“The RICS Awards showcase the most inspirational regional initiatives and developments in land, property, construction and the built environment”
Conker Conservation Ltd, chartered surveyors and long term AECB members, were part of a community led team that won the RICS South East ‘Community Benefit’ award category on 14th May. The Westgate Hall in the heart of Canterbury was threatened with closure and demolition in 2011 by the council after decades of neglect, to make way for more parking spaces. This shocked the community into action and led to the creation of a community trust that fought to save the First World War former Royal Engineers drill hall.
After 3 years of negotiations the council agreed to handover the hall on a 99 year lease, the Trust then managed to sub-let part of the building to Curzon cinemas in return for a lump sum, which was match funded by the Social Investment Business fund, and other grants from Viridor and Kent County Council, totalling nearly £900k.
The refurbishment is a combination of conservation and sustainable improvements- new cast iron windows replaced those removed by Canterbury; the roof structure that had been concealed by a suspended ceiling for 50 years was exposed and covered with Steico I joists and insulated with 300mm of sheeps wool; Visionvent wind catchers provide natural ventilation and a nod to the Kentish oast house vent.
Conker collaborated with architect Tim Ellis, on the design and project management of the works, but project owes most to the countless hours of effort put in by numerous members of the community. The hall and neighbouring cinema are now a vibrant part of Canterbury’s community.