelter was burning brightly and there was little left to save. The charred remains were razed to the ground, and the site stood empty until the “Flocking Bench” was installed.
Under-insured and over-priced
It turned out that the Shelter was under-insured. The insurer’s original “offer” of £24,000 was negotiated up to £36,000, but the Council tells us this is insufficient to replace the building.
A report presented to a meeting of our local councillors (HBAMP 20th September 2016) stated that the replacement cost would be £130,000. This is clearly ridiculous. I have no idea why the officers presented such an absurdly inflated figure to our councillors, but they weren’t short of ideas as to how the £36,000 could be spent elsewhere.
The Association of British Insurers provides helpful estimates of the rebuild costs of various kinds of building (see the box). According to them, £130,000 would get you a three-bedroomed detached bungalow.
The replacement Shelter
A group of local residents has been championing the cause, and investigating options for replacing the Shelter. The East Cliff Neighbourhood Panel asked a local architect to design a replacement shelter, as close as possible in appearance to the original, and far more resilient… not to mention fire-resistant!
The new Shelter would be steel-framed and concrete-clad. Don’t panic, this won’t be a blockhouse – modern techniques allow the specialist concrete to shaped and moulded so as to reproduce the appearance of the original Shelter, right down to the wood grain and fiddly bits (finials?). The windows would be super-strength polycarbonate. One pragmatic compromise would be replacing the original (expensive and fragile) Kent peg tiles with “tile-effect” roofing felt, similar to the roof of the Angling Club over in West Bay.
The original site of the Shelter was half way down the slope from the road to the King’s Hall, and not clearly visible from the road and neighbouring properties. This, unfortunately, had the effect of attracting anti-social behaviour and vandalism. The proposed new site is higher up the slope, level with the road, and under a street light. This will make it just as convenient to use, but a lot easier to keep an eye on.
It’s down to each and every one of us to make it clear to our Council that we want our Victorian Shelter back. Herne Bay is a Victorian seaside town, and the Victorian Shelter is an important, valuable and rather lovely piece of our local heritage. Please click the link – bit.ly/VSPET – to sign the online petition. Feel free to download a paper petition and collect a few more signatures from your friends and neighbours – especially those who don’t use the internet.
Here is a delightful report from Herne Bay Illustrated of 1889 – many thanks to Mike Bundock of the Herne Bay Historical Records Society for unearthing this.