Thames Gateway: Land affected by contamination
By Jonathan Atkinson
|St Marys Island. Photo: Environment Agency|
Kent’s industrial past was mostly based along its rivers. The Thames, Darent, Swale and Medway Rivers provided water for industry and a handy transport route for goods. Over time, industrial buildings along the rivers such as the cement works at Holborough, the paper-mills at Tovil, the sweet factory in Maidstone the old coal wharves that fed the many gasworks and plenty of smaller commercial uses have slowly become defunct and many left derelict. The old Chatham naval dockyard at the estuary end of the River Medway has long since ceased its naval use after a long distinguished history.
|Jonathan Atkinson, Environment Agency|
In recent years the drive for sustainability and re-development of derelict areas rather than building on Greenfield sites has meant many of these sites have taken on a new lease of life and are bringing vibrancy and bustle back to the riverside and adjacent areas.
Chatham dockyard has changed from a vast area of empty buildings and land to a unique museum of dockyard history, now a world heritage site, together with a new University campus, the new Medway Council Compass Centre, hundreds of houses, new business’ and new shopping outlets. Recreation has also been given a role with marinas and sailing schools located in the old dockyard basins.
The story continues with new housing replacing paper-mills at Northfleet with the award winning Ingress Park development. Together with the three new villages in the old massive chalk quarries at Bean this will bring commuters to the new Ebbsfleet station connection on the Channel Tunnel rail-link. Further plans for the heart of Chatham, Gravesend canel-side and the quayside in Sittingbourne will see old tired areas regenerated to vibrant new town centres.
|Contaminated land. Photo: Environment Agency|
This whole process of new for old is not just a change in history but is offering substantial improvements for the river and environment. Many of these old sites were heavily contaminated by past use with heavy metals, oils, asbestos and other chemicals. Some were leaking contamination into the river and others posed a real risk to casual users of the derelict sites. The new riverside developments have cleaned these sites up removing dereliction, fly-tipped wastes, dangerous buildings and contamination and bringing new jobs, new housing and attractive riverside frontages.