The Dartmouth & Kingswear Society 50th Anniversary
In November 2009 the Dartmouth and Kingswear Society will be 50 years old. In 1959 Dartmouth was a very different place; everywhere looked ‘shoddy’ and neglected and the atmosphere was laced with coal-dust and smoke, no encouragement to residents or tourists. But then a few caring people decided that the appearance of the district (including the surrounding villages) needed to be improved and preserved.
Three founder members, Christopher ‘Robin’ Milne, Col. Richard Webb and John Smith were spurred into founding the Society after seeing the unsightly new concrete wall at Warfleet. Over 200 people attended the inaugural meeting in the old Flavel Hall. Since then the ‘D&K’ has grown into a highly respected and influential body with over 400 members. The Committee have conscientiously vetted all Planning Applications and Appeals in Dartmouth, Kingswear, Stoke Fleming, Strete, Dittisham and Blackawton and made appropriate representations to the Planning Authorities ever since. Thanks primarily to sensitive planning, and to its natural environment Dartmouth has become an especially attractive place to live in and to visit.
Among the first things the Society did were to give the boat-float a face lift, with help from the local traders, and to save Sunderland Terrace from being demolished. After a public meeting in 1963 the Society produced a far-reaching Plan for Dartmouth, which later gained approval from both Borough and County Councils and was largely implemented, notably by the improvement of the Market Square and construction of College Way in the 1970’s.
Some of the Society’s landmark achievements over 50 years have included:
- 1963: planning for College Way (Outer Relief Road) initiated, and constructed in the 1970’s with planting sponsored by the Society,
- 1968: helped to prevent demolition of Dartmouth’s Old Market,
- 1974: landscaped and planted Crosby Meadow recreation area,
- 1978: co-promoted Dartmouth’s first entry to ‘Britain in Bloom’,
- 1993: lobbied for construction of a Dartmouth Sewage Treatment Plant, finally built in 2002 after detailed discussions,
- 1996: helped prevent unsightly over-development at White Rock, Paignton,
- 1997: pressed South Hams Council to develop a ‘Park-and-Ride’ site at Norton,
- 1999: initiated the campaign to build the ‘Flavel’ centre and Library,
- 2000: commissioned the first set of ‘blue plaques’ in Dartmouth and Kingswear,
- 2001: helped achieve much improved design for residential development at Dart Marina,
- 2004: established the Dartmouth Heritage Trail.
- Of course there have been some failures and disappointments, notably when the Wesleyan Chapel in the Market-place was demolished illegally in 1988 by a developer, and when some unsightly developments have been permitted.
- Current issues that the Society is much concerned with are:
- Development at Noss Marina,
- Achievement of affordable housing in the area,
- Improvement of traffic and parking arrangements,
- Preservation of green public space (Coronation Park and the Orchard),
- Review of the Conservation Areas,
- Development of the latest Local Plan (‘Local Development Framework’),
- Resisting the Boundary Commission’s proposals for a Devon Unitary Authority. (448)
The Society has always been conscious of its duty to keep the public informed of its activities, and to this end arranges a series of talks and an Open Forum on a topical issue during the winter months. It arranges other social activities throughout the year, including lunches, summer parties and trips to local beauty spots. It has also been responsible for a number of booklets published on local celebrities, buildings and history, and has been generous with donations to local improvement projects such as the Townstal Community Hall and the refurbishment of St.Barnabas’ Chapel.
What of the future? The Society looks forward with enthusiasm to the next 50 years, knowing that it is vital to remain vigilant in opposing unsightly developments. There are many challenges to meet, including climate change, revision of planning laws, increasing traffic congestion and the need to ensure Dartmouth’s commercial prosperity. It continues to need the support of new members in its endeavours to meet these challenges.
First Published January 2009 By The Dart