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Bench Street Clearance and Redevelopment

Project updates and your questions answered



Update - September 2023

Clearance of the Bench Street site in Dover for redevelopment continues to make good progress with the demolition of 14 and 15 Bench Street now complete. Our contractor (DDS Demolition) continues the careful process of demolishing the unsafe building at 10 Bench Street. 

As part of this phase of work, DDS Demolition is attempting to see if the Banksy artwork can be conserved in any way. There is no certainty that this will be successful given the fact that the artwork was whitewashed and the poor state of the render. 

Prior to authorising the demolition, and having taken professional conservation advice, DDC determined that the Banksy could not be viably conserved without considerable costs to local taxpayers, even if it were technically possible. 

The contractor is meeting all additional costs and risks that they incur in attempting to recover the Banksy. 

Should their attempts be successful, any elements of the Banksy would be the property of DDS Demolition in line with the terms of the contract which, as is standard practice with demolition projects, gives them the ownership of any salvageable materials from the buildings. 

Given the detailed conservation process that needs to take place, it is likely to be some time before DDS Demolition will know if their attempts to conserve any elements of the Banksy have been successful. 

We are in discussions with DDS Demolition as to how any elements of the conserved Banksy could be put on display locally. 

Demolition is on track for completion before Christmas.

Update - August 2023

Demolition works are well underway in Bench Street, Dover, starting with numbers 14 and 15.

Environmental work to safely remove pigeon guano and asbestos by trained operatives under controlled conditions has been completed, as has a ‘soft strip’ of internal fixtures and fittings.

Wherever possible, the materials removed are being recycled or reused. Thousands of bricks are being salvaged, cleaned, and resold for further use.

High-risk sections of the building, such as the roof structure, gable wall and the ornate parapet have been removed by hand to reduce risk during the mechanical stages of the demolition.

A 40-tonne high-reach excavator fitted with a rotating grab is being used which allows for a highly controlled demolition. Essentially, the grab attachment is used like a mechanical hand to pick off sections of the building.

The machine is fitted with a dust suppression system which atomises and discharges water as it works to prevent excessive dust.

The demolition is expected to take a further seven weeks with completion in October 2023.

A further round of public consultation on the plans for the redevelopment of the site is also expected to take place in October, ahead of a formal planning application in March 2024.

Update - June 2023

Contractors appointed by DDC took possession of Council-owned land and property in Bench Street, Dover on 19 June 2023 ahead of the redevelopment of the long-term derelict site. 

In the coming days and weeks, there will be increased activity in Bench Street as DDS Demolition set up a site compound along with additional safety and security measures to protect both the site and the public ahead of the planned demolition of unsafe buildings at 11, 14 and 15 Bench Street. 

Temporary footpath restrictions will remain in place throughout the demolition. The works will not require any road closures and pedestrian access to the town centre and seafront will be maintained via the underpass. 

Frequently Asked Questions

When are you starting the demolition?

We expect demolition to get underway as soon as the contractor has set up and made the site safe for the work to begin. The demolition is expected to take 12 weeks. 

What permission do you have to demolish the building?

We gained prior approval in February 2023 for the demolition under permitted development. 

Is the building listed?

No, but the neighbouring site, known as The Crypt, is Grade II Listed, and will be protected during the demolition process. Plans to redevelop the west side of the Bench Street site will include the preservation of The Crypt. 

Why are you demolishing the buildings?

The buildings have been declared dangerous by an independent structural engineer. The costs of trying to save the Banksy mural, which was painted over in 2019, are too high. 

Who said it’s dangerous?

DDC’s building control team carefully examined the structure of the properties when purchased by the Council in September 2022. A building survey was also undertaken by an independent structural engineer. 

Why did you allow the buildings to become unsafe?

DDC did not own the buildings until September 2022, when we purchased them to facilitate the regeneration of the Bench Street area. Since becoming owner, the Council has removed loose elements of structure and temporarily closed footpaths to protect passers-by. 

Should you have intervened earlier to try and save the building?

We made several approaches to previous owners over the years to no avail. With little commercial interest in the site, and given the poor condition of the building, it became obvious that the only practical solution was for the Council to assemble the various parcels of land and property to kickstart the redevelopment of the whole area. 

Who painted over the Banksy?

We do not know. The Council was not involved with either the installation or the painting over of the mural. 

Why can’t you save the Banksy?

Having looked extensively – including taking professional advice – we don’t believe it can be viably saved without massive costs to the local taxpayer, even if it were possible. The technical and financial costs to potentially retain the wall, take it down, and re-assemble it at other locations are prohibitive. 

Why can’t the Future High Streets Fund be used?

Our allocation from the Future High Streets Fund is for the development of a Creative Centre and underpass improvements on the east side of Bench Street. 

Why can’t the Levelling Up Fund be used?

Our allocation from the Levelling Up Fund is for the development of an education campus, business centre, riverside parklet and parking on the east side of Bench Street, as well as expansion of the Dover Cycle Hire Scheme. 

Have you offered to sell the mural?

We were approached by a potential buyer, but these discussions did not materialise given the considerable costs and technical risks that would be involved in trying to remove the Banksy. 

What experts have you spoken to about the Banksy?

A specialist paint conservator examined the Banksy to see if the mural could be recovered from under the whitewash. Due to the poor structural state of the building, with the render delaminating and fragmenting, this would be extremely difficult and expensive. There is no guarantee that such conservation would work. 

Separately, a specialist art conservation company surveyed the Banksy in March 2023 to explore ways in which the mural can be accurately recorded in high-resolution, using LiDAR and photogrammetry to preserve the digital data of the painted wall as part of the town’s history. This data could potentially be used to recreate the artwork in digital or even physical form as a facsimile, in a new location in the town or elsewhere, subject to the artist’s approval. 

How much is the Banksy worth?

Any speculative valuation would be negated by the high cost to remove, transport, preserve, and insure it. It’s unlikely that local taxpayers would be willing to meet the bill. The scale of the piece also means it has a limited market in terms of potential display. 

When will redevelopment start?

We expect to submit a planning application for the Levelling Up and Future High Streets elements of the Bench Street redevelopment in the first quarter of 2024, and following a period of public consultation where local people will be able to view and comment on the plans. 

Work on the former 14 & 15 Bench Street site - construction of Dover’s new Creative Centre, Educational Campus (Creative & Digital Skills) and Business Centre, as well as a new park, car park, expanded cycle hire scheme and underpass improvements – is currently expected to start in 2024. Development of the former 11 Bench Street site will follow in future phases.