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Town centre regeneration work starts soon for Spirit of Sittingbourne

By Poppy Jeffery

After years of planning negotiations stretching back to 2008, work is finally about to start on the £57m scheme, aimed at improving the town centre and stopping shoppers automatically heading for Maidstone and Bluewater.

But there will be some pain first, as roadworks will be put in place from the end of this month until September 2018.

Left to right Fergus Pryor, development manager at U+I, Emma Wiggins, interim director of regeneration at Swale Borough Council, Cllr James Hunt, deputy cabinet member for regeneration and Cllr Mike Cosgrove, cabinet member for regeneration

Left to right: Fergus Pryor, development manager at U+I, Emma Wiggins, interim director of regeneration at Swale Borough Council, Cllr James Hunt, deputy cabinet member for regeneration and Cllr Mike Cosgrove, cabinet member for regeneration

The plans were finally rubber-stamped last month, getting the official thumbs-up from Swale council and now it is only a matter of months until the old Princes Street depot is transformed, bringing three new retailers – Iceland’s Food Warehouse, Home Bargains and Costa – to the town. These will open in March.

Restaurants, including Pizza Express, Wildwood and four surprise names are scheduled to open next August.

An eight-screen cinema and a 63-bedroom Travelodge have been confirmed as being ready in summer 2019, while a 308-space multi-storey car park will ease parking pressure.

The old Princes Street depot site has now been cleared ready for building work to begin. Picture Mitchell Design and Construction.

The old Princes Street depot site has now been cleared ready for building work to begin. Picture: Mitchell Design and Construction.

There are also flats being built in the former Bell Centre, off the High Street.

The property regeneration company at the heart of the plans said it has taken time to find the right tenants for the retail units.

Fergus Pryor, development manager at U+I, part of the Spirit of Sittingbourne consortium, added: “We also needed to do a lot of diversions and road realignment work and this is complicated.

How the town centre will look

How the town centre will look

“There’s a huge amount of things under the ground at the retail area which is like a rat’s nest that we have sorted out but has taken us a lot of time.

“The easier bit of development is getting it through planning but to take it to a commercial reality takes a lot of time, not only have you got the external factors of the world at large, but you’ve got to get the tenants lined up too.”

Spirit of Sittingbourne is a partnership between Swale council, U+I, Essential Land and Quinn Estates, and was selected as the council’s development partner in February 2011.

To read the full list of plans and key dates, pick up a copy of Sittingbourne News Extra

From July 24 until August 25, Milton Road will be shut by UK Power Networks so vital electricity supplies can be put in for the new retailers in Princes Street.

Then, roadworks for the main cinema and restaurants will begin on August 1. This will mean the westbound traffic from St Michael’s Road will be diverted along Station Street until December.

Those using the car park in St Michael’s Road will need to find parking elsewhere until the end of the year ie December, when that phase of roadworks finish.

Access to Sittingbourne railway station will not be affected, as Network Rail’s car park will remain open and pedestrian walkways will be available. The work on the multi-storey car park is due to start in January 2018 and it should be built within nine months.

No roadworks will take place during the Christmas period and will resume in the new year. All roadworks will be completed by September next year.

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