Published: 06:00, 05 April 2021
An ambitious plan to install beach huts or lodges along the old 'covered way' at Barton's Point Coastal Park, Sheerness, has been dismissed by Swale council.
Entrepreneur Bernie Watson suggested renovating the abandoned wartime relic and turning it into a tourist attraction. But Swale's planners have ruled it out as infeasible.
Mr Watson's scheme was first highlighted in the Times Guardian in February. The retired engineer, 76, from Minster hatched a plan to save Sheppey’s former firing range by installing concrete pods along its length.
He said it would “put Sheppey back on the map” and added: "It is in a lovely, sheltered position with what could be a nicely landscaped lake for boats in front with car parking behind.”
He contacted Swale council's leader Roger Truelove seeking support but has come up against a brick wall.
After a top-level meeting with councillors and officers Cllr Truelove said: "The council does not consider this a viable option, financially or from a perspective of likely public demand."
After the state of the concrete and iron walkway was highlighted by this paper, council officers investigated its dangerous condition in August 2019 and were forced to fence it off to the public.
Suggestions to list it as an historical monument were "not encouraged" by Historic England although the council has not ruled out listing it locally. A report for Swale council says: "It is something the council as the landowner would ideally seek to retain, conserve and promote" and adds that it will be "consulting widely" later this year.
In the meantime the council will maintain as much of the wall "as is feasible" and possibly provide some "heritage interpretation" on the site.
But it adds: "In terms of the proposal to convert the walkway into concrete beach huts and the creation of an additional boating lake, we do not believe this is feasible.
"The large capital cost of similar schemes, accompanied with the fact the land is best left undisturbed because of its previous military use, means it is not a scheme we would look to pursue."
It said the council will continue to provide beach huts along the Island's seafronts and added: "We are looking to make improvements to the facilities at Barton’s Point and feel this would be a better investment of public money."