Published: 13:17, 30 October 2019
| Updated: 09:52, 01 November 2019
Hundreds of jobs are set to be lost after port owners confirmed they will close docks in 2025.
Some 800 people are currently employed at Chatham Docks in Medway - which is owned by Peel L&P.
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The shock move was confirmed by Peel as it works on plans to redevelop the area "for alternative uses".
The company says the estate is "financially unsustainable" in its current form as a port and has already put the site forward as a potential place for housing, retail, tourism and leisure to be considered in the upcoming Medway Local Plan.
Council documents show the site was assessed last year under the Strategic Land Availability Assessment (SLAA) - one of the early steps towards creating the plan.
The site was considered suitable, achievable and available to be included in the Local Plan when council planners assessed Peel's submission.
It is estimated it could be delivered by 2035.
Peel says it is planning to work with businesses on the site to offer "alternative locations" which could see firms move to Sheerness - a port it also owns.
The news comes as a total surprise to companies operating on at the port - known officially as London Medway.
Earlier this week, 10 businesses announced they will be forming a campaign group amid fears the ongoing Chatham Waters development is setting a precedent for development which could encroach on the port threatening jobs and companies.
The Association of Chatham Docks Commercial Operators (ACDCO) say it will be fighting to stop Chatham Waters expanding and that the site "remains as a commercial port".
But now members say the fight to save the docks from redevelopment is more crucial than ever.
Peter Alexander, director of Steel Fuel Ltd, commercial recycling specialists and a leading member of ACDCO, said: "Chatham Docks is a thriving commercial port and manufacturing site. The businesses here directly support 800 full-time skilled jobs and more than 16 apprentices.
"Our combined annual turnover is over £150 million. Come down and see for yourself - the port is not disused or run-down - it's thriving."
"All of this is going to be torn apart. Feelings are running high.”
The port - not to be confused with Chatham Historic Dockyard or Chatham Maritime - operates as a 75-acre commercial port and manufacturing hub.
Paul Chappels, Senior Property Manager at Peel L&P said: “We are supporting an allocation within Medway Council’s new local plan for alternative uses on this land as the Chatham Dock Estate is financially unsustainable in maintaining it as a Port.
“The site has the potential to provide much needed housing on brownfield land, creating an estimated 2,000 additional jobs as well as further opening up the River Medway providing an important pedestrian and cycle link between St Mary’s Island and Gillingham Pier.
“We’ve been in discussions with existing occupiers about our plans for a number of years and will continue to work with them to find alternative locations such as the Port facility in Sheerness. We will continue to manage the estate in accordance with the lease terms that expire in 2025.”
More by this authorMatt Leclere