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Spirit of Sittingbourne consortium confirm new restaurants as councillor raises 'ghost town' concerns

By Chloe Holmwood

Two new restaurants have signed up for a town’s multi-million pound regeneration.

The consortium behind Spirit of Sittingbourne confirmed the news but would not go into further details about the tenants.

It comes after Cllr Roger Truelove, Labour leader on Swale council, tabled a question for the council’s cabinet member for regeneration Cllr Mike Cosgrove (Con) at Wednesday’s Full Council, asking: “Can you help this council by telling us how many of the Sittingbourne town centre restaurants are firmly committed by contract and whether you have a plan B if the restaurants prove unpopular with big chain companies over a period of time?”

Time lapse video of the site coming together

His question was prompted by the experience of the Elwick Place project in Ashford.

He said: “The project includes a Travelodge Hotel, a six-screen cinema and eight restaurants. It opened in December with capital investment from council taxpayers and initial amnesties on rent.

"You may well recognise this off-the-shelf uninspiring and commercially out-of-date model of regeneration. It is in trouble and has been accurately described by an Ashford Labour councillor as ‘ghost town’.

"None of the restaurants are occupied because, as the market reports, the kind of companies involved are experiencing difficulties in these sorts of investment plans.”

In his official response, Cllr Cosgrove responded: “Our development agreement ensures that without the anchor tenants in place then we would not have begun construction.

The new Travelodge hotel in Sittingbourne is going up (8368271)
The new Travelodge hotel in Sittingbourne is going up (8368271)

“Construction is well underway and we do indeed have not only The Light Cinema and Travelodge as anchor tenants but Nando’s, Pizza Express and two further restaurants with completed agreements to lease.”

He added: “This leaves three units currently unlet which, at this stage of the development, is a comfortable place for us.

“We have legal safeguards in place which ensures Spirit of Sittingbourne have to fund the rent of any vacant units for the first two years.

“Our plan B is to continue to deliver the promise this Conservative administration has made.”

Read more: All the latest news from Sittingbourne

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