Major capital projects across Kent and Medway have been boosted by a government cash injection of some £34.2m. Communities and local government minister, Andrew Percy, today announced a package of projects across the county will receive the funding, to help create jobs, support businesses and create new growth opportunities. £4.3m will be used to transform Dartford town centre, £4.8m is available to increase rail connectivity at Ashford International, £1.53m will be used to redevelop Fort Halstead in Sevenoaks and £1.26m has been unlocked for A2500 Lower Road improvements.
In Medway, Rochester Airport Technology Park, will benefit from a £3.7m injection and the Strood Civic Centre flood mitigation works project has received £3.5m. Elsewhere, £4.6m will be used for the Leigh Flood Storage Area in Tonbridge, a further £4.4m for the A2 off-slip at Canterbury and £6.12m for the Kent and Medway Engineering, Design, Growth and Enterprise Hub in the city. The cash was awarded to the South East Local Enterprise Partnership, which drives economic growth across the county. Projects in Kent and Medway that have previously received funding have included the Kent and Medway Growth Hub, Tonbridge Town Centre regeneration, Sittingbourne Town Centre regeneration, M20 junction 4 improvements, Maidstone gyratory improvements and the Rathmore Road Link, Gravesend.
SELEP chairman Christian Brodie said: “This growth deal settlement is a huge boost for the economy in Kent and Medway. We have secured funding to channel significant investment into the projects, which are of highest priority to our businesses and local areas.”
Geoff Miles, SELEP vice chair and chair of Kent & Medway Economic Partnership, said: “This investment enables us to drive forward our shared growth agenda delivering economic growth, new jobs, facilitating housing, improving connectivity and boosting skills. The additional funding that will be leveraged into the South East as a result of these investments is testament to the continued success of our area.”
Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council leader Nicolas Heslop said the funding would give local people more certainty on the future of flooding in the area. “Knowing that we will be able to deliver much needed measures to increase the capacity of the Leigh Flood Storage Area and in turn reduce flood risk will see significant growth to business and property within communities along the River Medway and this will give peace of mind and a huge boost to those who have been affected by flooding in previous years,” he said. Sevenoaks District Council leader, Peter Fleming, added: “We are pleased that both SELEP and government has seen value in the Fort Halstead project. Since DStL [Defence Science and Technology Laboratory] announced they were leaving six years ago we have been working tirelessly with the new owners to make sure the site remains employment led. After a planning appeal a government inspector agreed and therefore alongside 450 homes any development will have to both resupply the lost jobs and see these delivered in advance of the housing. The funding will allow SDC to work with the owners to help bring these jobs forward, allowing the fort to remain a major employment site in the district into the future.”
The news was also welcomed by political figures in Dartford, including council leader, Jeremy Kite, and MP Gareth Johnson. “I am thrilled to finally hear the news of our bid that we have been waiting for,” said Cllr Kite.“In truth, the high ranking given to this project is extremely welcome but it is no less than our team deserve. Working together the council, MP and SELEP have created, supported and lobbied for a funding bid of the highest quality. Our strategic location and desirability for homes and business has turned Dartford into an area of high growth, but we have made the point repeatedly that the growth cannot be sustained without investment in infrastructure. Today’s announcement is the first of several we need that must include a practical resolution to the nightmare caused to our town by traffic on the M25. This investment will help fuel the transformation of our town centre – improving public spaces, helping create a new market square and allowing us to take a fresh look at the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. It is only one part of the jigsaw, but it is a major one nevertheless and I am both delighted and proud of our team. We have worked together with a single focus from civic centre to Westminster and it has paid dividends.”
Mr Johnson added: “This is fantastic news for Dartford – we have been working hard to get this funding bid so that the town centre can be enhanced and improved. It will help the economic situation by bringing more people into the town, improve public spaces and help create a new market square. This money will give Dartford a significant lift and I look forward to seeing it make a real difference the lives of everyone who lives in Dartford.”
The two Medway projects – Rochester Airport Technology Park and flood mitigation works at Strood Civic Centre – will create at least 2,000 jobs and up to 325 quality homes, council chiefs said. 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. Funding for the technology park will go towards the installation of infrastructure on the site for future business, such as access roads and a water and electricity supply. Business occupiers of the site will benefit from Enterprise Zone tax discounts for a five year period to a maximum value of £275,000.
The brownfield Civic Centre site has been identified as a site for regeneration and an ideal location for up to 325 waterfront homes, but at present the site is at considerable risk of flooding and requires protection works before it can be redeveloped.
“This is brilliant news for Medway,” said council leader, Alan Jarrett. “This funding will help us to move forward with important projects that are going to be vital for Medway’s growth and economic success in years to come.”
Portfolio holder for inward investment, strategic regeneration and partnerships Rodney Chambers, added: “I am very pleased that these bids have been successful and we will be able to deliver on these key projects which are set to benefit the local economy, businesses and residents. The progress we’ll be able to make as a result of this funding will help to make Medway an even more desirable place to live, work, visit and learn.”