White elephant cost council £50k
by Eleanor Jones
CASH-STRAPPED Shepway District Council splashed out £50,000 on a building it intended to demolish – and used to own – only for it to be listed months later, the Herald can reveal.
Red-faced officers said they bought the land on Fisherman's Beach, on which the brick-built former lifeboat hut stands, from the First Hythe Scout Group in December 2009, intending to demolish it and include the plot in the mixed-use development planned for the beach.
But, after an outraged reaction from Hythe residents, the hut was excluded from the proposal. Thanks to a successful campaign, it was then listed by English Heritage, preventing the council from knocking it down.
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SDC, which sold the 395 square-metre plot to the scouts in 1980, is now "considering its intentions" regarding the future of the land.
But it is not clear what purpose the hut, described by one local as "only fit for demolition", could now have, given its protected status.
John Schoner, trustee of the scout group, was part of the sale negotiations.
He said: "The scouts didn't need the building any more – it was too expensive to maintain.
"SDC was going to demolish it but, now it's been listed, they can't do anything like that."
As well as the boathouse, the scouts owned the land between it and their headquarters on Range Road. Mr Schoner added: "We're pleased the council bought the boathouse because it gives the scouts the opportunity to develop and extend the headquarters."
An SDC spokesman said: "We would assume that most people would accept that land and property prices have risen in 30 years and comparisons are hardly sensible or helpful.
"Although we bought the land and the lifeboat house before the building was listed, the listing itself does not make the building redundant or worthless. We are considering its future use."
The Fisherman's Beach development got planning permission by SDC councillors last month but the Government Office for the Southeast is currently deciding whether it should be called in for a public inquiry.