Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Derelict inn is not iconic

When you think of iconic structures, the Eiffel Tower, Dubai’s Burj Al Arab or Statue of Liberty probably spring to mind. Personally I can’t imagine anyone thinking that about the empty, and now partially derelict, 16th century inn on the A21, near Pembury.

Imagine my surprise when a local newspaper described Blue Boys Inn as iconic, it’s a landmark yes, but in my eyes not in a good way.

The building, now Grade II-listed, attracted a public outcry after part of it was demolished just two days before it was listed by English Heritage.

Originally linked to plans for a possible McDonald’s drive-thru restaurant, the redevelopment seems perfectly sensible given that many of the passing drivers will have endured the all too often A21 traffic problems en-route to Sussex.

Not surprisingly, the local CPRE group has questioned the plans and possible size of the development as not in keeping. However, rather than it be iconic, surely the irony is that if we do nothing with it it’ll simply become even more of an eyesore?

Retaining any part of the building’s original structure has to be welcomed, especially if it can once again become commercially viable. What’s the difference between its original use as an inn served by coach and horses and a modern-day fast food eatery visited by horsepowered customers? Not much as far as I can see. 

Can we please stop constantly looking to the past, and recognise that while the inn might be listed, our buildings are the lifeblood of the economy and a source of employment for many?

Ensure any redevelopment is sensitive by all means. However, hindering, or worse still stopping, projects such as Blue Boys Inn, makes buildings like these even more vulnerable to decay, ironically harming their long-term future still further.

• Andrew Metcalf is a Director of Maxim and a member of SE LEP.

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