Regeneration update highlights the many obstacles that still remain
The update on the town centre regeneration on Wednesday evening should have provided some reassurance and confidence that contrary to popular opinion the Spirit of Sittingbourne scheme to regenerate the town centre isn’t about to be consigned to the dustbin.
However, for once, a few home truths about the continued uncertainty around the viability of the scheme emerged from none other than Swale council's chief executive officer Abdool Kara.
It remains questionable just how truthful the Council has been with the public on this matter, did they really believe that there were just a few i's to dot and t's to cross 18 months ago when permission for the now much maligned “It’s Here” signs was granted or was this simply an effort to drum up votes for the elections which took place a few weeks later.
I was hoping for a definitive answer to the questions around the £2.5 Million South East LEP grant and what plans the Council has if indeed it emerges that it is unable to spend this money by the end of the financial year.
Council Leader Andrew Bowles told us “The money that has been allocated by the South East LEP for Sittingbourne is allocated to both the road realignments and to services infrastructure works. Some of the funding has already been drawn down and expended on design works. The draw down and expenditure of the remainder of the fund has been agreed between Spirit of Sittingbourne and Kent County Council who manage the project expenditure on behalf of the LEP.”
“The draw down of the remainder of the funding takes into account that a substantial element of the cost for this section of the works is for services diversions, and the developer has confirmed that it will be in a position to start those works in sufficient time to meet the spend profile that it has agreed with the County Council on behalf of the LEP.”
However this is entirely dependent on The Spirit of Sittingbourne obtaining funding in the next couple of months for the cinema and restaurants element of the development.
On the subject of the recent addition of a hotel Cllr Roger Truelove said
“Are we really so pleased that Travelodge, who let us down with the Bell Shopping Centre, who don’t produce at all attractive buildings. Are we really so pleased at the possibility of them making a planning application to build one of their hotels right opposite the station. What real benefit will that bring to the people of Sittingbourne.”
Mr Kara responded with “When we had the first CGI’s a couple of years back, the one building that we had no idea what the use for was, was the building that was called the quarter building and we were working on possibilities for that. “
“The fact that someone has come forward, i.e. Travelodge with a specific idea for what they want to do with that site a) helps us because we didn’t have a firm plan for that particular building so it helps the development to happen and b) it brings footfall to the town centre.”
The upshot is that in order for the scheme to progress, the legal agreements between Network Rail, Kent County Council and Swale Borough Council need to be resolved. The scheme is required to reach full viability which one can only assume means that it must be fully funded, which it is not at present. There is also the question of timing, because any under-spend of the SE LEP grant would we are told fall to the private sector and this may be the final straw that breaks to camel’s back.
I am reminded of a comment that ex cllr Adam Tolhurst made in March 2015 when he said “Well it may be coming but it is going to be a very painful ride going forward.”
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Any further updates on the regeneration of Sittingbourne, I understood work was supposed to start in October 2016.
One thing That would boast the Regeneration would be A&E. HOSPITAL AS SITTINGBOURE ONLY NEED 220 in this catchment area,,,Will all the building going on We must be near that number, Still this should be started as you are talking of Three/Four years down the line. By then this area will be double of people this catchment Area, Then you would get company wanting re locate to Sittingbourne,
Plus surely you could get these big company's, Buying share in our new Hospital Plus then the other day hospital could be sold for housing making big dent in the coast of our new Hospital,
And the idea place for new Hospital would be on the corner of Bell Road , and bonus is there is now high wires about which would make great Helicopter pad for Helicopters
So please look,at this , as you will get the regeneration off the ground ,
Our Councils live in pip dream, As this town is dying every day now with Cafes and charity shops, and people in this town do not seam want to work, We are giving this Town to our foreign works, as they will be doing Job , For less money again bring down the stands of this Town , The only hope for this Town is if they build cinema to include good 1000 Seat Theatre to attract top acts then you may see this town coming back to life, Just look,at Dartford this town is now well going up thank to good Theatre To reroute traffic that could easy just one road thro the Railway car park then coming out thro St Micheal garage for court, Before this council Waste any more money
Try as one might not too, there is this feeling that the regeneration plans for Sittingbourne is a pigs ear in the making.
As in the past the current plans are aim at making St Michael’s Road as difficult to use as possible even though it is the main route through the town. The re-routing to accommodate restaurants, cinema and now yet another hotel would be fine if traffic amounts were at 1970 levels but they are not and with the M2 motorway being often closed for one reason or another (usually an accident) a high level of through traffic already clogs the A2 from Key Street roundabout through to Bapchild and beyond when it is shut.
The whole exercise would appear to be for the benefit of the land speculators (formerly known as developers) who get to build even more housing in Swale and the council who get a nice new office on the one decent looking part of the town centre. The price for this being the loss of car parking (one multi-storey in exchange) and an e