The Assistant Director of Economic Growth and
Partnerships introduced the report and stated that Coalhouse Fort
was an important heritage asset and believed it was important to
maximise its potential for residents and visitors, and preserve the
scheduled monument. He stated that Coalhouse Fort had been closed
since 2020. He explained that as the Council’s place
directorate evolved, it was an opportune moment to consider the
Coalhouse Fort, and this would begin with a review and updating of
the maintenance and health safety plans. He added that the Council
were also planning to undertake a wider review and condition survey
for the Fort, and would consider different management options. The
Assistant Director of Economic Growth and Partnerships stated that
the individual tasks needed to be undertaken for the Fort were
outlined in the report, which included a feasibility study, but
this would be dependent on, and in the context of the IRP and S114
notice, cost and funding.
Councillor Carter highlighted that a refreshed condition survey would be undertaken, and asked for the timescales for this piece of work. The Assistant Director of Economic Growth and Partnerships stated that they would begin to explore this work over the next three to four months, and a steering group would be put in place, which would be formed of local interest groups and other interested parties. He stated that this was subject to costs, funding, and the IRP, but would hopefully run for six to twelve months. Councillor Kent highlighted the table in the report which listed potential members of the steering group, which did not include local community groups and sought reassurance that they would be included. Councillor Kent added that the process for local community bids could take some time, as the Thameside community bid process had now been ongoing for twenty months. The Assistant Director of Economic Growth and Partnerships explained that community bids for the site had already been received, and the list of steering group members in the report were examples and this would be expanded to include local community groups. Councillor Kent questioned how the Council had advertised for local community bids, and if advertising would continue. The Assistant Director of Economic Growth and Partnerships explained that a process would be developed through the feasibility study and options study to ensure all interested parties had the opportunity to submit a local community bid if they wished. He added that local groups and forums would also be included through consultation as part of the new Cultural Strategy.
Councillor Arnold questioned the outcome if the health and safety and maintenance costs of Coalhouse Fort were too high for the Council. The Assistant Director of Economic Growth and Partnerships replied that if this were the case, the Council would look at other funding opportunities, for example from Natural England, Historic England, and the Lower Thames Crossing. He added that the Council had already received interest from local groups and private individuals to take over the site, and these would be included in the feasibility study. Councillor Thandi questioned what redevelopment the site would need. The Assistant Director of Economic Growth and Partnerships stated that the team were currently unsure of what redevelopment was needed, and this would not be known until the health and safety survey was completed and a clear preferred option identified.
The Chair proposed monthly email updates to the Committee on the work of Coalhouse Fort, and the Committee agreed.
RESOLVED: That the Committee:
1. Noted the current position relating to Coalhouse Fort.
2. Noted the proposed approach/next steps for Coalhouse Fort.
3. Noted that further updates will be provided as key tasks are actioned/completed.