Swingfield Notebook - 11 October 2006

Contributed by editor on Oct 11, 2006 - 12:15 AM


In a letter sent to all participates to the Church's proposed Redundancy Scheme for St. Peter's Church, Swingfield, the Bishop of Dover has outlined what he sees is the way forward for this historic building.

After analysing all the options, their practicalities with their costs, he has come to the conclusion that the best way of conserving St. Peter's fabric is to allow it to become a private residence with certain provisos.

Contained within the report below are his reasons behind rejecting the bid from 'The Friends of St. Peter's'. 
Colin Tearle



The Bishop in Canterbury
The Right Reverend Stephen Venner, Bishop of Dover
The Bishop’s Office, Old Palace,
Canterbury, Kent CT1 2EE

To Anne Griffiths
Redundant Churches Division
1 Millbank

September 2006

Dear Anne,

Pastoral Measure 1983

Redundant church of Swingfield St Peter: proposed redundancy scheme

Thank you for your letter of 18th August asking for my comments on the above scheme. 

You are well aware that, like other dioceses, Canterbury has a Diocesan Redundant Churches Uses Committee, which is made up of people who care deeply for the rich heritage of church buildings, and seek imaginatively yet realistically to enable these buildings to be retained. The Chairman and Secretary in particular are people who spend enormous amounts of time on these matters and have a proud record of promoting schemes that are successful in every sense of that word. I pay tribute to them, and continue to be more than happy that they represent me and the diocese on this particular matter.

Let me briefly, if only for my own satisfaction, rehearse the story so far.

It was in 1988 (eighteen years ago) that it started to become clear that St Peter’s was not viable as a parish church. The community that it serves is tiny as was the congregation. It was declared redundant (closed for worship) in August 2000 (after 12 years of thought, prayer and debate) and, as I understand it, those who wish to express their faith in worship now do so elsewhere. Pastoral and spiritual care continues to be given by the ministers of the benefice of Hawkinge with Acrise and Swingfield, as it was before 2000. 

So, as bishop for the diocese, my primary responsibility continues to be fulfilled: God’s people in Swingfield receive spiritual and pastoral care.

The issues that remain unresolved are therefore two-fold: the church building and the churchyard. On a personal level, I am always very sad when local feelings do not run high when plans are proposed, as clearly the church means nothing to local people. So I am neither surprised nor saddened by the strong voices that have been raised. It is good that local people really care, and I assure them that we in the diocese care too.

However, there comes a point where to allow discussions to continue, albeit with much passion, becomes self-indulgent. After years of debate, I really believe that the time has come for decisions to be made, however painful, and for life to move on. It is remarkable that we are almost at the point where the formal planning appeal, which was granted in May 2002, expires without even a decision having been reached, let alone work having begun. The diocese which I lead has already had to spend tens of thousands of pounds on the building over these years – money that could have been spent on supporting the buildings we need to maintain and even build to serve those parts of our diocese that are growing. We simply cannot continue to spend money in this way.

The church building. St Peter’s is a Grade 1 listed building with a particular history not only as a local parish church set within a small but coherent community, but as a Hospitaller parish church with links to the Knights of St John. The prime task, therefore, is to ensure that the building itself is preserved, and its identity remains.

Three possible schemes have been put forward. I do not need to rehearse these, nor the most dreadful one: to allow the church to deteriorate and have a long, slow and painful death. 

The simplest is to vest the church with the Church Conservation Trust. Sadly, as I understand it, calls upon the Trust are so great and their funds are so limited, that there is no realistic possibility of such a vesting taking place.

The work of the relatively recently formed Friends of St Peter has been outstanding, and I pay tribute to them and to the passion and efficiency with which they are carrying out their task. My heart supports them as they seek to make the church available to people both from the local community and further afield. My concern, however, is that there is no evidence that sufficient and on-going funds would be available to make it a viable option, and that even raising sufficient funds to do the urgent building work would be well-nigh impossible. There is a letter of support from the Library and Museum of the Order of St John which states “Our own organisation would be willing to assist”, but there is no suggestion that such assistance would be financial. Further, as a member of the Council of St John Kent, I am confident that they do not have spare funds for such projects. Indeed, like the Church, they are fully stretched trying to support the living work of the organisation and its members. They also state: “It does have the potential to attract visitors from far afield, as well as use by people in the area.” As I understand it, the existing chapel of the commandery nearby receives very few visitors, and certainly nowhere near enough to support the maintenance of the building. Sad though it undoubtedly is, Swingfield is not on a footpath nor a heritage trail, and its location is unlikely to attract the hundreds of visitors from outside that would be needed. I am told that last year only six people asked for the church key.

Having paid tribute to the Friends, I must also pay tribute to those who with energy and imagination have pursued the proposal and have stuck with the other plan: to convert the church into a single dwelling. They have remained faithful to their vision, and I am grateful that all these years later they are still prepared to go ahead. The Planning Inspector’s report spells out just how carefully their plans have been laid in order both to retain the building structurally, and also to enable it to be re-converted should that time and need ever come. Their plan is viable and realistic, and I consider that it is the only way for the building to be retained in its integrity. I am encouraged by the Inspector who in his report says of such a proposal “the most important objective is … to ensure that the fabric, the special architectural and historic interest of the building and its setting are maintained and preserved in good condition. On the evidence available … the proposed use would provide the best means of achieving that objective.”

So I am completely and wholeheartedly in support of the appropriation of St Peter’s to residential use and urge the Committee to enable the plans for the building to be taken forward without delay. As I read it, both the PCC and the Parish Council have given their support to this proposal … but want to be assured about the second major issue.

The churchyard. This is the second, and much more problematic, issue. If I read the papers correctly, the majority of those who have expressed concern or opposition to the proposals want reassurance on the one hand that they will continue to be free to visit and even maintain graves that are significant to them, and on the other hand do not want to have an area that is visually clearly part of that churchyard to be fenced off and converted into what is euphemistically called ‘an amenity area’, but which in practice they fear might be turned into a family garden like any other.

It is my belief that this aspect of the proposal is already being reconsidered leading, hopefully, to the satisfaction of all. Here there may still be a little work to be done. The prospective purchaser of the lease is very understanding of the views of local people. Of course, if the ‘development’ does take place then the new user is going to be living among them, and personal relationships are critical, particularly within such a small community. The proposer wishes therefore to be as amenable as possible, whilst properly wanting local people to understand that the occupants need to feel that they can sit out in that part of the property which is largely un-graved. Becoming a virtual prisoner within the building is not a realistic option!

Clearly any sort of fencing would intrude into an area that for centuries has been a place of peace and reflection among the graves of our ancestors. But such areas have traditionally been places where people have also sat to relax, to talk together, … and even, in olden days, to write poetry, to enjoy a gossip, a pipe or even a sandwich!

To my mind, the challenge here is for country people to do what they have done for centuries: to live and let live. Those who live in the church/home must accept the sensitivities of those who come to visit and tend graves. Those who have graves of relatives there must accept that the area of land which up to now has been designated as an ‘amenity area’ will be used appropriately by the occupiers of the church/home.

A decision not to fence or mark the ‘amenity area’ means that there will be no need to fence or mark a means of access. Thus the area will retain its character. Mrs Prebble and her family will have access to their ancestors’ graves and the assurance that these and any other graves will not be disturbed. But they must equally accept that churchyards have never been places reserved for one sort of activity only, and must accept that appropriate other activities on some of the land neither disturbs, nor fails to respect, the integrity of those whose remains lie nearby.

I hope that this is helpful and look forward to hearing the fruits of your deliberations on 18th October. May I urge the members of your Committee to make a decision at that meeting so that we all know where we are. As you would expect, I encourage them to accept the proposals of my committee!

Yours sincerely,

Cc The Revd David Naumann
Ms Gill Marsh

Copper recovered from farm after robbery

Contributed by editor on Oct 10, 2006 - 09:09 PM


Copper worth more than £20,000, thought to have been stolen during a robbery near Dover, has been recovered from a farm near Deal.

About 26 tonnes of the metal worth £100,000 were stolen by masked robbers in an attack o­n a 54-year-old lorry driver o­n Tuesday night (3 October) at Charlwood Ltd, in the Portzone at Old Park, Whitfield near Dover.

The driver was walking towards his lorry when he was approached by two men who dragged him to the side of another truck and took his keys and mobile phone.  He was then hit in the face.

A third man then appeared carrying an iron bar who then tied the man’s hands together and threatened him with the bar. The men then used the tractor unit from the lorry driver’s vehicle to steal the trailer loaded with 26 tonnes of copper. All three men were wearing black ski masks and black clothing.

Gary Charlwood, who owns the company, has appealed to anyone who may have seen the lorry or heard the copper being unloaded, to contact police.

Neighbourhood Watch - 10 October 2006

Contributed by editor on Oct 10, 2006 - 07:51 PM



Neighbourhood Watch have reported that police are investigating an incident in which two men were found lying in the road on the A20 London bound at Sellinge near to Otterpool Lane last Sunday morning (8 October) and are appealing for the drivers of both a car and a lorry to contact them.

One of the men died from his multiple injuries and the other was taken to Hospital in Ashford where he remains in a serious but stable condition.

It is thought the men received their injuries whilst a lorry was carrying out a reversing manoeuvre and the lorry driver may not have been aware that the men were there.

Police would like to speak to the driver of a lorry which is described as a creamy/white coloured cab with an articulated trailer. They would also like to speak to the driver of a gold or silver coloured saloon car. This vehicle drove past shortly after the incident. It is believed that these drivers could have important information.

Did you by any chance happen to drive past and see a lorry manoeuvring or has a friend or relative told you that they saw an incident?

If you could assist with any information concerning this incident please would you contact the Serious Crash Investigation Unit on 01622 798538.


Sally Coleman, Parish & NHW Liaison Officer 07870 999892 

PC Trevor Moody  07980 770583

Village Warden Tanya Clark 07811 271303

Swingfield notebook - 10 October 2006

Contributed by editor on Oct 10, 2006 - 12:50 AM


Swingfield Parish Council New Councillor

The Parish Council elected Steven Godden of Swingfield Street to fill the recent vacancy that arose because of the resignation of Paul Major. The election was contested by two candidates.

St. Peter's Church, Swingfield

The Chairman reported to the Council about the three meetings he had had with Church representatives both here and in London with the aim of securing Council policy and interests, and thus hopefully improving the current Redundancy Scheme ahead of the meeting of the Redundant Churches Committee in London on the 18th.October.

He reminded Councillors that planning for residential use had already been granted four years ago and that the Church was now keen to progress matters. Furthermore the Church has made it abundantly clear in writing that they are not interested in the proposals of the Friends of St. Peter's.

The Chairman reported that the Church had agreed to the following:

1. No area of the Churchyard is to be enclosed.

2. There will be a sitting out area to the north of the Church and approximately bounded by the Yew trees with no delineations on the ground.

3. The Churchyard will remain an 'open' Churchyard. i.e. the current uses and visiting rights will remain.

4. One will be able to visit the inside of the converted church on giving reasonable notice to the Lessee,

5. No vehicles of any description to use either the church or village green path, except should it be necessary during the period of restoration.

6. Continued protection for the Lych gate and War Memorial and use as a war memorial.

7. No permitted development rights.

8. The Church to come to a separate legal agreement with the Parish Council over the path of an oil pipe for central heating and to indemnify the Parish Council against any possible damage to the village green/path, now and into the future. 

9. The above clauses to be clearly set out in the Redundancy Scheme or the Heads of Terms Agreement.

The Council ratified these points and agreed that the Chairman of the Council will represent them in London on the 18th.October, with the discretion to do what is necessary at the meeting to carry out Council policy.

Colin Tearle

Village Warden news - 10 October 2006

Contributed by editor on Oct 10, 2006 - 12:30 AM



CHURCHILL SCHOOL WALKING BUS- The meeting held on 05/10/06 at the school went well. 6-7 parents turned up and from the meeting was a positive outcome. They elected a co-ordinator and a route will now be sent to KCC to be inspected. If you did miss the meeting and are interested in joining the scheme before it starts, please contact the school or myself to register. It is hoped the bus will be up and running by December. Thankyou to all supporting the scheme so far.

BOGUS CALLERS/ROGUE TRADERS- There have been a few incidents of bogus callers in the area over the last couple of weeks. Please be extra vigilant when answering the door to callers, always put your chain on and do not let anyone in that you dont know. Please do contact me with any concerns or information of callers or traders within the area.

CRIME- There have been reports throughout the district of a growing number of thefts from vehicles fitted with Sat Nav systems. Please ensure if your vehicle is fitted with this equipment, you do not leave it on display whilst the vehicle is unattended. 

Tanya Clark
Village Warden

Telephone:- 07811 271303 

Hawkinge Angels event

Contributed by editor on Oct 10, 2006 - 12:05 AM



07786 420849
07737 749602

Hawkinge Angels invite you to attend a presentation about Irlen Syndrome given by Janet Edwards; a local trained and licensed Irlen Diagnostician.

Irlen syndrome is a specific type of perceptual problem. It can cause light sensitivity; poor depth perception; eyestrain; attention deficit disorders; contrast and colour sensitivity; restricted span; inefficient reading and distortions on the printed page and in the environment. Sufferers from Irlen Syndrome have found the effects of Irlen lenses can improve reading, headaches, anxiety, confidence, behaviour and other conditions such as Asperger Syndrome, ADD or ADHD and autism, head injuries and a variety of other medical problems.

Please come along to the Small Hall in Hawkinge Community Centre on 23rd October at 12pm. Everybody welcome, crèche facilities available. This will be an extremely interesting and useful talk that will be relevant for many of our members.

Mystery surrounds 'asylum seeker' road death

Contributed by editor on Oct 09, 2006 - 10:30 AM


The body of a man found lying on a main road by a passing motorist, next to another man who was seriously injured, was discovered on the London-bound carriageway of the A20 at Sellindge on Sunday morning (8 October). 

It is not known how long the men had been lying there. Paramedics took the injured man who suffered broken bones to hospital in Ashford. 

His condition is said to be "serious but stable". The other man was pronounced dead at the scene. 

Police spokesman, Jon Green said: “We think the two men were run over by a lorry driver while he was reversing his vehicle but that he may not have even been aware that the men were there.

“Police would like to speak to the driver of the lorry, which is described as an off-white coloured articulated trailer and cab, and also the driver of a gold or silver coloured saloon car, which drove past shortly after the incident."

But in a report on today's website, they claim the men were Iraqi asylum seekers who had fallen from a lorry.

Tit Bits - 9 October 2006

Contributed by editor on Oct 09, 2006 - 12:10 AM

New political party plans to restore Shepway to an efficient local authority......

I understand the proposed new open prison in Dover could be the done deal that many of the protestors feared. Seems that the MoD were giving the Prisons minister the hard sell at his visit on Thursday, so I hear. Anyone taking bets? 

After months of speculation, a reliable source has told me that Shepway is about to see the birth of a new political party whose aims are apparently to restore Shepway to an "efficient" local authority. After a meeting last week at Postling, a group made up of people disenchanted with the current council, are coming together to form an alliance. Although the group are cagey about giving away too many details, I understand it is made up of members from all areas of Shepway and they are planning to field candidates at the next council elections in May 2007.

Couldn't believe my eyes yesterday when I saw the vast number of cars in the Community Centre car park. Great to see them hosting a large event for a change. Shame though that the disabled ramp from the village hall had a car parked across it. It really is time the Parish Council stopped shilly-shallying around and sorted out this footpath once and for all. Reminds me of a variation on "the change a light bulb" joke: How many Parish Councillors does it take to build a footpath? A: None. Shepway Council would have done it for them for nothing (if only the PC had taken up their offer). Yes I know it's satire but the whole business is really no laughing matter.

Would you like to contribute to my page of tit bits?


Council is not looking at the big picture

Contributed by editor on Oct 08, 2006 - 12:58 PM


Dear Ed,

I would like to know why Ashford council are always avoiding the issues of giving kids and their parents places to go. I have nine kids and everywhere is always vandalised or not safe. 

I bought a motorbike for myself and for my kids and we were quite happy going to a place called by the locals, Kingtree woods. This has now had to stop yet again because there's always the idiots that want to mess it up for other people. 

I never knew that the land was owned by someone and have been going there for almost a year. Its always been pleasant and my kids loved going there. We always take our rubbish home with us and if a person is walking their dog we would stop and wait for them to leave. Now we have no where to go.

Its ok for everyone building stupid places that we as residents can't use or have no use for. Kids here don't want tennis courts and silly play parks that last a month or two. 

The council is not looking at the big picture all the kids are not 4 to 5 years old, although the council seems to think so. My  kid's ages range from 15 to 4 and there is nothing to do here.

All the bike tracks cost too much and most parents can't afford or get to them. The council in Kent needs a big wake up call and I would like advice and pointers as to what we as residents can do to make life better for all living here.


Editor's note: We have contacted Ashford Borough Council for their comments and are awaiting a reply

Protestors block escape of Prisons minister

Contributed by editor on Oct 08, 2006 - 10:59 AM


The Prisons minister Gerry Sutcliffe, got a taste of life behind bars when protesters fighting plans for an open prison on the former Connaught Barracks in Dover blocked the exit to the proposed site when he visited on Thursday (5 October).

In the pouring rain the government minister was unable to leave the barracks until Dover MP Gwyn Prosser, braved the elements and negotiated with the angry demonstrators, while the minister sat, reading his papers in the back of the car. 

There were no police on duty to oversee the demonstration of some 50 protestors and to clear a passage for the minister to drive out of the former barracks.

He toured the building with Dover MP Gwyn Prosser before meeting councillors and community groups. Later, he said a decision would be made "within days". 

The MP, the council and residents have opposed the government plans. More than 11,000 people have signed a petition. 

A respected source indicated to the Gazette that they hold out little hope the plans will be dropped. It was announced this week that Stanford Hill Prison at Eastchurch in North Kent may be upgraded to a category 'C' gaol which could see a large number of category 'D' inmates needing to be dispersed to other open prisons in the area.