A New Project Dawns

by Pat Crawford

Whilst it’s true that the Garden of England is much better known for food production than mining, high burning coal suitable for the steel industry was discovered in the county in 1912. The Kent mining industry flourished for a time until, way back in 1989, Betteshanger, the largest and last of the Kent coalfields, closed.

Located near Deal, the closure devastated a proud and highly skilled mining community comprising somewhere in the region of 1,500 miners and their families. Since then, successive governments have promised regeneration but, until now, no viable long-term plan has been proposed.

Now, nearly 25 years later Hadlow, one of the UK’s elite land-based colleges, has launched the Betteshanger Sustainable Parks enterprise in partnership with Dover District Council, the Homes and Communities Agency, East Kent Spatial Development Company and private investors. The scheme is backed by £40 million of investments, £11 million from Public funds (of which £6 million is confirmed) along with private sector investment of £29 million.

The site was acquired by Hadlow during the summer and the college confidently predicts the creation of 1,000 new jobs. This, of course, is vitally important in an area that has suffered a series of economic setbacks, but Kent as a whole stands to benefit from the fact that the vision for the 121 hectare site is described as ‘a 21st century global laboratory for green technologies’ with the creation of renewable energy at the vanguard.

Mark Lumsdon-Taylor, Hadlow’s Director of Finance and Resources, is leading the project on behalf of the college. He comments, “The development of green technologies is crucial if the UK is going to combat some of the immense challenges we face in relation to climate change, population growth and alternative energy sources. We are immensely proud of the Betteshanger Sustainable Parks Scheme and we hope that it may encourage other educational institutions to follow our lead. There is opportunity and real need for the development of similar projects.”

The scheme embraces a Heritage Park showcasing Kent’s proud mining heritage, linked into an innovative sustainable energy production visitor centre. This part of East Kent is home to three castles; Dover, Deal and Walmer, the White Cliffs, Samphire Hoe, the Roman Painted House and other tourist attractions. It is surrounded by delightful villages and has some wonderfully evocative scenery. The existing Fowlmead Country Park, which currently includes an Olympic standard cycling track, will be enhanced. Thus the Betteshanger project affords opportunity to create the greater cohesion that will develop this part of East Kent as a major, not-to-be-missed tourist destination for people using sea, rail and air links. It is also expected to attract increasing numbers of Brits holidaying at home or looking for family days out.

Mark Lumsdon-Taylor who has led the project from its initiation four years ago, is available, by arrangement, to give after-dinner and other presentations.

Please call Pat Crawford (01732 852243) to discuss.

Picture Credits: Hadlow College

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