Published: Wednesday, 2nd November 2022

A public event is due to be held to give people the opportunity to share ideas on how to help a section of Chatham high street thrive as part of ongoing improvement works across Medway’s city centre.

We have secured millions of pounds worth of external funding to invest in improvement works across Chatham, providing more opportunities for residents and businesses, as well as helping the town thrive.

One of those successful funding bids was from Historic England’s High Street Heritage Action Zones. We were awarded £1.6m in April 2020 to invest in the Sun Pier to Star Hill conservation area, including sections of both Chatham and Rochester High Streets.

This funding is aimed to transform historic high streets into thriving town centres through the power of heritage, by delivering physical improvements and cultural activities.

We have already used some of Historic England’s funding to create a programme which re-uses and re-vitalises buildings to offer business support, grants and help promote vacant building opportunities, as well as to restore the front of Chatham House to its former glory. It has also supported the creation of a local Cultural Consortium, which includes arts organisations and community groups, to develop a cultural heritage and engagement programme to showcase the area’s history.

As part of the next improvement project in the conservation area, the council is looking to create a guide for future development in this area in a way which protects heritage and character whilst enabling sensitive, sustainable growth and regeneration. In February 2021, HTA Design LLP was appointed as lead consultants for the implementation, planning and delivery of the Significance Led Development Framework.

Residents, shoppers, business owners, employees, students and anyone else invested in Chatham, are encouraged to attend a symposium event to hear more about the plans in the Sun Pier to Star Hill conservation area from a wide variety of expertise including from academic, urban and landscape designers, heritage and conservation experts and local creatives.

The event, being held at St Johns Church in Railway Street, Chatham, on Friday, 4 November, between 10am and 4.30pm, will include a range of presentations and interactive workshops around three broad themes:

Reflections on Medway: Rivers, streets and people - this theme considers the potential of the river as a site of recreation, landscape, biodiversity and industrial transit, and the challenges it presents in terms of the destructive forces of flooding in the context of climate change.

Creative, cultural and social regeneration: The participatory and co-design process needs to promote, support and utilise the potential of creative industry to fuel the area’s identity and cultivate its own unique sense of place.

A new sense of place: As part of the day, there will be a public exhibition by Kent School of Architecture and Planning and HTA on how the area could potentially look in the future.

Feedback and activity from the event will be captured and published in due course.

Help our town centres thrive

Leader of Medway Council, Cllr Alan Jarrett, said: “High streets have been the beating heart of communities for many years and, in Medway, we recognise their importance. We have a great success rate at funding bids to make improvements across Medway to benefit our residents and businesses, and to help our town centres to continue to thrive. As our city centre, Chatham is focal to our ongoing regeneration programme, and Historic England’s High Street Heritage Action Zones is just one of the many ongoing and vital improvement projects in the town.

The symposium event gives us further opportunity to get the public’s views and ideas, something which is incredibly important to us to help make sustainable changes to protect the future of Chatham.”

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