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Urgent improvements to be decided on for 'at risk' Grade II listed St James' Church, Dover

By Dean Kilpatrick, local democracy reporter

A decision on how to best preserve a Grade-II listed building in Dover has been delayed by councillors.

Dover District Council’s cabinet says it wants more information about what needs to be carried out on the ruins of St James’ Church before reaching a verdict.

The 12th century structure was placed on Historic England's heritage at risk register for the first time last year when a series of works deemed to be “immediately necessary” were identified by experts.

St James' Church, Dover
St James' Church, Dover

Council officers wanted to install a scaffold girdle and undertake “essential stabalising work” to “arrest further deterioration”, but the matter was deferred by members earlier today (February 4).

Cllr Trevor Bartlett (Con), portfolio holder for property management and environmental health, said: “We’ve been thinking about this and just wondered whether we could go back with this one.

“We’re concerned about how long potentially the scaffolding might be up, whether we could look more into the lighting, and whether there’s more funding available from an outside heritage body.”

A stroll around St James' Church shows parts of the ruin's impressive architecture which survived Hitler's bombs
A stroll around St James' Church shows parts of the ruin's impressive architecture which survived Hitler's bombs

Cabinet papers identified St James’ Church as being “unstable” in places, caused by the structure’s age but also anti-social behaviour “abuse” such as graffiti and the site being used as a toilet.

Officers also wanted to reinstate metal railings to “safeguard” St James’ from such damage associated with being used as a “shelter”, but the matter will have to be debated again before any work is carried out.

It is also felt improvements would enhance the town's tourism offering.

A side view of St James' Church from the Dover Leisure Centre
A side view of St James' Church from the Dover Leisure Centre

The report debated during the meeting reads: "The church occupies a prominent position, particularly in relation to the new St James development, and its degrading condition is an unwelcome distraction for visitors."

Badly damaged during the Second World War, St James’ Church is seen as a memorial to Dovorians who died as a result of shelling during the conflict.

Cllr Nigel Collor (Con) said any works carried out needed to be “tasteful” considering the site’s heritage.

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