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Minding the gap

Sara Bean spends the day visiting estates and facilities manager Carl Jones at his base on the Medway gap and it’s unlike any other FM workplace visit

This is my office” says Medway estates & facilities manager Carl Jones as pausing for breathe at the top of the hill we view the vista of rolling countryside all around us. “I think I’ve got the best job in the company, with the things I see when I go out.”

And he could be right, for Jones’ unique FM role is in managing a diverse range of properties and land for Workman , where, from his base in the small town of Snodland nestled in the Medway Gap in Kent – he looks after a diverse array of buildings, land and conservation projects.

How an FM came to oversee such a disparate mix of land and property is due to the way the area around Snodland was cultivated. It was famed from the early Victorian age for its paper making and the cement industries. A lot of the land and properties came from private estates which were gradually bought out by the cement factories which in turn were gradually amalgamated by Blue Circle Industries which bought out the privately owned cement factories situated along the river.

Jones joined Medway in a security role, where his ability to operate such a sprawling estate saw his move into an FM role for Workman. He is responsible for a range of properties scattered around the North Downs that include listed buildings, old chalk and clay quarries and woodland.

LAND AND PROPERTY PORTFOLIO
The total area of the property and land portfolio Jones covers is immense, measuring 2900 Acres (12,086,806 metres sq) which comprises; six commercial lettings; eight residential lettings; four agricultural lettings; four sites of Special Scientific Interest; 65 acres of Restored Chalk Grassland (including 96 Hebridean sheep) and eight disused quarries around the townships of Snodland, Halling and Wouldham. He also assists overseeing two agricultural and pheasant shoot tenancies, along with various conservation land around Medway.

Says Jones: “The site owner and the local landowners believe it is their responsibility to conserve and protect the land, as well as ensure the safety of the general public because many of these areas have public rights of way.”

That’s a lot of land to cover, which is why Jones uses his sturdy land rover to carry out site visits to some of the more vulnerable areas every day, getting around the other less accessible ones as regularly as possible. Many of the quarries have now been so successfully reclaimed by nature that they have become attractive nature reserves.

He explains some of the challenges of the job: “There are problems with petty crime in these areas, because they’re so deserted, and despite being ringed by fencing, I regularly find burnt out cars, evidence of people driving four by fours or bikes in protected areas and recently I even came across a migrant who was being exploited by nearby gangs to mind dogs they use for fighting.”

This kind of occurrence is sadly not rare, which means his day-to-day activities may include reporting burnt out cars, mending the fences which are routinely pulled apart by intruders and he recently called out the helicopter rescue people when he suspected there was a vehicle caught on the side of a chalk face.

For this reason and because the job does involve a fair amount of isolated site visits Jones always carries a panic button – connected to a GPS which he can use to talk directly to a security firm engaged for his protection. He can even switch on the device so colleagues can listen in to an exchange if he finds himself in a vulnerable situation with aggressive or threatening people.

About Sarah OBeirne

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