Published: 11:42, 22 July 2021
| Updated: 15:56, 22 July 2021
A huge riverside development of 1,500 homes, restaurants, bars and cafes has been given the green light by councillors.
The plans for the Albion Waterside in Gravesend near the canal basin in the town were discussed last night.
The application from developers Joseph Homes and its subsidiary JH Milton Ltd is the third major scheme put forward for the disused site next to the River Thames.
Previous plans in 2003 and 2014 never materialised and Joseph Homes expects the project to take 12 years to complete with extensive infrastructure works and demolition of derelict buildings required.
Craig Carson, development director for Joseph Homes, said: "We are thrilled Gravesham council unanimously voted in favour to grant planning permission for Albion Waterside.
"Our masterplan regeneration for this site is one we’ve worked on with our brilliant project team JTP LLP, Barton Willmore, Ramboll, Caneparo Associates, Montagu Evans and BDP Landscape to ensure that we will deliver a vibrant and truly sustainable neighbourhood for Gravesend.
"From the outset our vision has been to bring forward a transformative development in this part of Gravesend improving access to the river, while creating a sense of place through new homes, improved public realm and exciting new facilities, such as restaurants and cafes.
"We are delighted with the decision taken and we look forward to continue working with local residents, businesses and the council in delivering these proposals."
A hybrid planning application consisting of two parts was considered by councillors setting out plans for six blocks up to 23-storeys tall revealed last year.
A full planning permission to demolish existing buildings and structures to be replaced by a mixed use development on 1.7 hectares of the overall site was approved.
Commercial spaces as well as work to build a new river wall, swing bridge repairs, highways improvements to Milton Road and Ordnance Road and public open spaces including the Thames and Medway Canal will now go ahead.
Developers have also proposed to create a new riverside walk as well as a public plaza around the canal basin.
The second part requested outline permission on a remaining 3.7 hectares was also granted with reserved matters due to be discussed in a later application.
Cllr Lauren Sullivan (Lab), Gravesham council’s cabinet member for strategic environment, said: “The unanimous cross party decision of the committee to grant permission for Albion Waterside is an important one for Gravesham.
“This is a substantial and high-quality regeneration of a brownfield site which will transform a rundown area and open up access to the river and the Thames and Medway Canal for everyone to enjoy.
“It should also be noted that over 65% of the site will be open space, and the development will help us towards our target of becoming a carbon neutral borough by 2030 through the inclusion of some of the latest technologies, including heat recovery systems for the apartments and air source heat pumps for the retail units."
"This decision is an important one for Gravesham..."
Joseph Homes said it is expecting to see lower profit returns due to the extensive infrastructure costs to redevelop the site.
It is proposing to spend £16m on flood defences (£3.25m), contaminated land remediation (£5.85m) and transferring electricty from Ebbsfleet (£6.85m).
As a result it wants to provide just 11% of the total homes to be made available through “affordable” schemes such as shared ownership or social rents which it says will make the overall project financially viable.
The latest proposals include 4,500 sq m of commercial space, 750 car parking spaces, electric vehicle charging points, and a shuttle bus service to the town centre.
Unresolved objections received from the Environment Agency and Highways England which delayed the decision earlier this month have now been withdrawn, a council report said.
The concerns will now be dealt with under planning conditions now due to be drawn up by council planning officers.
The council must refer the plans to the Secretary of State due to more than double the housing allocation being proposed than covered under the council’s Local Plan.
Cllr Sullivan added: "It will also make an important contribution towards the borough meeting government-set housing targets.
“Earlier this year the government announced that with its Housing Delivery Test target for the previous three financial years not having been reached in Gravesham, we as a council must presume in favour of sustainable development when determining planning applications for new housing.
“The housing targets announced by government in December 2020 mean that as time progresses, the borough’s housing need for a three year period will rise from 1,043 new homes to 1,965.
“These housing targets are imposed on us by government, and while we do not agree with them, we have no option but to plan to meet them.
“If the new homes aren’t built in the numbers decided by government the amount of unplanned and speculative development will increase, placing greater demands on the borough’s overstretched services and infrastructure.
"This could also result in planning decisions being taken away from elected members and local residents, and handed to government inspectors, removing all local decision making.
“Finding sites for the number of new homes the government insists must be built in the Borough inevitably means there will be future pressure on greenfield locations.
“To keep greenfield location pressure to the minimum possible we must encourage developers to maximise the potential of the brownfield sites we have available, which Albion Waterside makes an important contribution to.”
Developers and Gravesend Sailing Club are in discussions about introducing mitigation measures to "offset the impacts of the development from wind effects" on sailing activities.
A council report said it could be addressed through planning conditions.
The plans were initially due to be discussed on July 7 but was pulled at the eleventh hour to allow developers to address objections raised during the consultation phase.