Plan for Tunbridge Wells bells sparks war between residents and clergy

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By Kent and Sussex Courier | Sunday, September 09, 2012, 04:00

PLANS to bring back the chimes of a Tunbridge Wells church clock have sparked a war between residents and the clergy.

St Mark's Church in Broadwater Down wants to reinstate its hourly clock strike after a seven-year absence – despite opposition from some residents living nearby.

A group of neighbours is now planning legal action to halt the proposal for a one-month trial to "maintain the area's peaceful setting".

St Mark's Road resident Russell Payne said: "The church seems to be living in a past where they could do what they please.

"There is no reason for installing these chimes other than that they used to be there a long time ago and the vicar thinks they would sound nice.

"We don't want the banging of a gong on the hour, every hour.

"I am quite a laid-back guy, but I want a peaceful life."

Funded by public subscription, the chimes were installed in 1898 to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria the year before.

After striking for 107 years, they were forced to stop in 2005 to allow essential work to be carried out.

Ten letters of objection were submitted against the proposed revival, which was recommended by the Chancellor of the Diocese, but failed to stop approval being granted. An appeal was rebuffed.

Mr Payne added: "That's a lot for a small area. To get ten people to write about anything is virtually unheard of."

The 53-year-old organised a survey of 100 residents living nearby, and of the 80 responses, more than one in four agreed or strongly agreed the introduction of chimes would be a noise nuisance.

He also lodged an appeal with the diocesan and filed a complaint to the borough council.

He said: "It's going to turn into a nasty row. I am pretty determined to press ahead."

The Reverend Brian Fortnum, who is retiring this month after 11 years at St Mark's Church this month, stressed the chimes would not sound between 10pm and 8am.

He added: "We have been open in publicising our plans to allow the opportunity for any objections.

"As a church serving our local community, we want to do all we can to draw the community together."

Mr Fortnum, whose last service is on September 16, said residents could express their views after the trial period.

He added: "This would be particularly helpful for people who have moved into the area since the clock has been stopped and may be unsure about what to expect.

"Residents who remember the clock striking have said how much they look forward to hearing it again as it feels to them to be just a normal part of community life in this part of Tunbridge Wells."



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