How a project which started as a purely academic study exploring how a landscape architectural intervention might change the declining fate of a significant piece of Heritage Infrastructure has progressed to the boundary of reality was described to Dover Rotarians by John Pegg, of Craft:Pegg Ltd., a design practice based in Chichester.
The Commonwealth War Memorial had its origins following a visit to Dover by John who was enthralled by the rich vein of history that presented itself in Dover in various ways – the obvious examples being Dover Castle and the Roman Painted House – but the potential of the town’s unique assets was not, in his view, properly fulfilled or promoted and nowhere more so than at the Western Heights.
This led to the study of the site and designs for a world heritage feature which caught the imagination of Kent County Council and Dover District Council, in particular a forward-looking Tim Ingleton in Dover. The thirteen-year-long journey to present an acceptable memorial feature encountered many challenges, not the least originally from heritage organisations, but a number of schemes were put forward to advance the idea of the concept and before the end of 2018 it is hoped that planning permission will be granted to enable the dream to become a reality.
In essence the memorial will commemorate 1.7m casualties of the two major wars of the last century, in which 75% of the population identify with someone who was a casualty in the conflicts. John Pegg said it was important to promote the memorial now on various levels, not least that of generational because of the passing of all those having a direct personal experience of casualties in war. It would constitute the assertion of a narrative for the United Kingdom where the Remembrance profile is increasing despite the move away from the events commemorated. He ventured to suggest that with the church in decline the population now focusses its attention around memorialization.
The project is likely to cost in the order of £20 – 30m including off-site implications such as parking but the return on the local economy, it has been suggested, would amount to £15m per annum and could lead to a real step change in making Dover a thriving destination by linking the popularity of the Castle and the Memorial by means of shuttle arrangements from the town centre, thereby encouraging people not only to visit the attractions but also the town. The Ministry of Defence LIBOR Fund authorized a £0.5m release of funds to initiate the Commonwealth project in 2016.
The target for completion is 2022.