Published: 09:41, 03 December 2021
| Updated: 15:04, 03 December 2021
Ambitious plans to build a new pier and marina at Queenborough on the Isle of Sheppey have created a swell of support.
Islanders have delved into their files and unearthed old photos of Flushing and Wildfire piers, with one even stumbling upon a British Pathe newsreel of one pier being opened on November 29, 1928.
Veteran sailor and history buff Tim Bell said: “Geographically, it is the best place for a pier because there’s solid foundations there and, more importantly, it only requires a very short pier to get to the deep water.
“It’s the obvious choice and place, the best anywhere around the Island for a pier.”
Des Cross, who is the man behind the plan, said: “I only launched it a week ago but already I’ve had terrific feedback. People have sent me old photos I never knew still existed.
“And many have sent me stories about their fathers working on the pier or the ships.
“Nearly all the responses have been positive. There’s only been one lady who complained about it attracting extra traffic to Queenborough but as I see it, one of the main entrances could be at the end of the Whiteway.”
He said he was in contact with both Recipharm, formerly Abbott, which owns most of the land around the piers and Swale council.
He added: “The Queenborough Fishery Trust has also been in touch.”
The trust was set up to help the poor, sick or disabled of Swale area with particular emphasis on helping provide recreational, leisure and educational facilities.
Among those digging out photos and charts has been Kent, Swale and Queenborough councillor Cameron Beart and the town’s museum in the Guildhall.
They include photos of ferries and boat trains docked at Flushing Pier which had railway lines which joined from Whiteway. The ferries sailed to Flushing in Holland.
The new pier is planned to have a 1.2km frontage joining the former Flushing Pier with the HMS Wildfire Pier near where the Old House at Home pub now stands.
It was used for secret testing for motor gunboats in the First World War.
Solicitor Richard Murr said: “It would also benefit Blue Town and Sheerness among its many other attributes.”
David Brown recalled: “From Queenborough Spit to Flushing Pier a channel was kept dredged during the the Second World War by the Admiralty to a depth of 19 feet at low water.
Mat Jeffery hailed the new plan as a “great idea” and Debbie Edwards described it as “fantastic.”
Mr Cross, who is stepping down as chairman of the Queenborough Harbour Trust in the new year to pursue his project, said: “To clear a few comments I have seen on some shares, this would not involve the old Abbott Slipway.
"The start of Flushing pier was further along than that. Remains of some portions can be seen on the seabed when the tide is out.”
He added: “A new pier would bring major benefits including 24-hour access to the sea without lock gates for boats, an area for exercise providing entertainment and mental wellbeing for individuals and families, in addition to being a major attraction for the area, unique in its concept.”
But he warned: “There are many hurdles to make this happen. But all of these are surmountable with enough determination, planning and support.”
It would be the first major new pier to be built in England for many years.
He is now looking for a team of volunteers to join him.
He said: "I am particularly looking for those with hands-on experience of designing or building a major structure, anyone with experience of major fund raising, project managers, PR and marketing wizards and anyone with legal expertise especially with contracts and negotiations.
"I will also need community champions, environmentalists and ex-naval personnel, particularly those with a link to Sheerness and Queenborough."
Swale and county councillor Cameron Beart (Con, Queenborough and Hwalfway) said on his Facebook page: "I have found records of at least ten marinas that have been proposed on the Island over the years. Some even got as far as being granted planning permission but were never progressed."
He added: "At least four have been proposed by the Port of Sheerness (both as Peel Ports and Medway Ports before it), four have been proposed by residents, one has been proposed by a land owner/developer and one was proposed by the government."