‘Massive achievement’ tempered by difficulties

The Nissen hut at Shoreham Fort with the terreplein behind
The Nissen hut at Shoreham Fort with the terreplein behind

EXCITEMENT was mixed with challenges in a difficult year for Shoreham Fort.

Chairman Gary Baines revealed the highs and lows of 2014 at the Friends of Shoreham Fort’s annual meeting on Thursday.

Shoreham Fort's annual Military History Weekend

Shoreham Fort's annual Military History Weekend

The huge achievements during the year had been tempered with problems, including the siting of the new Nissen hut.

“This addition was supposed to bring a real positive element to the site, which it has. But it certainly brought with it a few obstacles,” explained Mr Baines.

He said the Friends were advised to install the hut first, to confirm it would ‘stay put’, then apply for retrospective planning permission.

“What should have been an easy task actually turned into a bit of a nightmare, with English Heritage and the Secretary of State getting involved,” he added.

The landowners, Shoreham Port Authority, supported the Friends and permission was eventually granted, with the last ‘tick in the box’ given by Adur District Council’s planning committee last Monday.

Mr Baines said: “Unfortunately, this has put the relationship with English Heritage back somewhat but we are slowly working to rebuild what has always been a good and mutually-respected partnership.”

He said the rescue, relocation and rebuild of the Nissen hut from Chidham had been a ‘massive achievement’.

“We now actually believe that the hut may, in fact, be several original World War One Nissen huts and therefore could be 100 years old,” he pointed out.

It is being used to create much-needed indoor education space.

Activities over 2014 included an Easter fun day, the Military History Weekend, Sussex Bikers’ Beacon, Heritage Open Day and Remembrance evening.

There was also a large number of tours and presentations made to groups of all ages.

Mr Baines said: “We have had some very busy volunteer days, including reshingling the terreplein, digging out the ditch by the east caponier, moved several tons from the inner wall and completed one survey trench on the barrack block footings.

“We have also had some really full tours. We have had some fantastic and very moving events, too.”

Secretary Sharon Penfold, who has also taken on the finances while the team looks for a new treasurer, said donations had rocketed in 2014.

Having Gary working full-time for the trust for the year had meant he could give many more talks in the day, which brought in vital funding for the project.

This year, the Friends need more support and the team is alreadying looking at potential funding streams.

Mr Baines said: “It is a case of we need to fundraise more, we do need to see other avenues and we hope people can see what a difference we are making and make sure that funding comes forward.”