Published: 20:49, 10 September 2021
| Updated: 20:50, 10 September 2021
A company facing an uncertain future because of landowners' plans to redevelop on its riverside site has secured a major contract leading to 50 new jobs.
ArcelorMittal Kent Wire, which is based at Chatham Docks, is planning an additional £1 million investment in its site to handle demands having won its bid to help build the HS2 railway line.
The company, which says it is continuing to grow and will need to provide new manufacturing equipment at its Kent site, says the new contract is a real "shot in the arm" for businesses based on the site next to the River Medway.
But with plans by landowners Peel L&P to close down the port and redevelop the site as a mixed use residential and leisure facility, jobs and the future of the company remain hanging in the balance.
The site has been earmarked for closure in 2025 and it has been put forward for consideration in the new Medway Local Plan – which is expected to be finally published this year following the date being pushed back multiple times.
Businesses based at the port have been lobbying Medway Council for support to retain the industrial use of the site saying the success of businesses must see it maintained or risk losing 800 jobs and millions to the Medway economy.
But so far, Conservative council leaders have been reluctant to commit amid widespread support for the firms from MP Kelly Tolhurst who has regularly clashed over the issue with her Tory colleagues at the council, Labour opposition members including party leader Sir Keir Starmer and Tory backbenchers at the council.
Company managers hope planners will keep the designation in the current plan setting the land where the docks are located for employment and industry.
If the Local Plan allocation includes Chatham Docks as acceptable for residential development it would pave the way for the businesses to be forced to move, with many threatening to quit the towns altogether.
The 50 new jobs ArcelorMittal plans to take on after securing £30m worth of work for HS2 will be created by the end of the year, bosses say.
Phil Taylor, chief executive of ArcelorMittal Kent Wire, said: "Thanks to our success in securing key contracts on HS2, we will need to invest to ensure to we are able to continue to play our part in these nationally important infrastructure contracts.
"We expect to employ 50 new well trained, highly skilled, well-paid people between now and the end of 2021 with further opportunities on the horizon.
"The growth expectation is really exciting for everyone associated with this business. This is a great shot in the arm for Chatham Docks and Medway’s manufacturing capabilities.
“Furthermore, it is clear evidence, that despite the heavy cloud hanging over this business, the company is successful and with Medway Council’s support will continue to be for many more decades to come, offering well paid highly skilled employment for the people of Medway.”
Critics say the closure of Chatham Docks would have a disastrous impact to the town and compared it to the closure of the naval dockyard in the town in 1984.
The company produces enforced steel wire-rod structures for major construction projects in the UK and has increased production since opening in 1988 to 130,000 tonnes per year.
The HS2 railway line will contact London, the West Midlands and the north via Crewe and on to Manchester and Leeds.