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Chatham Docks masterplan revealed by Salford Quays and MediaCity UK developer Peel L&P branded 'pure fantasy' by opponent


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Plans revealed for a 3,600 home development and a promise of 2,000 jobs have been shunned by opponents who have labelled the plans "pure fantasy".

Ambitious early stage aspirations to redevelop Chatham Docks were revealed by landowners Peel L&P earlier this month.

Peel L&P have revealed their Chatham Docks masterplan for the site set to close in 2025 despite fight from businesses. Picture: Peel L&P
Peel L&P have revealed their Chatham Docks masterplan for the site set to close in 2025 despite fight from businesses. Picture: Peel L&P

The company, which owns the site on the River Medway, is one of the UK's largest property development companies and was the firm behind the Salford Quays and MediaCityUK regeneration in Manchester.

A masterplan for the site has been made public and Peel L&P is hoping to shape plans through public consultation next year.

But critics say they do not believe the promises being made and say the plan in principle will not have the backing of the majority of councillors, which led to a backbench rebellion among a section of the Conservative group at Medway Council.

It is a major stumbling block in the process of bringing forward a new Local Plan for Medway setting out how to reach its 27,000 housing blueprint by 2037.

Many councillors voiced their concern in the site's inclusion in draft proposals which were due to be presented to full council earlier this year which fell through alongside a lack of supporting evidence.

Developers have earmarked one million sq ft of commercial land space and floated the possibility of it being a site for a new Medway hospital but plans are in the early ideas stage. Picture: Peel L&P (53752060)
Developers have earmarked one million sq ft of commercial land space and floated the possibility of it being a site for a new Medway hospital but plans are in the early ideas stage. Picture: Peel L&P (53752060)

Those documents are still being planned and it is not expected to be revisited for several months until the work is complete. Meanwhile, a government minister said any redevelopment plans "must not harm the Medway Towns' economy".

Cllr Stuart Tranter, a long-standing critic of the proposals which would see the docks closed in 2025 with the loss of 800 jobs, expressed his scepticism again this week and says opponents will take a lot of convincing before voting to approve the docks inclusion.

He said: "Nevermind their masterplan but what about the masterplan for businesses which could be there for decades to come?

Chatham Docks, far left and right, could be home to 3,600 new homes and Chatham Waters, left foreground, which are subject to plans for redevelopment by Peel L&P. Picture: Phil Drew
Chatham Docks, far left and right, could be home to 3,600 new homes and Chatham Waters, left foreground, which are subject to plans for redevelopment by Peel L&P. Picture: Phil Drew

"Peel's plan is pointless because the majority of Medway councillors will not agree with the designation.

"They can't even tell me where the 750 jobs they've created are at Chatham Waters. It's a myth and the numbers I do have don't even come close to 750."

At last Wednesday's briefing, the Messenger asked Peel L&P executive director for development about the job numbers.

He said some 200-250 people are employed at Asda with about 50 at Marston's pub, the Mast and Rigging.

Numbers provided to KentOnline by Waterfront University Technical College (UTC) confirmed there are 25 full-time staff employed but Mr Whittaker disputed those numbers saying that did not match their figures.

Retail units set to open in buildings completed along the waterfront in the last 12 months at Chatham Waters would also be providing further jobs, Mr Whittaker said but did not provide total figures.

Cllr Stuart Tranter has been a long-standing critic of plans to close and redevelop Chatham Docks and there is a growing number of councillors opposed across the council. Picture: Medway Council
Cllr Stuart Tranter has been a long-standing critic of plans to close and redevelop Chatham Docks and there is a growing number of councillors opposed across the council. Picture: Medway Council

Cllr Tranter accused Peel L&P of "intimidating and running down those businesses" and there would not be this situation "had they been a focussed dock operator".

"We feel very misled on all of this. We don't believe the hype and were told in 2019 the dock companies were failing and everything was unsustainable.

"I've seen no evidence of this.

"Each of those arguments has been proven to be incorrect. They are an important part of Medway's competitive advantage and linked to our maritime heritage and our maritime future."

Cllr Tranter said the developers have "plucked 2,000 jobs and expect us to believe it".

He added: "We're not fools and have absolutely no belief in this.

Chatham Docks is set for closure in 2025 as leases expire and landowners Peel L&P say they will not be renewed but there is a campaign to protect the jobs there. Picture: Save Chatham Docks
Chatham Docks is set for closure in 2025 as leases expire and landowners Peel L&P say they will not be renewed but there is a campaign to protect the jobs there. Picture: Save Chatham Docks
The Chatham Docks site is home to 22 businesses employing 800 people and supporting a further 600 in the supply chain, research shows
The Chatham Docks site is home to 22 businesses employing 800 people and supporting a further 600 in the supply chain, research shows

"It's pure fantasy and a convenient round number. I would hope our hard working planning officers won't be drawn in by wild promises."

Vince Maple, Medway Labour Group leader, said: "I support the principle of additional health resources if that takes the pressure off Medway Maritime.

"It may well be that something like a minor injuries unit which other parts of Kent have got, something like that, perhaps particularly on the other side of the water might be appropriate over on the Strood or Peninsula side, but I think the health service needs to come up with a plan for that.

"I suspect Peel will want to try and say as much as they can to convince people that any plan they come forward with is better than retaining the 1,500 jobs and respectfully to them, I disagree.

"I think they've done a good job on Chatham Waters, but actually, Chatham Waters didn't lead to the situation that we would have here where we will be losing such a number of high quality jobs and effectively ending our historic and industrial links with the River."

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