KCC considering sale of Union Mill in Cranbrook

Kent County Council’s (KCC) Environment and Transport Cabinet Committee discussed the proposed sale of eight historic windmills in the county, including Union Mill in Cranbrook at a committee meeting on Wednesday November 15.

The proposed plans would see the Grade I and Grade II listed buildings across the county available for anyone to purchase, although there would be several stipulations attached to the sale. The new owners would be responsible for the day-to-day maintenance of the windmills as well as any financial liabilities.

During last Wednesday’s meeting, a report presented to members of the Committee estimated the cost of maintaining and improving all eight windmills over the next six years to be £853,120. This comes after an independent auditor’s report released in July told KCC that it needed to save around £86million over the next financial year.

KCC Deputy Leader Cllr Peter Oakford told members: “We have to save every penny we can. In 10 years’ time, we will not be able to afford to keep them and they will be falling into disrepair.”

However, Committee Chairman and KCC Member for Cranbrook, Cllr Seán Holden said it was important that KCC safeguards the windmills. Furthermore, he questioned whether anyone else would be able to take on financial responsibilities of the buildings and therefore felt the Council should be ‘looking for savings elsewhere.’

The eight windmills which the KCC currently holds the freehold for are: Union Mill in Cranbrook; Davison’s Mill in Stelling Minnis; Drapers Mill in Margate; Herne Mill in Herne Bay; Killick’s Mill in Meopham; Stocks Mill in Wittersham; Chillenden Mill in Goodnestone and West Kingsdown Mill in Sevenoaks.

Cranbrook’s Union Mill has remained a part of the local community since 1814. In the 1950s the last miller, John Russell, was offered a large sum of money in the latter years of his life by property developers for the entire plot of land and surrounding buildings. Russell refused to sell the Mill and instead transferred it to Kent County Council in 1957 for a nominal sum of one shilling (5p), on the condition that they promised to maintain the Mill.

After a recommendation to reject the plan failed by a single vote in Wednesday’s committee meeting, the proposed plans will now go out to public consultation before any final decision is made by the KCC.

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