“Recent stories in the local press are yet more scaremongering,” says the Bridge Clerk, Mrs. Sue Threader. “As The Rochester Bridge Trust is a charity and as it is the Charity Commission’s job to make sure that we meet our charitable objectives, the Trust asked for advice from the Charity Commission, when Medway Council first asked to take over the Tunnel. We are grateful for the Commission’s advice and have followed their recommendations. As a local charity for local people, we will continue to liaise with the Commission to ensure that we are acting properly in every respect.
“While the charity is technically the Tunnel’s owner, Medway Council is, and always has been, contractually responsible for maintaining the tunnel under a 999-year lease. The charity has made a voluntary contribution to Medway’s costs in maintaining the Tunnel each year. Upon the transfer of the freehold the charity will also make a payment of £3.6 million to the Council for future maintenance costs, several times the amount of its current annual contribution.
“By transferring the Tunnel we can focus on managing and maintaining the old and new bridges at Rochester, which is why the charity was set up in the first place and what the charity has done for centuries at no cost to local people.”
Notes to editors:
- The Rochester Bridge Trust has served the people of Kent for centuries by providing crossings over the River Medway and making wider charitable donations. It is believed to be the oldest surviving bridge charity still in active operation and has a unique historical heritage. Today, it is a substantial local benefactor, regularly handing out charitable grants.
- The Trust exists primarily to provide crossings over the River Medway and has a responsibility to ensure that it is in a financial position to maintain the bridges in Rochester for which it is alone responsible. It is expected that the Old Bridge which was last replaced in 1914, and the new bridge which was built in the 1960s will both need to be replaced this century, and the Trust needs to ensure that capital is saved for this. This is likely to cost more than £70 million.
- In 1987, the Kent County Council asked the Trust to help build an additional crossing for the citizens of Medway – a tunnel – as the project was too complex and expensive for the Council to build alone. The charity promoted the Medway Tunnel Bill through Parliament and also purchased all necessary land for the Tunnel construction. An arrangement was then immediately set up which gave the Council a 999-year lease and responsibility for the running of the Tunnel. The Trust has, however, continued to contribute annually to the maintenance of the Tunnel, most recently £400,000 in 2007 and £350,000 in 2008.
- For further information contact Mrs. Sue Threader at firstname.lastname@example.org