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Borstal village sign falls foul of clipboard brigade

The new Borstal village sign
The new Borstal village sign

Neighbours who got together to create their own village sign were stunned to be told they needed planning permission.

Churches, sports clubs, a school and WI groups were among those involved in making the new sign for Borstal.

They raised cash, came up with ideas, asked a Rochester artist to provide the artwork and hired a Strood company to make the sign.

But just as they were about to install it in pride of place outside the village hall, a Medway Council official said it was classed as an advert and therefore required consent.

Having spent all the £1,400 they had raised, it meant the group had to stump up an extra £300 to obtain the correct planning documents.

Sue Tester, chairman of the village retirement group Borstara, said: “It was like a bombshell. We had no idea we would need permission. Having worked so hard, it was a real pain in the butt.”

Boosted by a grant from ward councillor Kelly Tolhurst, they finally got the money together and 10 weeks later their application was approved.

The sign has been put up outside the hall in Wouldham Road and a formal unveiling is due to take place on December 11.

Sue and her friend from Borstara, Doreen Wadhams, were inspired to get a sign for Borstal after a guest speaker came to their group to talk about the history of village signs.
Grandmother Sue, who lives in Goddings Drive, said: “We just looked at each and nodded. For years Borstal has just been known as the road between Burham and Wouldham to Rochester.
“Most villages have their signs, so we thought why not? It gives us a sense of identity.”
Fellow Borstara member Don Cox, a retired art teacher who also used to paint the scenery for shows at Chatham’s Central Theatre, was approached.

Don, who lives in Canon Close, said “They pounced on me. It was quite a challenge because there was so much to get in, the cricket club, Fort Clarence, the motorway bridge and the Short’s flying boat.

“I found the research took me longer than the painting. It made me realise how much more there is to Borstal. As to the planning permission, that’s just bureacracy gone mad.”

Signmakers Fitzpatrick Woolmer, of Medway City Estate, used Don’s watercolour to create the sign and have asked him if he would be interested in taking on commissions.

A Medway Council spokesman said: “The group formally asked the planning department if advertisement consent was required. The answer was that it did. There is no problem with the sign, it’s just that it requires consent. These rules are set nationally.”

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