An eyesore wall has remained in a state of disrepair for more than a decade despite sitting opposite a key regeneration plot that's had millions of pounds spent on it.
The crumbling structure in Gillingham's Pier Road, at the bottom of Camden Road, is just a stone's throw from the Gillingham Pier and Chatham Waters developments.
Residents first raised concerns about cracks in it in 2009, before a hotel and flats were built opposite. A blue hoarding was later put up around it – supposedly a temporary safety measure.
However, fast forward to 2021 and the hoarding remains, but now with peeling paint and overgrown vegetation behind it.
It can be seen from the windows of the Premier Inn which, when it opened in 2015, was forecast to contribute more than £5 million to Medway's economy.
Since the wall began to crumble, Medway Council has had two leaders, overseen the regeneration of Rochester Riverside, Chatham Waters and Victory Pier, fought off estuary airport proposals, applied for city status and offered pre-games training camps during the London Olympics. But still the wall remains unfixed.
The decade-long delay is down to a dispute about ownership and who is responsible for paying for the repairs. On the other side of the wall is a row of private lock-up garages.
It is thought previous repairs to a different section of the same wall further along Pier Road were carried out and funded by Medway Council's highways department.
The local councillors, who have been involved with the issue from the start, were able to get the council to agree to put up the hoardings to protect the safety of passing pedestrians, and they persuaded them to re-paint them some years ago, but it was only ever meant to be a temporary solution.
In August 2009, the wall was inspected by surveyors from the South Thames Gateway (STG) building control partnership and was not considered imminently dangerous. The council said the wall would continue to be monitored.
In March 2010, Robin Cooper, then director of regeneration at Medway, said the council was looking to add the wall to its priority list of retaining wall repairs.
Twelve months later, ward councillor Andy Stamp contacted the council again to warn the wall was leaning over and appeared to be very dangerous, with some of the cracks getting worse.
The council's highways team replied at the time to say it was aware of the safety issues and was taking steps to start refurbishment works in the coming weeks.
In 2016, a member of the council's legal team said it was still looking into issues relating to who had responsibility for repair and maintenance of the wall.
In most cases, where a wall supports or retains a public highway, it is the responsibility of the highway authority, which would be Medway Council.
Where the ownership of the wall is unknown, the highway authority has powers to secure repairs to the wall by the owner or occupier of the land on which the wall is situated, if it is a danger to highway users. In this case, the owner of the land in question is the council.
Cllr Andy Stamp says it is "shameful" the issue has never been resolved.
He said: “This is a complete failure on Medway Council’s part – it’s a total disgrace. After 12 years of dither and delay from Medway and STG, all we’re left with is a trail of broken promises, frustrated residents and some ‘temporary’ hoardings that have now become a permanent eyesore in this part of lower Gillingham.
"The council could and should have carried out the much-needed repairs long ago, and recharged a portion of the costs to the other landowner. But the issue appears to have been put in the ‘too difficult’ box.”
Cllr Stamp says another issue is the hoardings restrict visibility for cars turning out of Camden Road onto the dual carriageway, so he has also reported concerns over safety on behalf of residents.
In 2016, a local contacted the council after a cyclist was knocked down by a car coming out of the street.
Medway confirmed this week the wall was made safe 12 years ago and the repairs had not yet been completed.
This is due to complex legal issues with regard to ownership of the wall and land above it.
But repairs will finally be carried out next year.
Acting head of highways Louise Browne said: "We are currently in discussions with the land owner to arrange access to the site and works are estimated to be carried out in summer 2022.”