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First designs for a new look Dartford town centre unveiled

Dartford could get its own cinema as part of more than five years of an extensive multimillion-pound development to transform the town centre.

The borough council has plenty of money to work with thanks to government funding of £4.3 million and £7.7 million from the Kent Thameside Strategic Transport Programme, and early plans for how it could be spent have now been revealed.

Lowfield Street, Market Street, and Hythe Street are among the sites identified as those with the biggest opportunities for change, with the latter earmarked for the potential arrival of a cinema.

Prospective view along Hythe Street
Prospective view along Hythe Street

Also mooted as possible additions in Hythe Street are shops, leisure and community facilities, and even a hotel, but similarly dramatic development is planned for other areas across the town centre.

Residential developer Meyer Homes is keen to end years of uncertainty over Lowfield Street after doomed plans for a Tesco superstore failed to get off the ground.

The project is being spearheaded by the promise of 548 new homes, in addition to on-site parking, new access routes into Central Park, and the introduction of a microbrewery in Market Square.

Vision for new-look Market Square, with space for outdoor market
Vision for new-look Market Square, with space for outdoor market

Station Quarter has been identified as a “gateway site” for Dartford, with small food, drink and retail outlets, plus offices, to create an inviting entrance to the town for visitors.

Changes here would complement the creation of an integrated transport hub providing easier access between Home Gardens and the railway station.

Fastrack’s presence in the town centre would be improved, possibly through the introduction of bendy buses to meet the needs of a new route through Ebbsfleet Garden City.

Vision to activate Bulls Head Yard and provide access to Orchards Shopping Centre
Vision to activate Bulls Head Yard and provide access to Orchards Shopping Centre

Dartford would become a town where pedestrians and cyclists are given priority over drivers, with improved routes in Hythe Street, Lowfield Street, Market Street and Spital Street.

Market Street’s transformation could be the most stark of all, with its disused bus stands to be removed to create a better link between Central Park and the High Street, and improve access to the library and Acacia Hall, which is soon to be refurbished.

The council wants to introduce more opportunities for market traders in the road, where footfall will likely increase as a result of the new homes in nearby Lowfield Street.

The Market Street bus stands
The Market Street bus stands

Suffolk Road and Bulls Head Yard would be enhanced by the creation of an open space just south of the Orchard Theatre, which could get new street furniture and a cafe.

All of this forms part of work so far scheduled to take place over the next five years, with the council’s own investment in Acacia Hall kicking things off later this year.

Meyer Homes hopes to finally start working on Lowfield Street next year, with Hythe Street to follow in 2019. Most of the other projects have been tentatively dated between 2018 and 2022, with some even further off.

Dartford council’s cabinet will discuss the plans at a meeting tonight (Thursday). Follow @KMDartford for updates.

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