Published: 08:30, 13 November 2014
It’s been a long time coming but plans to transform the town have finally been submitted to Swale council.
A group of builders paraded through the streets of Sittingbourne on Friday, carrying hods of bricks to mark the handover of the planning application for the first phase of the regeneration.
Before submitting it, bricks were laid outside the council offices in East Street, spelling out ‘The Spirit of Sittingbourne’, the name of the consortium carrying out the development.
The act also acknowledged the town’s history and heritage of brick making.
The Smeed Dean works in Sittingbourne has been one of the most prolific producers of yellow stock bricks for more than 200 years.
The documents won’t be available for public viewing until next month, but it’s understood the proposal involves a new highway arrangement outside the railway station; a new leisure quarter, which includes a seven screen cinema, about eight new restaurants and retail units on the The Forum’s parking area; homes built on car parks in Cockleshell Walk and Spring Street, plus land beside the railway bridge opposite Morrisons; as well as a multi-storey car park between the shopping centre and St Michael’s Road.
If approved, work is expected to start next March. With a value of more than £100 million and an estimated economic benefit of £326 million over the next 10 years, more than 1,000 jobs will be created through the project in phase one and two.
Richard Upton, chief executive of Cathedral Group, said: “This is an exciting and ambitious opportunity to bring to life an entire town centre, one which will deliver a whole host of new facilities.
“Our overall vision is to work with our partners and Swale council to breathe a new lease of life into the High Street, making Sittingbourne a better place to live and visit.”
Cllr Mike Cosgrove, cabinet member for regeneration, said: “This submission is a crucial step on the road to regeneration.
“The cinema and restaurants will form a vibrant focal point in the town centre. We look forward to work proceeding speedily once the necessary planning processes have been completed.”
Swale council’s director of regeneration Pete Raine, pictured,corr said: “I’m delighted it’s been submitted. It has to be validated first, but we expect the consultation to start at the beginning of December.
“Now is the time for anyone interested in the application to make their submissions into the planning process and they will be taken into account.”
When asked if any big names had signed up to occupy the restaurant and retail spaces, he said: “No operator will do so until definite consent has been achieved.
“I’m delighted to get to this stage and I hope we can move as fast as possible from now on, but there is a planning process to go through, which we ignore at our peril.
“It’s a legally binding process. Everyone has to have their say.”