Published: 10:35, 20 November 2020
| Updated: 10:43, 20 November 2020
Sheppey has been given an early Christmas present of £250,000 to spend on special projects.
The surprise cash bonanza was announced by Swale council leader Roger Truelove in a reply to Island councillor Elliott Jayes.
Cllr Jayes (Swale Independents Alliance, Sheppey Central) picked last Wednesday’s full council meeting, as it fell on Armistice Day, to ask for help to pay for a new war memorial wall in Sheerness, devised by Cllr Peter MacDonald.
Sheerness Town Council has already pledged £28,000 towards the foundations and paving.
The 30ft wall, built of Portland Stone, would be constructed behind the existing war memorial in Bridge Road, Sheerness and include the names of 1,606 Islanders who lost their lives in the two world wars and other conflicts.
Cllr Truelove (Lab, Homewood) said: “We are establishing a Sheppey improvement fund of £250,000 for small capital projects and I would ask the area committee to bid for the memorial. This will enable the project to proceed without Island members using their members’ grants or the area committee’s Special Projects fund.”
He said more money would be spent on Sheerness town centre improvements and the council was planning other “larger capital investments” on the Island.
He added: “We are confident this is the right thing to do. We are determined to improve the public realm in Swale and need to equalise for Sheppey the funding we have recently devoted to other areas. Sheppey is also acknowledged to have areas of deprivation needing more public investment - not just from us.”
He said the council also wanted to refurbish Masters House, the former council offices in Trinity Road, to create space for small Island firms and “other community uses” and to provide a new public toilet in the town.
Queenborough Fisheries Trust and Peel Ports have agreed to stump up a further £10,000 between them to support the wall and to ensure the war memorial surroundings are wheelchair-friendly.
Cllr MacDonald, 80, (Con, Sheppey Central) said: “We are now in a position to start. We just need a little more money.”
The campaign for a wall of names began after the late Sidney Pepper complained that none of his school friends who died were featured on the town’s main memorial.
Cllr MacDonald said: “I knew there were names missing. I have had help from Derek Gray and Peter West of Eastchurch Aviation Museum to validate all the extra names of those who died in the First and Second World Wars and other conflicts. The sheer number is astonishing.”
He says if the project had gone out to tender it could cost £500,000 but he believes it can be done for less than £150,000.
He said: “It is still a lot of money but Sheppey deserves something of quality."
He has been in talks with Albion Stone in Weymouth which makes Portland Stone which is used for other memorials and all war grave headstones. He said the company had agreed to erect the wall and engrave all the names.
He added: “This is not to praise war but to be a memorial to all those Sheppey families affected by it."