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Faversham War Memorial Cross

23/502054/LBC | Listed Building Consent to dismantle the Faversham War Memorial and re-erect in the centre of the Memorial garden, including formation of a proposed new peace corner, comprising interpretation boards with local reflections, raised bed for planting wooden crosses on site of existing War Memorial, and associated access path. Removal of iron railing fence, and repair and re-laying of existing paving. | War Memorial Stone Street Faversham Kent ME13 8PZ

The Faversham Society objects strongly to this planning application on two grounds: process and the treatment of a Grade II Listed building. Despite changes in detail, this proposal is fundamentally unaltered from that which rightly was refused Listed Building consent in 2016.  

After WW1 Faversham was unusual in that there were three monuments erected to the memory of those who died in the war effort.

  • The Memorials to the victims of the 1916 Faversham Munitions Explosion, Grade II* Faversham Cemetery, Love Lane, Faversham, Kent, ME13 8BJ [List Entry Number: 1261010],
  •  a new ward in the Faversham Cottage Hospital opened in 1922 (see Cornfoot, 1985), and
  • the Faversham War Memorial, Grade II [List Entry Number:1418393]

Our forebears decided to site the War Memorial Cross on the corner of Stone Street and Roman Road in the Cottage Hospital Garden. The Faversham Society submits that the decision of the bereft generation to site the cross on the corner and on the Cottage Hospital Gardens should be respected. This setting is fundamental to its significance. It was the local branch of the Federation of Discharged and Demobilised Soldiers and Sailors which applied to the Cottage Hospital Trust for permission to erect a cross on those Hospital Grounds.

We do not accept that the “visual prominence of the War Memorial has declined”. Historic photographs in the Society’s collection clearly record the original detailing of the monument and its setting. From these it is clear:

a) that the distorted railings behind the monument are the historic  remains of the original 1897 enclosure of the gardens by  the Hospital trustees,

b) that the present holly tree is self-sown, not part of any landscape design and did not exist until sometime after the 1948 WWII commemorative works

c) the present low gates, side railings and granite columns are part of the post-WII commemoration and are, therefore, of historical significance in themselves and should on no account be disturbed.

The Cottage Hospital Garden was given and created to provide respite for patients and staff in the Cottage Hospital and their visitors. The hospital treated many war wounded and many Faversham families before and after the war, visited dying family and friends there and sought solace in the Hospital Garden. 

Process

The ownership of the garden on the corner where the war memorial was erected in 1922 was transferred to Faversham Borough Council by the Hospital trustees in 1948 and therefore re-transferred to Swale at local government reorganisation in  1974. Swale Borough Council is, we assert, the owner responsible for holding it in trust for the people of Faversham.

The Faversham War Memorial Committee membership is unknown and Swale apparently has no knowledge of who they are or how they are constituted  [https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/faversham_war_memorial_group_mee]. We do not accept that this shadowy and self-appointed group, apparently accountable to no one, has the right to make further alterations to this Listed monument which also sits within the Conservation  Area.

The Faversham War Memorial Committee neither owns the land nor the Listed monument nor does it represent the people of Faversham, whom it has not consulted. Although denied Listed Building Consent to move the cross in 2016, the Faversham War Memorial Committee nonetheless went ahead and, despite considerable public opposition, transformed the Cottage Hospital Garden into a war memorial, presumably with the tacit support of Swale officers. 

The applicant has not established that it is necessary for structural reasons to move the cross, which was sited where it is by those who suffered loss and maiming in WW1. In the Faversham Society's view, the Armistice Day service each year is conducted with a road closure, as it should. The cross should remain undisturbed, where our forebears chose to place it.

The suggestion that the cross be relocated was rejected in 2016. The circumstances have not changed. The grounds for refusal of Listed Building Consent in 2016 were:-

“(1)  The dismantling, re-location and re-erection of the war memorial will involve moving an historic and well loved monument to a new and less appropriate location which will damage and result in harm to the setting and historic context of the listed building, and be harmful to the character of the Faversham conservation area, contrary to saved policies E14 and E15 of The Swale Borough Local Plan 2008.

(2) The dismantling, re-location and re-erection of the war memorial is likely to result in the danger of damage to the monument which would be harmful to the listed building contrary to saved policy E14 of The Swale Borough Local Plan 2008.”

These grounds for refusal are as valid today as they were in 2016 when there were 74 letters of objection summarised in the Planning Committee Report

  • This would go against the wishes of the people who placed the memorial here originally
  • These gardens were maintained by volunteers; to change them is an insult to these people
  • Present layout is superior to that proposed
  • Street closures will still have to happen, and this is a fitting mark of respect
  • Unnecessary waste of public money
  • There are no traffic difficulties
  • The proposals do not reflect the desires of the local community
  • A safe place for both adults and children to relax
  • ‘From the drawings, the proposed appearance of the garden is rather brutalist and old-fashioned with too much gloomy hard material.’
  • A haven for wildlife
  • The Royal Horticultural Society discourages the use of hard surfaces in gardens fronting streets
  • Present garden instils a sense of civic pride
  • The current position of the memorial is a very visible reminder for everyone
  • No-one has taken the views of the volunteer gardeners into account
  • Other potential sites for a memorial should be considered instead
  • ‘The proposed plans will make it a dead place full of stone and concrete that is too small to be a parade ground’
  • Present garden offers a refuge for hospital visitors and staff
  • ‘Blenwood contractors are now back to taking our council tax money to brutally strim the grass and ignore the weeds. I don’t imagine it will be any different when the new design has been executed.’
  • ‘Remembrance should be about educating children in schools and through community talks, rather than a parade ground for a service once a year. If the applicants want a parade ground, perhaps they should look for another site.’
  • The public consultation exercise was heavily against any changes, not in favour
  • Can Swale act impartially in this matter?
  • There are already separate memorials containing the names of the dead
  • The harm does not outweigh the public benefit
  • Other events, such as the Hop Festival, generate far more traffic management issues
  • Proposal does not ‘embrace localism’
  • Only ‘dignitaries’ will be allowed to enter the gardens on Remembrance Day
  • ‘The proposed changes turn the space into a mausoleum, and I do not want that on my doorstep. Is that about to affect the value of my property?’
  • A metal wall plaque could adequately display the names of the fallen
  • ‘The charmingly discreet and understated war memorial has served generations, and its lack of grandiose scale adds to its humanity and poignancy.’
  • ‘Many of the townsfolk want to keep our only public garden, and not turn it into a Garden of Remembrance/Parade Ground.’
  • ‘I object to the way in which the plans would make the memorial – and the commemorative stones – the dominant feature of a park that is, at the moment, not primarily a place of memorial but has multiple uses, mainly rest and contemplation. With all respect for the young men who were scandalously sent to their deaths by the officer class, a war that is 100 years old will from now on increasingly become distant history, and it seems a huge waste of money to upgrade this memorial, especially when money for essential services is scarce.’
  • ‘I see this entire project not as respect for the fallen but a means for certain people to make their mark!’
  • The proposal does not conserve and enhance the architectural and historic fabric
  • The comments expressed by the War Memorials Trust should be noted
  • ‘A Vanity Project’”

The objectives of providing better access for people will limited mobility and recording the names of those who lost their lives in WW1 and WW2 have been met by the changes already made.

The Design and Access Statement contains several unsubstantiated claims about public support. There is certainly not “universal acclaim”. As in 2016, there has again been no public consultation. A small, secretive group is seeking to make changes to public property and a Listed monumnet which is important to the residents of Faversham who lost family in two world wars, without any public consultation process. The changes made to the Cottage Hospital Garden are not a “successful scheme enjoyed by all.”

Treatment of  Grade II Listed monument

The cross was located where it would be seen by people walking, cycling or driving along Stone Street, on a corner with Roman Road where it is necessary to slow down and often stop. Those passing by are reminded of those who gave their lives and those bereaved. If the cross is removed, it will be set back in a less prominent place.

The holly tree appears to be self-set and is described by the arboriculturalist from Banbury as “a moderate quality example of its species”. If it becomes a significant threat to the cross, it could be removed and replaced at some point in the future. The cross is in no imminent danger.

Significance is defined in the NPPF as ‘the value of a Heritage Asset to this and future generations because of its heritage interest. Such interest may be archaeological, architectural, artistic or historic and it may derive not only from a Heritage Asset’s physical presence, but also from its setting.”

In the Heritage Statement the applicant refers to the fact that there is now “ a set of Memorial slabs with the names of the fallen in the adjacent, but distinct, garden, and the obvious focus for the event has been split, which the applicants feel is less satisfactory.” This is a situation entirely of the applicant’s recent making, which despite their statement to the contrary, was vigorously opposed by many in Faversham.  

In our view, it is not appropriate to relocate the attractive granite Celtic Cross to sit in front of a slab of stark white stone and a wall of yellow stock brick.

Despite statements by the Applicants in their Executive Summary, the context, meaning and setting of this Memorial have NOT changed in any way. They remain what they have always been and what is stated on or by the Memorial itself - an honouring and remembrance by the people of Faversham of those killed in the two World Wars and an exhortation to the living not to forget their sacrifice.  In this case, past or recent changes to adjacent road and pavement surfaces, traffic conditions and local vegetation are utterly irrelevant justifications for the proposed changes.  There were no generations more aware of disabilities and the disabled than those that lived through the two World Wars.  The present memorial is the form of memory chosen by those who were bereaved, traumatised and grieved and it is not now for us to alter it to suit an unwanted environment created by the whims of a later generation.

The views of the WMT are recorded in the papers which went to the Planning Committee in 2016. We concur with these views and see no reason to disregard this representation now.

“The War Memorials Trust raises objection to the proposal. It should be noted that the WMT is not a statutory consultee, but I am of the opinion that their views are important in this case. For the sake of regularity, I note their comments in full:

‘Thank you for providing War Memorials Trust (WMT) with the opportunity to comment on planning application reference 16/504008/LBC/ANSP. WMT wish to make the following comments:

Significance of location and listed status (NPPF paragraphs 132 and 133):

  • WMT consider that the original location of a war memorial contributes to the historic, architectural, and communal interest of the monument. In this instance, this significance is also acknowledged by the Grade ll listed status of the war memorial.
  • WMT take the view that the original location of a war memorial has communal value given it was deliberately chosen by the community at the time and that those decisions in relation to location should, as far as possible, be respected.
  • We advise that there must be a compelling justification for relocation – either that the memorial has become entirely inaccessible and/or is at significant risk in some way (for example, a plaque within a building that is due for demolition must be relocated).
  • Additionally, the dismantling of a war memorial can cause irreversible damage to the fabric of the monument.
  • As such, the application in its current form does not meet our criteria to justify relocation.
  • The potential harm to the significance of the war memorial is covered under paragraphs 132 and 133 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which states that any proposed developments that may harm the significance of a designated heritage asset should be refused.
  • The proposed site is located within Faversham Conservation Area, which notes the garden ‘complements the C19/early C20 character of the street, as its purpose was originally to ensure privacy for patients in the hospital, it also has a noteworthy historic origin.’ The extent of the proposed redevelopment of the garden would significantly alter the original design and detract from its historic significance. This is not to say that recording the names of those who lost their lives in the garden is inappropriate, but this does not require the relocation of the memorial. The primary function of the garden through its association with the hospital should be respected.
  • This is covered under paragraph 138 of the NPPF which states that proposed developments which lead to the loss of a significant element of a Conservation Area should be refused if these will cause substantial harm.

Relationship to Faversham Cottage Hospital (NPPF paragraph 128):

  • As advised, WMT consider the location and setting of a war memorial an intrinsic part of its historical, architectural, and communal significance. The Design, Access, Impact and Heritage Statement for this application does not appear to consider the significance of the current site or the affect that relocation will have on the significance of the listed asset as required by the NPPF paragraph 128. The pleasing corner location was most likely chosen because of the prominence of the site in relation to Faversham Cottage Hospital, which received funds following the First World War for a new X-Ray unit. This deliberate composition and relationship would be lost if the war memorial were located within the garden.

Materials and the principle of like-for-like replacement:

  • The decision to replace the pre-cast concrete base with York stone will lead to the loss of historic fabric, which informs the design integrity of the memorial. The original materials should be maintained where possible through repair and conservation unless there is a compelling rationale to introduce new materials beyond aesthetic preference.

Addition of plinths with names of the fallen:

  • Based on the information available, it appears that Faversham war memorial has never had any names recorded on it. It is not uncommon for larger towns and cities not to record the names of those who lost their lives on freestanding war memorials but instead have these in a Book of Remembrance or Roll of Honour. The different ways in which those who lost their lives are recorded reflects the wishes of the community at the time and should be respected. If the Faversham War Memorial Group do decide to erect freestanding plinths to record the names of those who lost their lives the design of the existing war memorial should be respected and should not be relocated as part of the design. Alternatives should be considered which will allow the project to be undertaken without the significance of the memorial being affected.

Services and parades:

  • In our experience, few local authorities will refuse road closures to allow the holding of commemoration services or parade. WMT would advise further discussion between those bodies who have responsibility for highways and the community to agree temporary closures.

WMT advise that the application in its current form is one that would cause harm to the special interest of the listed asset and to the significance of the setting of the Conservation Area. Should project proposals be developed that do not adversely affect the significance of the war memorial, WMT would be happy to provide further comment or advice. WMT welcomes the interest the community has in the war memorial and hope that our advice can be utilised to progress proposals that are more sympathetic.’

June 7, 2023

Leave a Reply

2 comments on “Faversham War Memorial Cross”

  1. Reply to The War Memorial Garden Committee
    We still do not know who is on the War Memorial Garden Committee, who appointed them and to whom they are accountable. There has been no public consultation on the current plans.
    The fact that Society members were invited and may have attended the Applicant's past launch and dedication events does NOT necessarily mean they approved of or supported what the Memorial Committee had implemented. It certainly does not mean they support the current proposals. See also 11 & 12 below.
    The fact that other memorials (whether near or far) may have been moved does not make it any more acceptable to do the same thing here. Memorials are not playthings. Moving Listed buildings devalues their historic authenticity.

    A local precedent for moving a war memorial does not make a case for moving the Faversham one. The War Memorial Garden Committee has not provided a sufficient reason to move the War Memorial to overcome the NPPF's requirement that "there must be a compelling justification for relocation."
    The opinions of professionals interested in moving the Cross, does not mean there is no risk of damage in moving it. Granite is a brittle material and not easily repaired without that repair being obvious.
    The "long list of objections consist[ing} mainly of supposition and speculation" was reproduced from the formal paper which went to the Swale Planning Committee- it was not refuted then. Merely asserting that it is a list of "supposition and speculation" does not refute it. The Society maintains that, if reinstated, the original plinth arrangement shown in our photograph would be perfectly satisfactory for the laying of flowers and wreaths by those with disabilities.
    The Society accepts that the Memorial may be leaning slightly because of growth by the Holly. What we do NOT accept is that the present lean is a threat to the Memorial. The tree has a TPO by virtue of its location within the Conservation Area and is not part of a designed planting scheme. We do NOT agree that the tree's long-term survival is more important than maintaining the Listed Memorial in its original location.
    Historic England now rarely comments on list building or listed monument issues. Neglecting to comment does not amount to "no objection".
    The plain fact is that the naming of individuals did not happen in Faversham in 1923 & 1948 and that this 'non-naming' also happened in other locations. What is the historic relevance of doing so now, 100 and 75 years after the events?
    Some favourable comments may well have been made at the display/presentation held by the Applicant at the Town Offices. We are also aware that unfavourable ones were made too. As a Society, it is our responsibility to represent the views of our members and the fact is that from them we have received a considerable number of strongly held views against the current proposals and only one or two comments in support. Surprising as it may be to the Applicant, our continued formal objection to their proposal therefore summarises the clear majority view of our membership.

  2. This reply answers the inaccuracies and assertions of the formal Faversham Society response
    1 The War Memorial Garden Committee has previously been in correspondence with the Society wthat was invited to a launch event. The Mayor of Swale and many others including Faversham Society members came to the rededication of the garden and names.
    2 There is a strong local precedent as Sittingbourne's war memorial was moved half a mile, and Sheerness's considerably extended.
    3 No evidence that moving the cross would damage it. The Heritage Statement by a locally reputable heritage architect refutes this
    4 The long previous list of objections consists mainly of supposition and speculation
    5 There is well evidenced mobility issues from those who have previously laid wreathes at the cross that it is difficult and impossible for those with a disability..
    6 This objection simply fails to recognize the detrimental affect the preserved holly tree is having on the cross as evidenced in the application's aboricultural report
    7 The War Memorial Trust, a non statutory body, accepts that over 100 memorials have been moved
    8 Historic England a statutory body, had not objection to the previous application. Acceptance was recommended by planning officers
    9 The definitive book on UK WW1 monuments "Empires of the Dead" is categoric that names around crosses were the norm in most towns and villages.This is well evidenced around Faversham and across Kent.
    10 The Faversham branch of the Federation of ex-soldiers and sailors tried three times to establish a memorial with names after 1918. Many Faversham Relatives much appreciate naming of their loved ones and now plant their own crosses next to them.
    11 Legitimate planning grounds including, transport, mobility, conservation, and enhancement are set out clearly in the application. A presentation was made to Faversham Town Council in March 2023 and a display held in the Town offices when favourable comments were made.
    12 It is unfortunate that the centrality of the cross to the names of those killed, as is nationally recognized, is not accepted in the formal objection by The Faversham Society
    Mike Cosgrove Chairman of the Faversham Memorial Garden Committee

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