Published: 06:00, 09 September 2020
A pensioner has been issued with a written warning by council officers after he attempted to preserve an historic fountain which has fallen into disrepair.
Folkestone resident Bob Mouland, 71, took it on himself to make repairs to the unique but run-down Sidney Cooper Weston Fountain, which sits in the Bruce Porter Garden on the corner of Wear Bay Road in the town.
The cast iron sculpture, which is more than 100 years old, no longer works as a fountain and over the years has rusted and been left with peeling paint.
For the last month Mr Mouland has visited the fountain daily and spent hours restoring and painting it, to prevent it falling into an even worse state.
But at 1pm Monday this week, he was approached by an officer from Folkestone and Hythe District Council who asked him to stop painting.
When Mr Mouland refused, the enforcement officer returned with two more colleagues and they issued him with a community protection warning - a notice that comes under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.
According to legislation.gov.uk, the community protection notice is intended to deal with "unreasonable, ongoing problems or nuisances which negatively affect the community’s quality of life by targeting the person responsible".
The legislation consolidated previous powers, the most well-known of which were anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs).
Mr Mouland was told to sign the form and stop his work on the fountain.
Town councillor Mary Lawes, a friend of Mr Mouland, said: "Good for Bob Mouland.
"The fountain was in a very poor state and Bob has done what the council wouldn’t do. He has revitalised as well as protected the bottom part of the fountain."
Cllr Lawes said a "shocked" Mr Mouland stopped at her house to let her know that he was issued with the warning.
She added: "The council seemed a bit heavy handed, as only three lower areas need glossing and the fountain would have been finished.
"Bob genuinely wants to support the towns's heritage for its people.
"Bob paid for all the paint and equipment himself and has overwhelming support from the community."
Mr Mouland added: "71 years without a blemish on my record, now this."
The fountain was built in 1897 and was created at the Brittania Iron Works by Andrew Handyside & Co in memory of photographer Sidney Cooper Weston, a Christian philanthropist, a temperance advocate and member of The Society Of Friends who worked tirelessly for the town.
It is the only one of its kind in the world.
It originally sat along The Leas in Folkestone providing water to the public, local 'cabbies' and their horses.
In 1922 it was moved to its current location to make room for the war memorial at the top of Remembrance Hill.
But the Parks and Pleasure Grounds Charity Trustees, which is made up of Folkestone and Hythe council cabinet members and who own the fountain, have confirmed the fountain will be staying put.
Cllr Lawes added: "The council has never done a thing to it.
"The fountain would have been in a really awful state if it had not been for a couple of local councillors, the community and the New Folkestone Society over the years.
"They too had cleaned up and repainted the fountain."
Members of group Go Folkestone are in the process of applying for Heritage Lottery Funds to refurbish the fountain completely and return it to its former glory, which will cost tens of thousands of pounds.
A Folkestone and Hythe council spokesman said: "We were unaware someone had taken it upon themselves to carry out work on the fountain.
"It is a listed structure and - as such - can only be worked on with the relevant permissions.
"A Community Protection Warning was issued and signed by the individual, with our officers explaining the consequences of continuing to work on the fountain without the relevant permissions.
"The individual then left the site.
"Officers have been working with local stakeholders including Go Folkestone, which is putting a funding bid together for the full restoration of the fountain. This is supported by Folkestone Parks and Pleasure Grounds Charity trustees.
"The council is always pleased to work with local residents and groups, but this must be done in the right way by contacting us first and gaining permission."