Its official, 'The Venue' considered by many to be a key element of the town’s regeneration has been dropped from the proposals put forward by the Spirit of Sittingbourne on the grounds that it is not financially viable.
Back in April the consortium extolled “The Venue” as 9,000 sq ft of flexible performance space to host music, arts, entertainment, events and exhibitions.
Spokesman Alastair Cracknell from Quin Estates explained that there were a number of reasons as to why the plans had to be changed. He proceeded to tell us, that the consortium were unable to secure an interested party to take ownership of and manage the facility.
He also commented that significant services running across the site in the location of the proposed building precluded any development and ultimately it simply is not financially viable to build it.
Asked why these problems had only surfaced now and were not known about just a few months ago when they gave the press launch, he commented that the work was ongoing and the necessary background research had only recently been undertaken.
We also quizzed Alastair on the planned changes to the one way system where it had been reported that Dover Street was to be made back into a two way road. Apparently these plans too have been dropped and besides the rather obvious realignment of St Michaels Road in front of the train station there are no additional changes to the road network on the horizon.
Rather surprisingly, on the subject of the reduced car parking provision especially in regard of the commuter car parking, Alastair claimed that he was not aware of the concerns and that I was the first person to even bring this up.
Clearly this shows how limited their contact with the residents of Sittingbourne have been, either that or they are simply unprepared to listen. Anyone with half an interest in what the public actually thinks could have gained a significant insight simply by looking at the raging debates which occur on a nearly daily basis on the many online forums, Facebook pages and websites.
What is most worrying is that the consortium actually believes that the existing station owned car park is sufficient because their surveys have concluded that this is the case. I sometimes wonder what planet these people are living on, sure statistically I guess if you factor in weekend use you could suggest a less than 100% occupancy rate on average, but we all know too well that the station car park is 100% occupied every single weekday and the St Michaels Road and Spring Street car parks are also nearly 100% full most week days.
Whilst I understand that the Spirit of Sittingbourne is a commercial venture and that it does ultimately need to satisfy shareholders, I can’t help but feel let down.
For all the bravado of the press launch back in April, where the consortium faced with immense scepticism after years of failure to progress the regeneration plans, gave reassurances about their commitment, it seems that recent events have highlighted serious concerns and prove once again that our scepticism isn't entirely unwarranted.
The list of disappointments
The Multi-storey Car Park, although part of the consortiums plans, is now to be tax payer funded and not as originally agreed to be funded by the consortium
- The community benefits associated with the housing and waterside park development connected to the Morrison’s scheme could soon be wiped out if renegotiation of the Section 106 agreement with Essential Land who are part of the Spirit of Sittingbourne consortium goes ahead.
- The Venue has been canned on financial variability grounds
- Car parking is set to be reduced because the town has too much already.
- Changes to the traffic flow of St Michaels Road look set to reduce flows and therefore create a whole new wrath of problems for the town.
You may find the following of interest
Big changes ahead as Council plans to sell off car parks.
St Michaels Road to stay open to traffic
Sittingbourne Town Centre Plans
A new Town Centre complete by June 2017