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Spirit of Sittingbourne brands entertainment centre at the Forum shopping centre car park site unfeasible

An endless farce. That’s how the town’s £60 million regeneration plans have been described after it was revealed an entertainment venue has been scrapped.

Cllr Roger Truelove (Lab) blasted the decision by Swale council’s development partner to not include the building which would have boosted 9,000sq ft of space to host music, arts, entertainment and exhibitions.

It was revealed in April it would be built on the Forum shopping centre car park as part of phase one of the scheme along with a five-screen cinema and five-to-eight restaurants.

Rob Sloper, of the Cathedral Group, speaks to Steve Singer
Rob Sloper, of the Cathedral Group, speaks to Steve Singer

But it was revealed this week by the Spirit of Sittingbourne Consortium, which is made up of Quinn Estates, Cathedral Group and Essential Land LLP, that it won’t be included.

A cultural quarter, where the railway station forecourt is, will still go ahead though.

A Cathedral Group Holdings spokesman said: “As we progressed through our due diligence it has become apparent that owing to the complex network of underground services, including sewers, cabling and pipework, the delivery of a building on this area is not feasible.

“However, the public square is being designed to enable outside events to take place, providing Sittingbourne with flexible space to stage cultural activities.

“The Spirit of Sittingbourne is also committed to delivering the cinema as part of a mixed-use development that will create huge socio-economic benefits for the town and the wider borough.”

Cllr Roger Truelove
Cllr Roger Truelove

A multi-storey car park had also formed part of the developer’s original proposal, but the local authority agreed in July it would build it at a cost of £3m to the taxpayer.

This is due to a number of council-owned car parks being lost to the developer so it can create more than 200 new homes.

Cllr Truelove, the party spokesman on regeneration, said: “It’s just an endless farce.

“It’s quite clear the whole purpose of this regeneration is to build houses on the car parks and as a consequence we’re going to end up spending £3 million building a multi-storey car park, while all the other benefits for Sittingbourne just wither away.

“I’m extremely sceptical about the whole scheme and I think there will be some very serious problems when it goes to planning.”

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