Home Kent News The ‘proud’ and once desolate seaside town now set for transformation

The ‘proud’ and once desolate seaside town now set for transformation

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Original article from Kent Live

Sheerness, one of the most impoverished parts of the UK, is slowly being transformed by a huge national lottery grant.

The town, once the place where Admiral Lord Nelson's body was brought, after he was shot and killed at the Battle of Trafalgar, is receiving a huge windfall after decades of neglect.

Once one of the busiest dockyards in the country, the Sheppey town thrived due to its position at the mouth of the Thames – a perfect spot for ships to be built and maintained.

However, savage spending cuts in the 1960s by Harold Macmillan's government saw the dockyards close, and much of the UK began its steady turn away from manufacturing that would be accelerated under Margaret Thatcher.


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However – some 60 years after the town's economic lifeblood was closed – hope is once again on the horizon.

Will Palin, son of TV royalty and Monty Python star Michael Palin, has spearheaded an extraordinary project to rejuvenate Sheerness.

Sheerness is amongst the UK's most deprived communities, having had its Dockyards closed 60 years ago.

A £8m development project of the derelict seafront church is underway and when finished will provide new facilities for youngsters in the area.

Much of this is funded by a £4.75m National Lottery grant in an effort to regenerate the historic dockyard town.

“The people of the town and this island are intensely proud of their heritage,” said Will.

“They are really excited about this project and recognise its potential to transform the town.

“They want this re-investment and as part of this to see these beautiful buildings properly cared for and managed."

'Forgotten'

The Sheerness Dockyard Preservation Trust – which is helping to lead the charge on regenerating Sheerness, was launched in 2014 and made the dock's historic church its first project.

The church closed back in the 1970s and was burnt out after an accidental fire 20 years ago.

Mr Palin added: “A lot of people here feel we are a forgotten part of England – when we say we are from the 'Isle of Sheppey' most people think we are off the coast of Scotland not in the Thames estuary and not that far from London!

“It really is a special place… [but] many of the old buildings here have faced an uncertain future.

"The magnificent church was just a burnt out shell – a sad memory of what a great dock this once was.”

The area never really recovered from the brutal closure of the dockyard with the loss of 2500 skilled jobs, but a strong sense of community remains to this day.

Poverty

Sheerness is one of the poorest towns in the country.

There are five food banks operating each week to feed those in need.

But the Dockyard Trust is determined to help give the island a lifeline with the new project.

The Trust was given a £4.75m grant from National Lottery Heritage fund and managed to raise another £4m from various other Trusts and Foundations to restore the church.

Tommy Stower, 21, a local lad from Sheerness, has a job as a trainee carpenter and labourer on the project.

He said: “I've loved working here and it's so good the church is being restored as it was such an important part of the town's history.”

Trustee Amicia de Moubray said: “Will has been a true visionary. His work has made an incredible difference to Sheerness and the Isle of Sheppey.

“And it will have a positive impact on the youngsters of this area for decades to come.”

Original Article