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Agreement for second phase of the Spirit of Sittingbourne town centre regeneration scheme scrapped

The consortium delivering the multi-million pound regeneration of Sittingbourne town centre is to be scrapped.

Swale council and the Spirit of Sittingbourne have agreed to end their partnership when a leisure quarter including an eight-screen cinema, restaurants, and a hotel is completed.

From left, Cllr James Hunt, Richard Upton, former council leader Andrew Bowles, Quinn Estates chief executive, Mark Quinn and former-Cllr Mike Cosgrove at the start of the first phase of the Spirit of Sittingbourne development
From left, Cllr James Hunt, Richard Upton, former council leader Andrew Bowles, Quinn Estates chief executive, Mark Quinn and former-Cllr Mike Cosgrove at the start of the first phase of the Spirit of Sittingbourne development

The works are being delivered as part of a wider two-phase agreement with the Spirit of Sittingbourne in 2012.

It means plans to develop high-rise housing on three council-owned car parks - Cockleshell Walk, Spring Street and Fountain Street - will now not go ahead.

The land had been given to Spirit under the development agreement and will now be returned to the council.

The end of the development agreement will also mean a second phase of the plans will be scrapped.

This was based around a new civic centre, with residential development at the council’s existing home Swale House.

Leader of Swale council, Cllr Roger Truelove (Lab). Picture: Swale council
Leader of Swale council, Cllr Roger Truelove (Lab). Picture: Swale council

Leader of Swale council, Cllr Roger Truelove (Lab) said: "I appreciate the way Spirit has engaged with us since the administration changed in May.

"They understood in a constructive way that we did not wish to proceed to phase two of the development and that we wished to determine the future of the car park sites that were allocated to Spirit in the development agreement made by our predecessors.

"In the meantime, we look forward to the completion of the rest of phase one.

"This is a major investment in a town that has been starved of investment for decades and the coalition is determined that it should prove to be an asset to all the people of Swale."

A retail park featuring a Costa Coffee drive through, Iceland's Food Warehouse and Home Bargains, delivered as part of phase one, was opened in 2018, and a multi-storey car park is now partially operational whilst works to build a hotel, cinema and restaurants are being completed.

"We are obviously very disappointed not to be able to move ahead with phase two of the scheme" - Richard Upton

The hotel is scheduled to be open in the next few months, and the cinema should be handed over to The Light cinema chain shortly afterwards.

The internal works for the cinema are expected to take five months, during which time the signed-up restaurants – Nandos, Loungers, Pizza Express and Creams – will be preparing to open.

Richard Upton of U+I, one of the Spirit of Sittingbourne partners, said: "We are obviously very disappointed not to be able to move ahead with phase two of the scheme, but completely understand the council’s wish to think again about their development strategy for the remaining sites.

"We are very proud of the work we have done in Sittingbourne to date and we look forward very much to completing the leisure quarter which will make a significant positive impact on life in the centre of this great town."

Huw Evans, from Quinn Estates, also part of the Spirit of Sittingbourne added: "The delivery of the leisure quarter in Sittingbourne town centre has been a pivotal part of the process of transforming Sittingbourne into a welcoming, destination.

Time lapse shows regeneration taking shape

"We are naturally disappointed at Swale council’s decision and understand its reconsideration of phase two.

"We look forward to being able to work positively with them on future projects."

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