17 MAY 2019

Urgent talks over Kent Mining Museum

Urgent talks have been held over the future of Kent Mining Museum – amid plans to dispose of the site by the end of July.

The £9.5 million scheme in Betteshanger was said to be "85% finished" until the suspensions of the deputy principal and chief executive of the Hadlow Group, which was funding the project.

Work has stopped and an investigation into financial irregularities is underway.

This week Dover and Deal MP Charlie Elphicke organised a series of talks. Several Kent MPs attended the meeting he arranged with Further Education Commissioner Richard Atkins.

The Government's position has been that the Betteshanger site cannot be considered educational provision – and would therefore not be funded to completion.

Charlie argued that other parties should be allowed to purchase the site on a solvent basis – without debt.

Later in the week he met with interested parties, as well as trustees from Kent Mining Heritage Foundation which has donated funds to the project.

Charlie said: "It's vital that we get this project back on track. Because it would be great for our community, celebrating its mining heritage alongside a range of activities for families to enjoy.

"I'm doing everything I can to ensure it's completed. I think we're making good progress."

Work at the 121-hectare derelict colliery first stopped after problems building on a spoil heap, before restarting in September 2017.

The Sandwich Road building is set to be as long as London's iconic Gherkin tower is tall. Set among the 250-acre country park, it is meant to become home to Kent Mining Museum, a green energy centre, cycle hire and change facilities, learning and conference spaces, a shop, a café and outside seating and decking.

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Charlie Elphicke

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