Mark Reckless joins Horsted Park residents and Rochester South and Horsted councillors for visit to Fort Horsted
Mark Reckless was delighted to visit Fort Horsted Business Centre, one of Kent and Medway’s best kept secrets.
Work on Fort Horsted, the largest of the five local forts constructed to defend Chatham dockyard (the others being Darland, Twydall, Luton and Bridgewoods – also known as Palmerston’s follies), commenced in 1880 using a convict labour force from the newly constructed Borstal prison and supervised by the Royal Engineers. Fort Horsted lies approximately three miles away from the principle target of Chatham dockyard meaning invaders would have to get through the ring to attack the target.
Mark Reckless with Rochester South and Horsted ward councillors
For the next 60 years the Fort remained in military hands with a small garrison from the Royal Ordnance Corps and latterly the Royal Artillery in continuous occupation. By the early sixties however the military no longer had any use for the Fort and it was sold for £10,000 to a development company in 1963.
During the next 34 years the Fort had a variety of owners and tenants and by the early 1990s the Fort was all but deserted, derelict and in much need of attention. English Heritage and the Environment Agency issued an enforcement notice on the legal owners with a £1,000,000 liability to clear up the site. Instead, the owners put up the Fort for auction and it was bought by Avondale Environmental Services Ltd in 1997.
Having decided that the future for this historic monument lay in it being able to sustain itself in terms of income generation and investment, a business plan was put to English Heritage and the Environment Agency to not only clear the site but also to develop it into small business units. By staying within government guidelines for the restoration and renovation of historic sites and keeping all works in character, English Heritage relaxed its normally strict rules and considered relatively modern proposals.
English Heritage continued to support Avondale during the next four years as it cleared the tyres and put the Fort back to a habitable condition. Avondale was finally able to occupy the Fort in August 2001 and begin the next chapter in its long life.
On April 26th 2007, Phase One of Fort Horsted Business Centre was officially opened for business. 6 refurbished business units became available on flexible lease terms together with state of the art conference facilities and a reception area.
Mark Reckless enjoys the panoramic views over Medway with Fort Horsted owner Andy Back and Paul Coutts-Smith
Speaking after his visit, Mark Reckless said:
“I was delighted to have the opportunity to visit Fort Horsted which truly is a hidden gem within my constituency.
The site has enjoyed something of a chequered past so it was pleasing to see how the current owners have invested in the Fort and are breathing new life into this ancient monument. As well as offering business units and conference facilities to rent or hire on very attractive terms, it is also enjoying a new lease of life as an attraction for groups of visitors, hosting fashion shows, ghost hunts and exclusive parties.
I was hugely impressed by the vision shown by the current owner of the site, Andy Back. A huge amount of time, effort and money has been invested in Fort Horsted with the objective of using it to its full potential as a unique business centre creating an island of excellence in partnership with other local agencies such as the nearby Innovation Centre.
I was very impressed with the work which they have done so far and I wish them continued success for the future. My thanks also to our hard working ward councillors in Rochester South and Horsted, who are working closely with Fort Horsted and local residents in Horsted Park, for organising our visit.”
Rochester South and Horsted ward councillor, Cllr Trevor Clarke, added:
“It was a pleasure to have Mark join us for another of our tours of the Fort together with some of the ward’s newest residents from the neighbouring Horsted Park development. We have been working closely with Fort Horsted for the last couple of years to enhance connections with the local community and business sector and this has afforded opportunities for our residents to enjoy this wonderfully quirky old fort that is tucked away on the edge of The Horsted Valley.
As part of this community tie-up, our local schools will later this year be offered for the first time ever, the chance to visit and undertake exciting science and history projects there. As ward councillors, we very much appreciate the commitment of the Fort’s owners to working with and supporting the local community.”
For more information on Fort Horsted Business Centre – Click Here