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The Freehold Tenants Of The Manor Of Rusthall
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The Freehold Tenants were revived in 1980. In that year clauses of the County of Kent Bill repealed the Tunbridge Wells Improvement Act of 1890 and made changes to the governance of the Conservators. As it stood the Bill would have removed the Freehold Tenants’ representation on the Board of Conservators. A number of registered Freehold Tenants* re-grouped and were instrumental in submitting a petition to the House of Lords to amend the Bill to maintain the Freehold Tenants’ representation on the Conservators and “to preserve their rights and benefits as if the Act had not been passed”.

For much of the post war period it had been difficult to find four Freehold Tenants to serve as Conservators. Over the last 15 years they have been fully represented. This was largely as a consequence of the apparent failure of the Conservators to deal effectively with the damage caused by the 1987 hurricane but also the lack of any coherent plan for the long term maintenance and improvement of the commons. In 1988 the Freehold Tenants presented a paper to the Conservators putting forward proposals for the selective clearance of paths/edges, the removal of fallen trees from a number of designated areas and the appointment of a warden. The warden would manage both the regular maintenance programme of grass cutting and tree work but also look to planning more visible long term improvements in an attempt to restore the commons as a public amenity.

The effect of the storms and the post war neglect of the commons had significantly reduced its appeal.

The proposal prompted the production of an outline management plan by one of the officers of the Council’s Planning Department. This was well received and a more detailed study was undertaken during 1990/1991 by the Kent Trust for Nature Conservation. This report consisted of a detailed description of both commons broken down into manageable areas (or compartments). Each compartment required different management regimes and ambitions for the future. The report also recommended the appointment of a warden. The Freehold Tenants supported the findings of the report and urged for additional funding for its implementation. Since then the precept from the Borough Council has been at a level to support the improved management of the commons. The Freehold Tenants have actively supported the warden and continue to put forward ideas for schemes of improvement and offers of funding.

The Freehold Tenants tend to favour contributing to one off projects that might not necessarily be funded from the Conservators budget. At each AGM ideas for projects are submitted and discussed. During 2010 and 2011 the projects have focused on clearing rock outcrops, improving access, and larger clearances to re-establish views and regenerate the heathland habitat. In addition the Freehold Tenants provide funds for upgrades to their computer hardware and website.

The four Conservators representing the Freehold Tenants are Mungo Chapman, Ian Marshall, Clare Sinha and Stephen Lacey.

Page last updated: 16/01/2017