by Alan Watkins
A £2million bid for lottery funding could take Fort Amherst a stage closer to the dream of being a world visitor attraction.
Whether the dream is either justified or a reality is beside the point.
Fort Amherst as we know it today was originally conceived in the 1980s as an historic treasure that could create tourist jobs. It came in the wake of the closure of the dockyard.
Nearly 30 years on, some parts of it have been opened up but much of the complex is still closed to the public. In part, this is because of ongoing military use.
Part is because the funds are not there and another constraint is because the mining beneath the Great Lines has never been properly mapped or explored.
A bid is being drawn together by the charity trust set up to look after the former Army gunpowder store and by the council. It will go some way towards regaining the initiative lost when the Great Lines bid for World Heritage Status was turned down.
In my opinion the combination of the Historic Dockyard, the fort and Brompton Barracks was doomed to fail. UNESCO, the people who decide what is of world importance and what is not, had insisted too many of the existing heritage sites are in the UK and the US.
They want to look to Mali, Mongolia, Patagonia or Panmunjon but no longer the west.
Another factor against the bid was, I believe, the failure of our community to get behind the project. Medway is full of people who eat breakfast in the dark, arrive home in the dark and spend the rest of their time (and their money) in London. Others are sceptics.
“We aren’t going to win because we never win, therefore there’s no point in taking part,” seems to be the philosophy of many who live here during the day.
It reminds me of a former mayor’s question to me more than 20 years ago: “Why on earth did you want to come here?” The simple answer is that I like the Medway Towns, and the Medway people, and one day I might actually get the feeling that I am accepted as a Medway resident rather than an incomer.
The trust is seeking to motivate people to back their bid. They‘re inviting people to have a look on February 17 at where the £2 million will be spent.
Much of it will be continuing the restoration of the fort. More will be on opening up the Middle Lines, which have been lost over the years beneath clay and earth.
I wish them well. I might even turn up myself.