Gales View - The Bay Clock Tower - 12th February 2015
On Saturday, which is Valentine`s Day, The Bay`s historic Clock Tower will be a blaze of light following months of painstaking restoration. (There is also an Animals Worldwide Quiz Night at the Catholic Church Hall – for details ring my office!) But back to the formal re-launch of the monument to Anne Thwaites’ generous bequest to Herne Bay. This is the oldest free-standing structure of its time in the Country and it was built, in a day when workmanship meant craftsmanship, as a living tribute to the engineers and stonemasons responsible for its original construction. Those who have followed in their footsteps using techniques handed down over generations and the same stone, have done a magnificent job to undo the damage done by decades of salt air and winds whipped in from the Arctic to bring the tower back to its former glorious condition. This has been made possible by a £100 thousand contribution from Canterbury City Council through the good offices of Councillors like Peter Lee and the Herne Bay Regeneration Working Party. That funding has been matched by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund who have come up trumps again after their help with the restoration of the Bandstand that I was proud to help to secure some years ago.
I`d like to think that the Clock Tower will come to symbolize the renaissance of The Bay. The doomsayers will always find time and reasons to talk our town down but thanks to the hard work of, particularly, our local Councillors there is a great deal happening. Those who have been drafted in to fight political campaigns will jump, for example, on the “Restore the Pier” bandwagon but others who are slightly longer in the local tooth and who bear the scars of earlier endeavours, have had to recognise that while, yes, Herne Bay Pier is “the second longest in the Country” it simply is not there and cannot, therefore, be restored! It might be possible, one day, to embark upon a wider reconstruction plan as part of a grander marina or somesuch project but in the meantime those involved in the immediate future of the pier have, I believe, introduced exciting plans that will help to revitalise that whole area of the town. With the removal of a couple of prominent eyesores and their replacement with attractive buildings the future for The Bay`s foremost attraction, its` seafront, is literally looking good.
That is not all. There are, of course, bones of contention within the Draft Local Plan as those with an interest struggle to balance the demands for more housing with the need to protect the environment but the arrival of, potentially, not one but two new supermarkets will contribute significantly to the retail offer and help to obviate the necessity to go out of town for essential goods. It is, though, the growth in the number of independent shops, encouraged by the “Starting my Biz” programme, that is as exciting as it reflects the fact that, after a period of painful austerity, the local as well as the national economy is coming good.
My wife, Suzy, who as a local Maid appears to have been weaned on a diet of bracing air and Macari’s ice cream and who therefore has known The Bay for rather longer, even , than I have myself, tells me that the town and its prospects have not looked so good for many a long year. May the illumination of the Clock Tower be a beacon for the future of a seaside resort for whom many people have a longstanding and very great affection.