Discover more from Local Authority
Medway gets a new park, kind of
Plus farewell to free parking on Mondays, and join us for our next Medway Question Time event
Editor’s note: It was tempting to lead this edition with the upcoming cuts to free parking in Medway, but we’ve gone on a lot about roads and parking lately, so we’re leading with the slightly happier news of a new park that’s on the horizon in Strood. Further down you’ll find details of our next Medway Question Time event, and we’d love for you to join us.
Medway gets a new park, kind of
Medway Council’s Cabinet agreed plans this week to move forward on creating a new accessible parkland at Temple Marsh in Strood, as part of a wider development of the area.
The plans were first proposed back in 2011 when planning permission for the surrounding housing development was granted, and now, just a mere 12 years later, Medway Council are going to recruit someone who can start to deliver the plans. Oh local government, you move so quickly.
Still, it’s churlish to complain about a new park, even if the land was already publicly accessible and managed by Medway Council. In their report on the plans, they highlight that even though it is already in their portfolio of greenspaces, it is “managed very informally”, which is a delightful way to say they don’t currently do anything with it.
The land sits on the edge of the River Medway, nestled between the new Temple Waterfront residential development on one side and a significant industrial park on the other, though that’s due to be redeveloped in the near future too.
The site is a former landfill, and the report offers perhaps a glimpse as to why it’s being left as an open space and not developed itself: “Previous surveys have shown the depth of (landfill) cap is too shallow and any excavation of the site for infrastructure will cause an environmental issue” Still, if sitting on a mountain of rubbish is the way to deliver a new park, we may as well take it.
Part of the site will need to remain inaccessible as it’s a Site of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI) because there’s some kind of exciting grassland habitat there.
For Medway Council, this is a win-win. They get to shout about a new open space within the towns, and more excitingly given the state of local finances, it isn’t supposed to cost them anything. The project is being funded by around £1.3m in developer contributions, with the largest chunk coming from Redrow, who are building the development next door and thus having to kick in a cool £1m.
Even more happily, the authority expects even more money to come forward for the project once the next phase of regeneration in the area kicks in to the east of the site.
For fans of tracking council efficiency, Medway is proposing to move fast on this project. The design will apparently be agreed upon by January next year, with work commencing in June and being completed by December. So all being well, Medway will have a kind of, sort of new park by the end of next year. What could possibly go wrong?
Local Authority is a reader-supported independent publication writing about Medway news, politics, culture, and more. To receive new editions and support our work, please consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Farewell free Monday parking, we hardly knew ye
Two weeks ago, I wrote a lengthy piece on the supposed ‘war on motorists’ in Medway that set out how silly the concept was.
This week, I received a parking ticket from Medway Council so I’d like to retract my previous opinion. The fact I parked in the wrong place on a street without displaying a permit is clearly evidence that the Medway deep state is out to punish all motorists.
Anyway, the latest salvo fired in this onslaught came this week as Medway Council announced that they are withdrawing the offer of free parking on Mondays. The scheme has always been a bit chaotic, only applying to some car parks (sometimes not even to ones right next to each other) on Mondays but only after 9am and seemed to largely be a roll of the dice by the Conservatives to give out a freebie before the local elections.
With the (apologies for the running theme) state of Medway Council’s finances, it seemed like an easy bit of revenue to claw back, and so it was this week when the authority announced that the scheme would come to an end in two weeks. The scheme has only been running for six months, so there is little evidence of how successful it has been in driving more residents to our town centres, but anecdotally it doesn’t seem to have made much of a difference.
During Medway Council’s February budget meeting, it was estimated that the cost of providing the Monday free parking was around £300,000 per year. Which is one of those numbers that is both very big and very small. £300,000 certainly isn’t nothing, so that much returning to the council will be very welcome, but small in that it isn’t going to do all that much to close a £17m budget gap.
Inevitably, we’re going to see more decisions like this in the coming months as the new administration tries to stave off having to issue a Section 114 Notice, which effectively declares the authority bankrupt. Years of financial mismanagement in Medway have left the authority in an unenviable position of having to make cuts to services and raise revenue when everything has already been cut to the bone.
Medway Question Time is back
We’re delighted to announce that our next Medway Question Time event sees us back at MidKent College in Gillingham for a discussion on the issues currently facing Medway. Our MQT events feature a panel of Medway figures engaging on the issues that matter most to residents. We have a panel representing a cross-section of Medway:
Cllr Tristan Osborne, Medway Council Portfolio Holder for Community Safety and Enforcement and councillor for Rochester East
Cllr Adrian Gulvin, Leader of the Medway Conservative Group and councillor for Lordswood and Walderslade
Natasha Boardman-Steer, creative practioner
Oliver Tomlin, Medway Youth Parliament representative for Medway
Kate Mechedou, Director of Mrs Baker's Medway Theatre Company, Co-Director of Medway Play Lab and Co-Chair of the Arches Local Partnership
When booking a free ticket, you have the option to submit a question to the panel for discussion on the night. These events are an attempt to bring residents closer to local democracy and offer the ability to discuss issues from a diverse range of perspectives. We hope that you’ll be able to join us.
🗣️ New Medway Local Democracy Reporter Robert Boddy has interviewed Cllr Lauren Edwards, who was recently selected as Labour's parliamentary candidate for Rochester and Strood.
🦭 A seal has been hanging out on Medway City Estate. Seals have been appearing in the Medway with seemingly increasing frequency in recent years.
⚓ Chatham Dockyard has been awarded the Freedom of Medway. Quite how the tourist attraction plans to exercise that freedom remains unclear.
🗑️ Lordswood and Walderslade Community Litter Group have given up following new rules imposed by Medway Council. The volunteers have collected over 5,000 bags of rubbish in the past two years but say new rules make it impossible to continue.
Paid supporters of Local Authority receive extra editions of the newsletter every week. This week, Steven sat down with Elizabeth Turpin, Deputy Leader of Medway’s Conservative Group to discuss the route back for her party, representing a rural community, and inevitably, the Local Plan.
We also published our monthly event guide, looking at all of the interesting things happening in our towns during October. There’s a lot to explore, from a spectacular light show at Rochester to some great gigs to the return of the always innovative Electric Medway festival.
Becoming a paid supporter helps us put this project on a sustainable financial footing and ensures we can keep this thing running for the long term. It costs less than £1 per week when joining us for a year. Please consider it if you can!
Following months of debating it, this is the week that I’m finally deleting my personal Twitter account. I know a lot of you use that platform to keep in contact or hear about Local Authority updates, but I can’t justify being there anymore, so I’ll be packing up. If you want to keep in touch with me on social media, you’ll find me on BlueSky, Threads, and Instagram. Alternatively, you can follow Local Authority on Facebook, Instagram, and Threads.
If you want to get in touch to discuss a potential story, feel free to drop us an email on email@example.com - we’re happy to speak off the record in the first instance.