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Opposition as Medway Council contractor bids to extend permission for former golf club Deangate Ridge near Hoo as depot


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A controversial bid to renew the use of a former golf course as a council contractor's depot has been met with huge waves of opposition once again.

More than 70 people are objecting and there is renewed anger from an MP and ward councillor over Medway Norse wishing to continue using the Deangate Ridge Golf Course site near Hoo.

Deangate Ridge sports complex and golf course included an indoor bowling green
Deangate Ridge sports complex and golf course included an indoor bowling green

The course, which closed suddenly in 2018, and its former clubhouse is currently being used as the company's base for its grounds maintenance teams which look after public land across the Medway Towns.

A new application has been submitted asking to extend temporary permission which expires next month until October 31, 2023.

When councillors approved the first application in 2020 to similar vociferous opposition from residents, they said an extension to the permission would not be granted.

Medway Norse, which is partly-owned by the council, wants to keep using the site to house its fleet of vehicles and maintenance equipment, 17 shipping containers for storage with parking facilities for staff and Norse minibuses and office space in the former clubhouse.

It comes as a permanent home for the depot has been selected to open off Maidstone Road and Stoney Lane between Rochester Airport and the M2, which was granted planning permission by councillors on August 18.

Deangate Ridge is set to have new roads built over part of the site under plans announced by Medway Council in its £170m Housing Infrastructure Fund bid
Deangate Ridge is set to have new roads built over part of the site under plans announced by Medway Council in its £170m Housing Infrastructure Fund bid

The development is subject to approval of air quality and ecology measures to mitigate the impact of the site and conditions, which will be carried out by council planning officers.

It is anticipated the site will be fully open in late 2022, according to documents applying for the continued use of the site in Dux Court Road in the meantime.

A total of 73 people have opposed to Deangate being allowed to continue as the grounds maintenance depot already ahead of a public consultation which opened officially yesterday and runs until September 21.

A co-ordinated community campaign against the application is being led with many of the objections using a template letter sent to planning officers.

It reads: "Deangate is an Asset of Community Value. Deangate should exist to benefit the health and social wellbeing of the local community.

"For all intents and purposes, Deangate belongs to the people of the Hoo Peninsula, Medway Council are just custodians.

CGI plans show how the new permanent Medway Norse base, which has been approved between Rochester Airport and the M2, would look after councillors approved the scheme in August. Picture: Medway Council/Bailey Partnership
CGI plans show how the new permanent Medway Norse base, which has been approved between Rochester Airport and the M2, would look after councillors approved the scheme in August. Picture: Medway Council/Bailey Partnership
CGI plans show how the new permanent Medway Norse base, which has been approved between Rochester Airport and the M2, would look after councillors approved the scheme in August. Picture: Medway Council/Bailey Partnership
CGI plans show how the new permanent Medway Norse base, which has been approved between Rochester Airport and the M2, would look after councillors approved the scheme in August. Picture: Medway Council/Bailey Partnership

"Deangate should not under any circumstances be developed with around 750 new homes (according to Medway Council's Strategic Land Availability Assessment 2019).

"Deangate should exist in harmony adjacent to the incredibly environmentally sensitive Lodge Hill, most famous for it's nightingale population.

"Deangate should not be used as a temporary base for Medway Norse and should be utilised as a Country Park for the community's benefit."

The residents' letters also drew on the planning committee's comments last February that it would "not support any future extension of the temporary planning permission" after October 31 this year.

Wider fears for the future of the Deangate Ridge area rumble on after plans were revealed under the council's £170 million Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) bid to build new roads and transport links as part of a 12,000 home development on the Hoo Peninsula.

A link road cutting through the southern end of the former sports and recreation centre connecting Upchat roundabout to the Main Road Hoo roundabout is proposed along with slip roads on and off the A289 Hasted Road linking up with Higham Road.

George Crozer, chairman of Deangate Community Partnership and High Halstow Parish Council and Medway councillor Ron Sands (Ind) have long opposed development at Deangate
George Crozer, chairman of Deangate Community Partnership and High Halstow Parish Council and Medway councillor Ron Sands (Ind) have long opposed development at Deangate

Both these plans were opposed in a petition presented in parliament in July by Rochester and Strood MP Kelly Tolhurst (Con) signed by 4,000 people.

Comments made to the council as part of the HIF consultation include calls to make the area a country park and invest in upgrading facilities around the established green space already at Deangate rather than building over it and creating new spaces elsewhere in the Hoo Peninsula masterplan.

Speaking this week, Ms Tolhurst said: "The future of Deangate Ridge remains uncertain as a recreational leisure facility, and local people were horrified when Medway Council took the unilateral decision to close the site in 2018 without formal consultation.

"The council are yet to tell us what their full intentions are for the site and this latest application will have undoubtedly caused more concern and confusion.

"I was pleased to present a parliamentary petition in the House of Commons earlier in the year on behalf of my constituents which garnered over 4,000 signatures calling on the government to protect this Asset of Community Value.

"This clearly demonstrates the strength of feeling which there is against any plans to develop on this much-loved greenspace.

Cllr Teresa Murray, Kelly Tolhurst MP and Cllr Ron Sands spoke at a protest over the Deangate Ridge development in the run up to the 2019 General Election. Picture: Chris Davey
Cllr Teresa Murray, Kelly Tolhurst MP and Cllr Ron Sands spoke at a protest over the Deangate Ridge development in the run up to the 2019 General Election. Picture: Chris Davey
Residents say money should be spent upgrading the facilities and existing green spaces at Deangate, which featured a running track, and make it into a country park rather than building over and creating 'new green spaces' as part of the Hoo masterplan
Residents say money should be spent upgrading the facilities and existing green spaces at Deangate, which featured a running track, and make it into a country park rather than building over and creating 'new green spaces' as part of the Hoo masterplan

"I will be watching any further developments on this site very closely and I hope that the council listen to the strong objections from residents. I will continue to do all I can to make sure the views of local residents are heard on this important matter."

Ward councillor Ron Sands (Ind) described the recent history of Deangate Ridge as "abject betrayal" by the council to residents in Hoo.

He said claims from the company of the depot having a "negligible effect on the area is completely wrong".

Cllr Sands said 650 journeys were recorded as having taken place between 6.30am and 5.30pm on June 10 and the council needed to "protect and enhance, not downgrade and destroy" the area.

He added: "Should we even be considering a second temporary permission on what is an Asset of Community Value, a site of significant local importance with an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) on its border?

"Norse believe they can circumvent the planning committee decision by quoting Covid-19 as cover for their negligence in firstly, not having the required depot in place before tendering for a contract and secondly, still not despite being warned by the planning committee that no extension would be granted and still are unable to find any suitable premises in the whole of Medway.

"It smacks of contempt for the planning committee and the people of the Hoo Peninsula.

"Feelings about Deangate Ridge are running very high not only the Peninsula but across Medway, which since its closure many consider to be our country park that easily ranks alongside Riverside Park and Capstone Valley."

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