A historic windmill has been given a lifeline in a community’s fight to protect it from developers.
It comes after Kent County Council (KCC) bosses announced the authority was considering selling eight windmills it owns, including the Herne site.
In response to this, Friends of Herne Mill – a charity which looks after the mill and runs events from it as well as public tours – rallied around in a bid to save it from being sold off.
Herne Mill – which features on the village’s school badge and parish council crest – is a Grade I-listed windmill and was nominated as an ACV by the charity.
Herne and Broomfield Parish Council chairman Cllr Carol Davis backs the charity’s efforts to save the mill and is urging KCC not to put the “death knell on the iconic mill”.
Secretary Monica Blyth says the ACV status means the charity gets six months to raise funds if KCC decides to put Herne Mill on the market.
“Friends of Herne Mill registered it and it does give us time although that is all it gives us,” she said.
“Because we have no idea what the cost is going to be, it’s very difficult to plan in advance – there’s no indication of how much the mills would be sold for and whether or not it would be cheap for the community or if they need to get the best value.
“If we have a cost of having to purchase as well as maintenance, that means we need to raise a lot of money.
“But, ultimately it’s certainly helpful to know we’ve got that timeframe but obviously we are still very much hoping that they decide they can find the funding for the windmill, even if it’s only for another year.”
Nominating something as an asset of community value is a way for community groups to protect assets from being sold to private owners.
If the owner decides to sell, they have to notify the local authority registering the ACV – in the mill’s case, Canterbury City Council – and it will notify local organisations.
If a community interest group or a charity puts in an expression of interest, the sale has to pause for six months, to give them time to raise the money to acquire the asset.
In a council meeting last month, city council cabinet member for heritage Cllr Charlotte Cornell (Lab) said she would give her full support to the community group wishing to preserve the mill which she said is a key part of the village’s economic heritage, a key learning resource and geographical marker.
The site was provisionally listed as an ACV on December 18 and ratified by council officers earlier this week.
A CCC spokesperson added: “KCC has a duty to protect windmills’ historic fabric and machinery and ensure they are safe.
“CCC emphasises the importance of these windmill sites remaining accessible to the local community/wider public as important historical and educational structures, particularly where these have a longstanding track record of performing such roles.”
The results from KCC’s consultation, which ended on January 29, will be presented to its Environment and Transport Cabinet Committee before a decision is made by its cabinet member for the environment on whether or not to sell the eight windmills it owns.
KCC bought the mills between the late 1960s and mid-1980s and any new owners must keep to specific stipulations.
Windmills across the county at risk include Chillenden Mill near Dover, Union Mill in Cranbrook, Drapers Mill in Margate, Killick’s Mill in Meopham, Davisons Mill in Stelling Minnis near Folkestone, West Kingsdown Mill near Sevenoaks and Stocks Mill in Wittersham near Ashford.
Papers set out by KCC for the consultation says the authority needs to “limit spending” to balance the books adding one way of doing so is by “keeping capital spending to a minimum” while stating: “The level of spend on windmills in comparison to all other assets must be questioned.”