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The Experts

Jayne McLaughlan
Jayne McLaughlan, SEEDA

Viewpoint: SEEDA (South East England Development Agency)

By Jayne McLaughlan
SEEDA is responsible for the economic and social development of the South East of England. While they are naturally very optimistic about the future of the Thames Gateway, they are also aware of their duty to create vibrant, sustainable communities.

From projects in their early stages, to developments currently under construction, right up to well established sites such as the award-winning Chatham Maritime, SEEDA is passionately committed to turning these often derelict, abandoned brownfield sites into truly sustainable communities.

Major projects include Queenborough and Rushenden on the Isle of Sheppey. Like many traditional industrial areas in the UK, it has suffered economic decline since the 1960s. However, the area’s colourful past as an important seafaring district - in addition to its inspiring waterfront location – have meant that it is a prime location for regeneration.

This SEEDA led project, which will create a vibrant environment in which to live, work and spend quality leisure time by the sea includes the creation of superb transport links, 2,000 new homes, a primary school, marina, restaurants and bars, hotel and community centre plus hundreds of employment opportunities. A cash injection of 7m from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister’s (ODPM’s) Sustainable Communities Plan, plus 3m from SEEDA means the early stages of the development are already underway. A planning application has been logged with Swale Borough Council and consent is anticipated in Summer 2007.

Then there is Chatham Maritime, SEEDA’s flagship development in the heart of the Thames Gateway. Already more than two thirds complete, it comprises over 140 hectares of former naval dockyard which is being transformed into a stunning new community providing homes, jobs, educational facilities, retail, recreational and leisure amenities. To date more than 600 million of private and public funds have gone into regenerating the site. A thousand homes have already been built, with a further 2,000 planned, along with a number of bars and restaurants around the site’s award-winning marina. More than 3,500 people now work at Chatham Maritime for a whole host of companies including MHS homes, Lloyds of London, Royal Bank of Scotland Plc and Kent Police Constabulary, which has just opened its Medway Headquarters building at the site and is now home to 500 police personnel.

Other features at Chatham Maritime include Dickens World, a visitor/entertainment complex dedicated to the life and times of Charles Dickens and due to open in April. A multi screen cinema next door opened in October 2006. Visitors and residents also benefit from a pub, restaurant, hotel, fast-food outlet and convenience store in the converted Ship and Trades building. And for those who enjoy shopping there is the Dockside Outlet Centre, featuring more than 80 shops and restaurants.

As well as a school, residents have a Doctors’ surgery and a state-of-the-art community centre, with a pharmacy under construction. The site is also home to the Universities at Medway Partnership, made up of the University of Greenwich, University of Kent, Canterbury Christ Church University and Mid-Kent College. This 50 million new campus which includes 23 million of funding from ODPM and SEEDA, will see student numbers at the site rise to 6,000 by 2007. Other educational facilities at Chatham Maritime include a two-form primary school for up to 420 children and a day-nursery for very young children.

Further projects include the redevelopment of Northfleet Embankment (East), a key location just a mile away from the new Ebbsfleet International Station, which is due to start providing international rail services this Spring and domestic services by the end of 2009.

Plans include the creation of 25,000 sq m of employment space, up to 1800 new homes, community facilities, a new school, restaurants and bars and areas of open space, along with 400 metres of open river frontage. Public consultation has been held on the masterplan and it is anticipated that outline planning consent will be granted by the Autumn.

Nearby, the regeneration of Dartford Town Centre and Northern Gateway is being brought forward with 16.5 million funding from ODPM. Improvements will be made to retail and business space as well and accessibility issues will also be addressed. 2,500 new homes will also be created.

Rochester Riverside is one of the South East England Development Agency’s key regeneration projects in Medway, North Kent. In joint partnership with Medway Council, SEEDA has created a comprehensive masterplan for this currently derelict and isolated 84 acre riverside site. As well as providing much needed homes, the scheme is expected to create up to 750 new jobs. The scheme has already secured 91 million in funding from partners including the ODPM, SEEDA and Medway Council. Planning permission for the proposals has been granted and landraising and river defence work carried out at the site.

At Strood Riverside in Medway, a collaboration agreement has been signed by SEEDA and Medway Council to redevelop the site as a joint venture. The emerging masterplan features, amongst other things, open space by the river, housing, community facilities and improved flood defenses.

SEEDA realizes that whilst it is an area of great opportunity, the North Kent section of the Thames Gateway has some of the most deprived communities in the region and a legacy of under-investment. SEEDA and its partners therefore have an important role to play in ensuring employment and housing growth is undertaken in a holistic manner that ensures economic, social and environmental needs are met.

All aspects of sustainability also need to be addressed, meaning that we at SEEDA have a duty to ensure that we create vibrant, sustainable communities where people want to live, work and spend quality leisure time.

Jayne McLaughlan, SEEDA. January 2007.

last updated: 12/02/07
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