Published: 15:36, 21 May 2021
| Updated: 15:38, 21 May 2021
Chatham, Dover and Ramsgate are among seven areas in the South East to benefit from a £39 million boost, the government has confirmed.
Under the Future High Streets Fund plans, Chatham will receive £9,497,720, Dover will be given £3,196,497, and Ramsgate will get £2,704,213, as part of a funding injection to help areas recover from the pandemic and transform town centres.
Across the country £831 million is being shared across 72 areas, as part of the Government’s 'levelling up agenda', to improve transport infrastructure, build new homes and transform underused spaces.
Medway Council has said proposals for Chatham include bringing vacant sites in the heart of the town centre back into use, creating "vibrant public spaces which will improve wayfinding, accessibility and connectivity as well as strengthening the experience offered to visitors and residents."
The council says it will work with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to discuss final proposals which could include reconfiguring the first floor of the Pentagon Shopping Centre for community use; delivering a collaborative workspace in the town centre to support the creative sector; creating an innovation hub to support business start-ups; and restoring and redeveloping the vacant St John’s Church into a conference and coworking hub.
Medway Council leader Cllr Alan Jarrett said the council was delighted with the funding plan, adding: "We are continuing to invest heavily in Chatham with the acquisition of the Pentagon Centre and the Waterfront and Garrison Point developments which will provide high-quality housing in the town centre. Despite the ongoing challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, Medway is resilient and it is vital that we continue to look towards Medway’s future and continue to invest in our town centres to support our economy, local businesses and jobs. We are committed to making Chatham an even better place to live, work, learn and visit.”
In Dover the money will help deliver two projects to increase footfall and local spending on the high street area.
The plans complement existing projects to rejuvenate Dover town centre, including the £9.1m Lottery funded restoration of the Grade I Listed Maison Dieu, Dover Town Hall, and a £2.95m Coastal Community Fund project to revamp Market Square, as well as a £2.9m project to comprehensively redevelop part of Bench Street.
Thanet District councillor Rick Everitt said the money would support a bid to transform empty sites into employment space in Ramsgate town centre, as well as plans to improve the highway, including accessibility from the Harbour into Harbour Street.
The Labour politician believes this will help Ramsgate's regeneration go "from strength to strength"
He said: "The funding will provide a significant boost to the high street at a time that is already very challenging for many of our local businesses.
"It can only be used to support the two submitted projects.
"The first will provide more workspace in the town centre for creative industries, which will help improve the street scene and bring empty buildings back into use.
"The second is set to improve the highway, including accessibility from the Harbour into Harbour Street.
"The aim is to try and reduce the dominance of the road, making it easier for people to access the high street."
Local Growth Minister Luke Hall said: “People have relied on their local high street for generations – for shopping, socialising and essential services and we want to support them as we look towards a brighter year ahead.
“Over £39 million Future High Streets Fund for the South East of England will allow Newhaven to create a more desirable place to live by improving connectivity to the town centre.
“The investment will also help to improve productivity across the region by providing new workspace in Chatham which will give families more employment opportunities and more local jobs.”