Q & A

Why now?

The 1200-year heritage of the Palace risks being lost. Its buildings have been neglected for years and have fallen into disrepair – parts at risk of imminent collapse. Various groups have sought to save the Palace in the recent past – it reached the final of the BBC’s ‘Restoration’ series in 2004 and a subsequent attempt in 2008 failed through the global financial crisis and potential Heritage Lottery Grant funding being diverted to fund the 2012 Olympics. The Palace’s condition is now critical. The current owner has indicated their willingness to sell and we believe it’s now or never.

Why do you see this as a community project, couldn’t the Palace make a good home for a wealthy private individual?

The answer to this is, of course, ‘Yes’ but we can’t rely on someone with sufficient means to come forward. They would have to be a heritage enthusiast with very deep pockets. On top of this previous potential private purchasers have been put of by the constraints of the buildings for domestic use.

If not a single residence, then why not leave it to a developer to create a number of residences on the Palace site?

We doubt that, with the constraints of the Palace being an ancient monument, it would be attractive. Both Historic England and Ashford Borough Council would strongly resist any developer proposals that sought significantly to change the shape and nature of the current site and would oppose any major new development in the paddock area.

Why do you propose to restore and revive the Palace complex rather than simply stabilising its remaining structures?

It’s all about giving the Palace a sustainable future. Simply stabilising the most ‘at risk’ structures to preserve them as if in aspic is not a realistic long-term option and will simply put the burden of maintaining the palace on future generations. The Palace’s future can only be assured if it can generate sufficient income to maintain its upkeep.

The Spitalfields Trust owns and has developed part of the southern range and has an option to purchase the remainder of the Palace complex, what is your relationship with them?

We have no formal relationship with the Spitalfields Trust. We have been in discussion with them since October 2016 and they are monitoring our Trust’s progress with interest. They have a 40-year history of restoring endangered buildings and putting them into private ownership. They prefer to work independently and have not to date worked in partnership with others. That said, they are on the record as having said that they see themselves as part of the Charing community and want to work with it. They have also indicated that they will reconsider their position when our Trust has proven our capabilities. If it proves possible to do so we would want to work with the Spitalfields Trust.

How does your approach to the Palace site differ from that of the Spitalfields Trust?

ST’s focus is on preserving the buildings. Their model is to find a private purchaser – ideally in advance of commencing the works. Our focus is on preserving the buildings and giving them a sustainable future – by bringing them into public ownership, open to all and made sustainable by its various buildings being purposed for today’s needs.

How do you propose to fund your project?

Essentially through two routes – subscription and grants. We will seek donations from private individuals, foundations and companies that see the merit in our proposals and want to play a part in their achievement. At the same time we will apply for grant funding from bodies such as the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Architectural Heritage Fund and other heritage and community funding bodies. With the significance of Charing Archbishop’s Palace as a heritage site we believe there will be interest nationally and internationally.

What will happen to any monies to collect by way of donation in the event that for any reason you don’t succeed?

In this event, unless otherwise agreed with the donor, all funds received will be given to other charitable trusts with similar objects to ours engaged in built heritage projects in Kent.

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Image: Panel detail from 14th C Becket Reliquary, Musée du Louvre, Paris – Source Wiki Commons