Published: 12:00, 05 April 2021
| Updated: 14:21, 06 April 2021
The inside of an office block which has stood derelict for several years has been revealed.
Pictures of Mountbatten House in Chatham depict a snapshot in time of what was once a bustling workplace.
The images show the bare-bones of the building's vast work floors, staff toilets, fire escapes, reception areas and views of the surrounding area from the top floor.
A picture of what appears to an old staff kitchen which has been, for the most part emptied, is amongst the collection.
Views from a top a floor window show the aerial view of the Pentagon Centre car park - which the 12-storey building sits on top of.
Opening in 1975, it was once home to 450 Scottish Widows employees before they moved out in 2006 which left the iconic orange-red brick building empty.
In 1986 the office block also became home to Black Horse Financial, which was part of the former Lloyds TSB group at the time.
In 2015, the lease was taken over by Ellandi which owned 29 shopping centres across the country at the time. Mountbatten House was sub-leased to Mapely Gamma Acquisition (MGA).
In April 2019, Medway council acquired the Pentagon Centre as part of a multi-million pound deal.
The shopping centre in the High Street currently has 330,000 sq ft of retail space on two levels with a 430 space car park.
The local authority forked out £34.8 million for the lease and estimated at the time it would bring in £1 million annually which would be used to support council finances and services.
It then set its eyes on Mountbatten House and began discussions with MGA over plans for a joint-venture on a residential scheme for the building.
But the joint-proposal fell through and Medway Council's house-building arm – Medway Development Company (MDC) – announced it would launch a compulsory purchasing order (CPO) of the site once planning permission was granted.
A CPO gives local authorities and other government bodies the statutory right to buy a property. MDC hope to issue a planning application to Medway Council later this month.
MDC director Cllr Adrian Gulvin (Con) says a price was agreed with the owner early last year, however, this was later overturned.
Cllr Gulvin added: "Times have changed quite significantly over the last 12 months, and we've seen that the market for office accommodation has essentially fallen off a cliff with more people taking up home working."
Cllr Gulvin believes MDC will secure Mountbatten House for cheaper than the original agreed price.
"We can serve the notice (CPO), and they can try and fight it, but they would have to come up with a project better than what the council has proposed, which is highly unlikely," he added.
"Work will continue regardless and they haven't got anything planned. We would've known if they had anything as they would have come to the planning committee."
MDC is anticipating the possibility of going to a tribunal in order to carry out the purchase order, but is hopeful construction could begin in the spring.
Proposals to transform the disused office block into apartments with a rooftop dining space were announced in November.
The company hopes to convert the offices into 164 flats and build an extension, within which there would be a new entrance into the Pentagon Shopping Centre.
The apartments will have balconies and car parking spaces within the old bus station on the corner of The Brook.
The Brook Theatre would be connected to the site via a plaza; the ground level could include restaurants, pop-up kiosks, cafes and space for market stalls.
Cllr Gulvin said the plans, drawn up by Lyall Bills & Young Architects and C.F. Møller Architects, will make Chatham a "vibrant place for people to live, work, visit and shop".
He added: "When you take it into context, this isn't the only thing that's happening in the area.
"What we've got is a substantial influx of new people coming to live in the centre of Chatham.
"There will be more footfall for the shops in Chatham, in the Pentagon, the greater high street and the rest of Medway, so hopefully that will regenerate interest in people coming to the area.
"Because the council has invested so much money into Chatham, other people and developers are looking at Medway with a renewed interest, showing it as a place that's really got things going for it and hopefully they can be part of that."
The MDC held a public exhibition in the Pentagon Centre earlier this year to garner public opinion on the plans.
Cllr Gulvin said: "Without fear of contradiction, the scheme has generally been favourably received.
"We got some pretty positive feedback about it, and people were favourably commenting on it which was nice to hear.
"The only adverse comments were over a very minor feature, to try and temporarily cover up the holes on the side of the old bus station with flags and banner type things.
"We had more of a discussion on those ideas than the rest of the scheme itself."
Plans to demolish the bus ramp at the corner of Brook Road and Military Road would be the first step of the redevelopment, which Cllr Gulvin hopes will begin in the coming weeks.
There are two floors of derelict office space which Cllr Gulvin envisions could be changed into a innovation hub in the future beneath Mountbatten House.
In September last year Medway Council also discussed the possibility of using the derelict block as its new headquarters.