Medway’s 20-year regeneration programme is well underway and 2017 has seen the start of many development projects.
Chatham is set to become Medway’s city centre and an ambitious project to transform it into a thriving town centre began in June. Chatham already has lots going for it, from the breathtaking views of the River Medway to the iconic sites of the Historic Dockyard Chatham and Fort Amherst. The Chatham Placemaking project will bring together the best of the town and create an even more desirable place to live, work, learn and visit.
Medway Council secured £4million from the Government’s Local Growth Fund through the South East Local Enterprise Partnership to help regenerate Chatham and make it a better place for residents, workers and visitors. The funding will be used to create an easier journey for pedestrians and cyclists from Chatham railway station to the waterfront bus station and town centre. Work has started in St John’s Square area and the project team is also working at New Cut junction where new paving has been installed, including engraved granite kerbs. A new ramp and steps will be installed in St John’s Square and while this work is carried out, a temporary ramp is in place. 2018 will see improvements continue in St John's Square, Military Square and Military Road. Works include widening the pavement to form a shared pedestrian and cycle route. There will also be improved paving materials, seating, lighting and tree planting.
The Chatham Placemaking project, which is due to be completed in 2018, is not the only project taking place to help regenerate and revitalise Chatham. Plans are also underway to deliver 115 homes at Chatham Waterfront. The exciting scheme will transform the waterfront area and introduce new ground floor retail. Designs for a development in Whiffens Avenue are also in their early stages and will be developed next year. In addition, Command of the Heights will open up a new feature and entrance for Fort Amherst using £2million of Heritage Lottery Fund to add to the city centre’s charms.
Housing developments in Gillingham
New housing opportunities have also been created in Gillingham. The town has one of the largest council-built energy efficient bungalow sites in the UK and the site was officially opened by the Housing Minister in February. Centenary Gardens form part of an £8.5million housing development programme and contribute towards the council’s existing social housing stock. The development follows on from the successful creation of 26 homes on former council garage sites in Twydall and Gillingham.
As well as its commitment to providing affordable housing for residents, Medway Council has also been working hard to support businesses. Work to regenerate Medway can also be seen in Strood with the creation of the Innovation Studios Medway, which offers small and medium sized companies a sustainable, robust and affordable premises solution. Customised shipping containers have been used to create office space. Almost £1million has been invested in the project with £600,000 of the build cost secured via the Coastal Communities Fund. The studios were an immediate hit with all of them fully let within the first month of opening.
Improvement works have recently completed at nearby Strood railway station. As part of the National Station Improvement Programme (NSIP) and Medway Council’s plans to regenerate the local area, Southeastern completed a £2.59million upgrade to the station. And in June, an ambitious new partnership to transform the transport network was launched. It helps improve the service offered to the travelling public and businesses, and ensures the area remains a driver of the UK economy. As the council’s ambitious regeneration plans become a reality, the council is committed to ensuring the road network is able to meet the needs of drivers living, working and visiting Medway.
Providing business opportunities
As Medway’s regeneration programme continues, the area’s economy continues to grow attracting more businesses. In November, the council took part in a business to business (B2B) event at The Historic Dockyard Chatham, which provided inspiration and tips for businesses and entrepreneurs. More than 14,000 businesses call Medway home, and with plans to build 29,000 new homes and create 17,000 new jobs by 2035, Medway offers many exciting new development opportunities.
One of the new, upcoming business areas is North Kent Enterprise Zone. The multi-site enterprise zone is made up of Ebbsfleet Garden City, Innovation Park Medway and Kent Medical Campus. It is set to be the most diverse business development established in the county in recent years, and each site has an important role to play in the future of the local economy. The zone seeks to specialise in digital technologies, education, healthcare and life sciences, as well as engineering and manufacturing. The north Kent powerhouse offers a whole host of opportunities for high value, high-tech businesses looking for a well-connected base in the south-east. Innovation Park Medway will be a magnet for high value technology, engineering, manufacturing and knowledge intensive businesses looking to grow in a top, affordable location in the south-east. It will offer up to 100,000m2 of high quality commercial space in a prime spot between London and the continent.
Businesses also have the opportunity to bid for millions of pounds worth of council contracts over the coming years. Hundreds of businesses from across England have already shown an interest and attended an event hosted by Medway Council in March. A total of £210million worth of contracts are on offer between 2017 and 2018, of these £88million worth of contracts is available to the business community in the works arena and £120million in the children and adults area.
Regeneration programme continues until 2035
Regeneration projects in Medway will continue until 2035 and in February the council successfully bid and won £7.2million to help fund some of the projects. Innovation Park Medway and flood defences at the former Civic Centre site in Strood received the cash injection from the Local Growth Fund (LGF). Medway Council bid for the money with a view that both initiatives would attract inward investment, raise local aspirations and transform key sites in the area. The Local Growth Fund investment was secured through the Kent and Medway Economic Partnership, a federated board of the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) which brings together key leaders from business, local government, further and higher education to drive forward economic growth opportunities. The projects are anticipated to start in 2018 and create at least 2,000 jobs and around 325 quality homes.
Next year will also see the Rochester Riverside development come to life. Medway’s flagship regeneration project was granted planning approval earlier this year and will deliver up to 1,400 homes, a hotel, primary school and much more. The £400million development will help transform the area into a modern, exciting waterfront city and will create hundreds of jobs. The Rochester Riverside site stretches from Rochester Bridge in the north to Doust Way in the south, and is a stone’s throw away from Rochester railway station and the historic heart of the town centre.
Providing opportunities for residents and businesses
Cllr Alan Jarrett, Leader of Medway Council, said: “2017 has been another exciting year for Medway; a number of projects to help regenerate the area have been turned into reality. We remain dedicated to providing new opportunities for our residents, including housing, leisure facilities and jobs. Medway is already catching the attention of businesses from far and wide and with more than 14,000 businesses now operating in the area, there has been a huge boost to the economy. We will continue to explore further opportunities in 2018 to maximise growth and ensure Medway continues to be a great place to live, work, learn and visit.”