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Bid to stall county council plans to sell off Kent windmills fails

An attempt to stall a plan to sell off eight historic windmills has failed by the narrowest of margins.

Kent County Council (KCC) is proposing to dispose of the landmarks to save £850,000 over six years.

Meopham windmill is among the list of those that could be placed up for sale
Meopham windmill is among the list of those that could be placed up for sale

It hopes parish councils or small charities will take the Grade I and II listed windmills on and run them independently.

The eight are: Chillenden Mill, in Goodnestone, Dover; Davison’s Mill in Stelling Minnis; Drapers Mill in Margate; Herne Mill in Herne Bay; Killick’s Mill in Meopham; Stocks Mill in Wittersham, Ashford; Union Mill in Cranbrook and West Kingsdown Mill in Sevenoaks.

The matter was raised during an Environment and Transport Cabinet Committee meeting yesterday (Wednesday).

Liberal Democrat Cllr Ian Chittenden, supported by Labour’s Cllr Barry Lewis, moved a recommendation to reject the plan and halt the public consultation. It failed by a single vote.

In a passionate debate, KCC deputy leader Cllr Peter Oakford told members he recognised the subject as an “emotive and emotional” one.

Ian Chittenden
Ian Chittenden

But in KCC’s urgent need to save cash, all areas of spending had to be examined, he said.

By not finding new owners for the windmills, the authority would be unable to pay for them in a decade’s time.

Cllr Oakford said: “We have to save every penny we can. In 10 years’ time, we will not be able to afford to keep them and they will be falling into disrepair.”

Committee chairman Cllr Seán Holden said it was important that KCC safeguards the windmills. He said the annual cost per building over six years would be just £18,000.

He added: "I think we should be looking for savings elsewhere.”

County councillor Seán Holden
County councillor Seán Holden

Cllr Bryan Sweetland acknowledged the authority is “close to going bust” and agrees KCC must find savings.

But he warned: “I cannot believe that we will find anyone to take them on.”

The new owners would be responsible for the day-to-day maintenance of the windmills but the financial liabilities too.

The windmills were taken into KCC’s care in the past 70 years and most are in good condition.

In seven of the eight buildings, management agreements are in place between KCC and groups of ‘friends’ or volunteers.

The plan will now go out to a public consultation.

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