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Regeneration Director says "Jury’s Out on Town Centre Redevelopment"

Home / Blog / Regeneration Director says "Jury’s Out on Town Centre Redevelopment"
For years the promise of a shiny new Sittingbourne has been tantalisingly just round the corner, but never quite manages to materialise. With one false start after another and the recent withdrawal of a second major player in the process, you might be forgiven for thinking that nothing is ever going to happen.

Possibly not helped by the recent announcement last November to audience of the town’s local businesses community, the borough councils Director of Regeneration Pete Raine said that the town centre redevelopment is “a bit of a jury’s out at the moment” and progress has been “relatively flat” with the blame for the endless delays firmly lodged at the doors of the bankers and developers.

In early 2011 the Spirit of Sittingbourne consortium, which consists of Essential Land, developer Cathedral Group, financial fund manager Altyon LLP and Delancey a specialist investment advisor, were selected by Swale Borough Council as their development partner to regenerate Sittingbourne town centre over a five year period and with the promise of 1,100 new jobs.

By October of 2011, Councillor Gerry Lewin stated that a planning application would be forthcoming in the summer 2012 and work would start in earnest by 2013. However it was nearly a year later in August 2012 before Swale Borough Council finally managed to sign the Development Agreement with the Spirit of Sittingbourne consortium.

In October 2012 the project had already suffered significant delays. However it was hoped that planning applications would be submitted by the end of 2013 with construction commencing early to mid 2014.

In March 2013 the Council stated that a full planning application for phase 1 and an outline application for phase 2 of the project were anticipated by the end of 2013.

By April 2013 the project had suffered another significant setback when Tesco finally officially announced that it had pulled the plug on its part of the scheme which effectively removed a large tract of land from the plans. Tesco’s role was significant as intended to construct the pivotal bridge linking the development in Milton Creek with the town centre as well as an extension of the Forum Shopping Centre, which it owns.

In June 2013 the Sittingbourne Town Centre Opportunities Fund was set up buy and revamp empty shops as a joint venture between Swale council and the Cathedral Group.

In August 2013 as pressure started to mount Council leader Andrew Bowles stated that he anticipated work would start in 2013 on phase one of the project.

However just last week we hear surprise, surprise that the project has been delayed once again with the expectation of a master plan sometime around March/April 2014. More worryingly however is the news that Altyon LLP wants out of the Spirit of Sittingbourne consortium which has the potential for legal wrangling’s over future of the Development Agreement which all parties signed in August 2012.

It is now unclear as to exactly where the project stands and quite what the timetable consists of beyond the submission of the Spirit of Sittingbourne master plan. The timetable for planning applications is elusively out of reach, let alone any idea on when we might actually see any work commence.

It seems unbelievable now that just five months ago Council leader Andrew Bowles went on record stating that construction would begin before the end of 2013. It’s difficult to comprehend how, in such as short space of time, the project could have possibility slipped so far. If anything we’re now further away from construction starting than we were last August.

Rather amusingly the spirit of sittingbourne’s website carries the tag line

“Watch this space, It is finally here!”

If only that were true.

Andy Hudson


Showing comments 1 to 1 of 1

Maybe its a good thing !!

Everything the SBC has been involved in "improving " as far back as I can remember has been a major C***up.

Starting way back .A multi storey car park without strong enough foundations for more than the first floor, eventually demolished providing more spaces on the footprint than it had. Jumping on the band wagon to provide  block paving etc with associated on pavement parking.and reducing the High Street to one way because it was the trendy thing to do. Creating a one way system that crosses itself. Allowing a perfectly serviceable roundabout to be replaced by traffic lights because Morrisons said jump. Allowing and encouraging major developers to  smother the towns outskirts with newbuilds without doing anything to update the infrastucture to cope. A bypass road everyone was against except the council,that doesnt get used because there are so many humps your car falls to pieces. Another classi
Comment by R W Harris on 20 Jan 2014
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