December 21 2013 Latest news:
By Marijke Cox, Reporter
Friday, June 1, 2012
But for one independent retailer the regeneration may come too late
Ambitious plans to transform Sittingbourne town centre are steamrolling ahead.
The all-important development agreement, which cements the partnership between Swale Borough Council and consortium Spirit of Sittingbourne, is on the brink of being signed. And financial appraisals of each phase of the regeneration project have been completed, with a report due to be submitted to the secretary of state for approval of the necessary land transactions.
Cabinet members will discuss progress at a meeting next week.
In its report, the borough council stated: “Since the last report a number of very detailed discussions and meetings have been held with Spirit of Sittingbourne and the development agreement is at a very advanced stage.
“Subject to member approval the document can now be signed.
“Discussions have continued with Kent County Council for them to transfer some highways land and their library and Phoenix House sites to us in order to deliver the Spirit of Sittingbourne masterplan.”
The council said Network Rail had also agreed to support the significant project and work was being undertaken to issue a licence to construct the public realm and transport hub on their land.
The regeneration is expected to change the face of Sittingbourne, with the development stretching from the High Street, over the railway line and to Milton Creek.
It will include a Morrisons supermarket, a Tesco Extra store, a waterside park at Sittingbourne Mill, housing and shops.
Consortium Spirit of Sittingbourne, made up of Essential Land, which is developing the mill site, developer Cathedral Group and financial fund manager Altyon LLP, said it will boost the economy.
Cathedral Group said: “We’re going to build a new station square to transform arrival in the town.
“A new cultural quarter, civic quarter with a new library, brand new public realm throughout the town centre and residential schemes will generate £250m of economic improvement over the next 10 years and will create 1100 jobs.”
Next week’s cabinet meeting and the expected signing of the development agreement marks another exciting step forward.
Concerns have been raised, however, over a delay in discussions with Tesco.
The council blamed this on a delay in the supermarket giant gaining a planning result for the retail park proposals, but stressed this was expected to be resolved shortly.
But while huge strides are being made in the exciting project, for one retailer it may come too late.
A desperate appeal has been made by Andrea Don of Nickel Books, Sittingbourne’s only independent children’s bookshop, which is at risk of closure.
She is appealing to the public to help save the shop.
“Our goal is to stay on the High Street,” she said.
“For everyone who wants to shop locally, to share their love of reading their children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, friends, Nickel Books needs your help.
“Currently, we have a loan that needs to be paid off to the bank. Once that’s paid off, we will be more secure in our position, and will have the confidence to know that we can continue to serve the people of Sittingbourne.
“If we can’t pay off the loan, we will be forced to shut.
“It will be too late if you wait until the Regeneration Plan happens.”