We have published the results of the first phase of public consultation on how £170 million would be spent on the Hoo Peninsula.
Made possible thanks to the government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF), our Future Hoo team has brought forward plans for environmental improvements and upgrades to the area’s rail and road infrastructure through the multi-million pound investment.
As part of the Future Hoo consultation, we mailed 24,500 local households on and around the peninsula, supported by social media activity and online meetings with community groups. We received the views of 552 people on the proposals via the consultation.
The government has tasked us with delivering 26,962 new homes across all of Medway by 2037. This level of new homes is equivalent to 1,586 homes a year, including the delivery of a possible 10,600 on the Hoo Peninsula, as part of the Local Plan.
Cllr Alan Jarrett, Leader of Medway Council, said: “The consultation has given us a useful insight into the views of a section of the community on the Hoo Peninsula, and provides valuable feedback on the outline proposals that we presented.
“This is part of a wider conversation that we need to have across the whole of Medway as part of creating the Local Plan. No-one is happy about the level of new homes that the government has told us to deliver across all Medway by 2037 and we are obliged to meet this target. The HIF funding allows us to accommodate new homes on the peninsula in a way that is clearly thought through to look after the environment, put in place road and rail improvements and sustain our communities.
“The consultation shows there is concern about the impact extra development would have on existing residents as well as the environment. However, there is also an underlying understanding of the benefits that the £170m investment could bring. As we refine our plans further and add more detail, I am confident these benefits will become clearer and will help to allay any concerns.”
Environmental enhancements proposed under the HIF include opening up privately-owned farmland to become publicly-accessible parkland. Widespread planting, habitat creation and access work would also be delivered as part of the HIF’s £14m investment in a Strategic Environmental Management Scheme (SEMS).
The consultation showed that respondents were largely in agreement with the aims of the SEMS, with more than three quarters (77 per cent) saying the enhancement and protection of green spaces on the Hoo Peninsula is important to them. A similar percentage (76 per cent) agreed any new green spaces should help to protect existing ecologically sensitive sites and 73 per cent felt new green spaces should include a variety of habitats. The most common concerns were the need to protect existing green spaces and the threat to the area from over-development.
The second element of the HIF proposals includes plans for a £63m investment in a new train station and reinstated passenger service on the Grain branch line. Support was less clear cut, with 37 per cent agreeing the re-introduction of passenger rail services was important for the area compared with 36 per cent disagreeing.
The most frequently cited benefit was to ‘ensure the local area is well connected and accessible’ (39 per cent), followed by ‘reduce reliance on cars’ (36 per cent) and ‘improve local public transport’ (36 per cent).
The most common concern (57 per cent) about the rail proposals was that better rail services might lead to ‘increased traffic travelling to the station’ followed by ‘the environmental impact of re-introducing services’ (51 per cent) and the ‘cost of the services’ (50 per cent).
The final part of the HIF consultation focused on the delivery of highways improvements including a new relief road to access the peninsula via Woodfield Way. The work also proposes to upgrade the existing road network with the provision of new infrastructure including slip roads, junctions and interchanges on the A228 and A289 and wider highway improvements.
The importance of improving road links was supported by 44 per cent of respondents – rising to 57 per cent in the over 65 age group – while 41 per cent disagreed and 15 per cent did not voice an opinion.
The most common benefits cited by residents for the overall package were to: reduce reliance on a single main road on and off the Hoo Peninsula (36 per cent); ensure the local area is well connected and accessible (30 per cent); and improve air quality by reducing bottlenecks on Four Elms Hill/Four Elms Roundabout (29 per cent).
The three greatest highways concerns were: loss of a rural feeling (81 per cent); increased traffic (78 per cent); and the environmental impact of improving the road links (76 per cent). These mirror broader concerns that arose during the consultation about overdevelopment of the Hoo Peninsula.
Reviewing residents' ideas
Cllr Jarrett added: “We would like to thank the respondents who made 111 suggestions as to how they thought the highways proposals could be improved.
“We are already reviewing their ideas regarding how to improve access to the Hoo Peninsula and reduce congestion in the local area.”
The consultation ran from January to April 2021 and will be followed by further consultation in November this year.