On Saturday 21st January 2017, a packed village hall in Otford gave a unanimous vote of confidence to a new village community trust being set up to represent them in discussions about their Archbishop’s Palace. The ‘Palace’ is today visible as that lonely tower and gatehouse that stands in the field as you approach the pond at Otford. Not a lot to get excited about you’d think, but it has been an iconic landmark in Otford for over 500 years and the Villagers feel strongly about it. The building and its field have been owned by Sevenoaks District Council since the 1930s. There were extensive repairs in the 1960’s. But over the last 50 years, it has been allowed to fall into a dangerous state of disrepair. Only persistent pressure by the community has finally seen professional conservation work carried out in the last 12 months. Now Sevenoaks need to decide what is best to do with their property. So they have commissioned an independent company to carry out an Options Appraisal. Should it be left as it is? Developed as a private home? Turned into offices? or passed back to the community? Whatever the outcome, they say, it must be able to pay for itself in the future. Well, Saturday proved the residents of Otford have some very clear opinions on it. They want the site to benefit their community as well as become a springboard to the discovery of the whole Darent Valley. Today, this beautiful valley on our doorstep is incredibly vulnerable, being so close to the expanding Metropolis and all its pressures. The Darent Landscape Partnership, run by the AONB, and of which the Palace forms a part, are intrinsically linked with its future. In the meeting, the Trust read from their own vision for the site: To regenerate a fresh awareness of this heritage landmark by restoring it to a heritage building and developing it into a hub of education, discovery and information about the Palace, the Tudors and the Darent Valley. Then they outlined their hopes and plans for the future. The audience shared their aspirations to turn this lonely, un-loved site into a major heritage asset for the region – a beacon for the village as well as the valley of the Darent. As we were told; Heritage regeneration invariably reinforces a sense of community and can have a ripple-effect on the surrounding neighbourhoods. So we can but hope. If you would like to be kept in touch with the project to conserve the Archbishop's Palace, please contact Nick Rushby at email@example.com.