Published: 11:26, 11 August 2020
| Updated: 11:28, 11 August 2020
A programme of £170 million road, rail and environmental projects on the Hoo Peninsula could get under way this summer.
Medway Council secured the funding after bidding for a share of the government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF), which was put in place to help deliver thousands of new homes across England.
In November, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government announced the authority had been successful in its bid for major infrastructure developments on Hoo.
The council and Homes England have now signed the grant determination agreement setting out the plans for the scheme which will include 12,000 new homes and a £63 million station with a rail link to London. The train station will be in Sharnal Street.
The vision is to improve road and train connections in and around the peninsula, in addition to creating accessible open space before finalising plans for housing.
Alongside planned consultations and surveys, the initial site preparation and environmental works are due to start in 2021, and this will be followed by work on the road improvements and rail connectivity in 2022.
But Cllr Ron Sands (Ind), who represents the area, said: "We have had consultations but no real information and it is the people on the peninsula who are going to suffer.
"For example, where is the new medical centre going to go?
"The plans were drawn up pre-Covid and the situation has changed. I think we need to another long hard look at what is needed.
"Do we need a railway station when so many people are now working from home?
"I think it was inevitable all along that the council would press this through. They are determined to concrete over the peninsula."
Cllr Andy Stamp, Labour's spokesman of communities and regeneration, said while he welcomed the scheme he was concerned about the lack of inclusion with other parties.
He said the ruling Tory group had set up an advisory group to oversee the project but a request for Labour representatives and councillors on the peninsula to be involved had been denied.
He said: "This is a bad sign. This is a big step not just for Hoo, but the whole of Medway and we need to get it right."
He added it was important the infrastructure was in place before the housing development begins.
Medway Council and rail partners will work together to use the HIF funding for upgrades, including a new passenger service and station to improve connections to neighbouring boroughs and London Charing Cross.
In addition, £86 million will be used to make vital improvements to Medway’s roads, including the A228 and A289, as well as a new relief road to help ease local congestion both on and off the peninsula.
Some £14 million has been earmarked to provide a new community parkland area to benefit local wildlife and residents.
"It is anticipated the infrastructure works will be finished and in use by March 2024.
Council leader Cllr Alan Jarrett (Con) said: “I am delighted everything is in place to start working on our plans to unlock the potential on the Hoo Peninsula.
"We recognise the importance of providing residents with sustainable growth, and the HIF is giving us the opportunity to significantly improve transport links in and around the peninsula before potential new homes are developed.
"In addition to improving the road and rail connections, we have also set aside funding to create a new parkland area for residents to enjoy.
“Medway is on an exciting regeneration journey and is already reaping the rewards from improvement projects across the towns. The variety of developments and projects already under way will continue to provide Medway’s residents with improved transport links, a greater choice of facilities and new affordable and luxury homes.
"We are committed to paving the way to a sustainable future and a healthy economy for future generations to thrive in Medway.”
The Housing Infrastructure Fund is administered and monitored by the government’s housing agency, Homes England.
The programme is helping to deliver up to 300,000 new homes across England by providing local authorities with grant funding for new infrastructure, to unlock homes in areas of greatest housing demand.