The future of the former Kent coalfield
When the coalfield closed in the 1980's it left behind acres of land ravaged by tips and industrial sprawl, and poverty and deprivation in mining communities.
Not only had most of the men in the colliery villages lost their livelihoods, they had also lost the finance for social clubs and sports facilities that had been paid for by a levy on miners wages and by British Coal.
Betteshanger Social Welfare
Pensioner's Christmas Dinner at the Mill Hill club
Various government agencies and charitable trusts have been established with funds for redeveloping former coalfields. Projects include developing new skills, training and education; creating new jobs and opportunities; and maintaining and improving retail, leisure and sporting facilities within mining communities.
Some of the major projects in Kent to benefit from funds include the Aylesham Community Centre, the Betteshanger Social Welfare Scheme Sports Club, and the redevelopment of the Tilmanstone and Betteshanger Colliery sites.
Aylesham Community Centre
At Tilmanstone, SEEDA (South East England Development Agency) have landscaped the site and started the Pike Road Industrial Estate. Its newest resident is Kent Salads whose 150,000 sq. ft. factory employs over 500 people.
SEEDA also successfully redeveloped the Betteshanger Colliery site as Fowlmead Country Park. In order to regenerate the area, 130,000 new trees and shrubs were planted and protected areas were established for birds and other wildlife. Fowlmead has been a great success: visitors can cycle, go orienteering, enjoy walking through the country landscapes and even do archery. The two mile cycling tarmac road is perfect for bike riding: many clubs and organisations hire it out for rides and events. The inaugural Kent Miners Festival was held at Fowlmead in 2009, to great success. The Festival continues to take place in former mining communities across Kent.
The remains of Betteshanger Colliery. 1997
In the distance is the colliery tip
SEEDA's proposals for redevelopment of Betteshanger Colliery and tip
At Aylesham, the Aylesham Community Project have developed the old school into a Community Centre with conference and training facilities, small business workshops and a library. At Mill Hill in Deal the sports ground has been redeveloped with new facilities, including a clubroom for the Betteshanger Brass Band. Small projects have varied from supplying new kit for local football teams to improving village halls in coalfield parishes.
Prince Charles visits the Aylesham Community Centre. 2000