Published: Monday, 15th February 2021

Work has begun on creating an innovative adult learning and skills hub in Gillingham.

Last year we were awarded £1.99million from the South East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (SELEP) £85million share of the government’s £900million Getting Building Fund. SELEP successfully secured the largest allocation for any Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) in the UK. The fund was created to invest in local infrastructure projects to drive economic growth following the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The funding will be used to create a Learning Skills and Employment Hub on the vacant top floor of Britton Farm Mall, a former shopping centre in Gillingham. The hub, which will be run by Medway Adult Education, will focus on supporting adults to retrain, upskill and access employment opportunities. Courses will be tailored towards helping residents gain qualifications for highly skilled jobs which are being created across Medway. The new centre is due to reopen in 2022.

Work has also begun to transform the shopping mall area at Britton Farm. Part of the roof will be removed to make the area feel more open, new planters will be provided and the floor will be resurfaced. The works are due to be completed later this year.

The funding also supports the delivery of 44 new affordable homes which are due to be built in the loading bay of the former supermarket by our own housing company, Medway Development Company (MDC). MDC is also working on plans to deliver the Waterfront and Garrison Point developments in Chatham.

We will continue to liaise with local business owners and residents as the works progress.

The Britton Farm underground car park will remain open during the works, and the first-floor car park is due to close in early March to enable the works to be carried out.

Providing growth for all

Leader of Medway Council, Cllr Alan Jarrett, said: “I am pleased that work has begun to create the adult learning and skills hub in Gillingham. We are committed to providing residents with opportunities to learn new skills which will help them access a wider range of job opportunities. We understand that some residents may currently be experiencing difficulties finding a job due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and I would encourage them to find out more about the online education courses on offer at Medway Adult Education. Medway is resilient and it remains vital that we continue to invest in Medway’s future and seize opportunities to provide growth for all. This reinforces our commitment to the regeneration of all our high streets, and our work at Britton farm emphasises our commitment to Gillingham town centre.”

Opportunities for residents to learn new skills 

Cllr Rodney Chambers, Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Inward Investment, Strategic Regeneration and Partnerships, said: “The new learning and skills hub will provide a range of opportunities for residents to learn new skills and the public realm improvements will further transform Britton Farm. This project will breathe new life into the end of the high street and demonstrates our commitment to helping our high streets thrive. I look forward to seeing the works progress.”

Creating upskilling opportunities 

SELEP Chair Christian Brodie said: “The Getting Building Fund is about shovel-ready projects that can deliver quickly to help get our economy back on its feet after the damaging effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re pleased that this vital work to deliver a new adult learning and skills hub in Gillingham has kicked off and look forward to the hub opening its doors in Spring 2022.

“Alongside our Getting Building Fund projects, SELEP is focusing heavily on creating upskilling opportunities for South East residents – both those who are looking to enter new sectors, and those who have been negatively affected in their careers by the pandemic. This project will bring a major boost to Gillingham, opening up a vast new job market to residents, as well as provide a draw to the town centre.”

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