New Chatham Docks plans have a sense of déjà vu
Plus Rehman vs a local mosque, a new SEN school for Gillingham, and more
New proposals have come forward for Chatham Docks, but on closer inspection, they don’t seem to have really changed much in two years. Plus we have news of a local MP entering a bizarre war of words with a local mosque, an update on a desperately needed new SEN school for Medway, and lots more.
Say hello to the new plans, same as the old plans
The regeneration of Chatham Docks continues to be a controversial issue in Medway, after years of wrangling about what should happen to the site when Peel Ports close the site by 2025.
The issue almost tore the previous Conservative administration apart, with the leadership supporting Peel’s efforts to convert the site to a residential-led mixed-use development, and a significant number of backbenchers and the Labour opposition of the time opposing such moves.
Many of these arguments appeared to be in bad faith, with one side desperately trying to find redevelopment sites that aren’t on greenfield land, and another offering little alternative for what should happen to the site if indeed the redevelopment was blocked.
Following a previous consultation, owners Peel have returned to present local residents with a seemingly less dramatic proposal, while not really changing very much at all.
While the 2021 proposals presented a grand plan for the site, dominated by residential blocks that would provide over 3,500 new homes, and a limited amount of employment space, the new proposal is, er, just the employment bit.
The new plans, seen by Local Authority, only focus on the small area south of the basin that Chatham Docks currently utilises. The ‘Basin3’ project would focus on this area as a new employment centre, with the aim of attracting digital, creative, and science uses, as well as creating a new active travel connection between Chatham Waters and St. Mary’s Island. Peel is very clear in their plans that maintaining Chatham Docks as a working entity isn’t viable, so this is what they are putting on the table instead.
Of course, the Basin3 area is only a tiny part of the site, so what of the rest? On the current plans, this is all just labelled as ‘Future Masterplan Area’. Which, if we were a betting outlet, will likely revolve around more or less 3,500 new homes.
All of this means that we will likely end up with the same result on the site, particularly as the new Labour administration seem to be more open to the reality that developing the site is inevitable, except the housing will come later. All the while, Medway’s housing crisis continues to worsen.
Stepping into the fray once again is former Conservative councillor Stuart Tranter, who has penned an opinion piece for KentOnline on how the docks must be saved to protect marine industries in our towns. While Tranter is certainly entitled to this opinion, it is curious that KentOnline label him as a “lifelong Medway resident and business development consultant” and not as the director of two separate marine businesses. Still, what’s a little conflict of interest between friends?
Rehman vs the mosque
A rare occasion of Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti posting something on social media this week that doesn’t include a picture of himself. Things must indeed be very serious.
So what has led Rehman to such a point? Beefing with a local mosque, no less.
Following his vote in parliament where he voted against calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, it appears that he faced some feedback for his stance. He accuses an Iman at a local mosque of calling him a “so-called Muslim” and of making further inflammatory comments.
Curiously, he neglects to say where this hate had come from, nor does he share the clip in question. Still, after doing a little digging, we found it. You can watch it here, with the comments about Rehman Chishti coming roughly 22:00 minutes in.
The sermon comes from an Iman at Chatham Hill Mosque & Kent Islamic Centre, and following an impassioned plea to help the people of Gaza, including by lobbying MPs, he references Rehman, albeit not by name. He does call him a “so-called Muslim”, which sure, isn’t really cool, but beyond that, there’s little beyond referring to his vote as “disgusting” and calling out his “audacity”. Tough words indeed, but we’ll leave it up to readers to decide whether they meet the threshold for intolerance or extremism.
Gillingham SEN school might finally be happening
Five years after initially being proposed, a new Special Educational Needs (SEN) school in Gillingham could finally be moving forward.
Back in 2018, Medway Council proposed the school, agreeing to allow its commercial arm, Medway Commercial Group (MCG) to build the school, before changing their minds when evidence of incompetence and subsequent police investigations at the company were revealed. Fun fact: Those investigations are supposedly still ongoing!
Fast forward to now, and with the lack of suitable SEN provision in Medway becoming a serious problem, a new set of plans are back on the table.
The Parallel Learning Trust are proposing to build a 160-place Inspire Academy for SEN students on Cornwallis Avenue site in Gillingham. It’ll be the second Inspire Academy to serve alongside its current site in Chatham.
It’s a shame that it’s taken so long to get any significant movement on this project, but it should be welcomed that desperately needed provision in Medway may well be coming forward in the near future.
🗣️ Medway Council are holding their first Medway Matters Live event next week. Leader Vince Maple and Chief Executive Richard Hicks will appear at the Howard School in Rainham to talk about what’s happening in Medway and answer questions from the audience. It’s free to attend but booking is essential.
🏘️ Anchorage House could be used to house some local homeless families after all. Newham Council has claimed it has come to an agreement with Medway Council that would offer some of the rooms to local people in need, though Medway say discussions are still ongoing.
🏦 NatWest in Strood is set to close in March. The move continues the trend of banks departing our high streets.
🛍️ Home Bargains is set to open at Hempstead Valley. The chain will take over the former BHS store at the centre, which will come alongside remodelling the southern entrance of the centre.
♻️ 3,000 tons of Medway recycling couldn’t be processed in the last year due to items being placed in the wrong bags. The mistakes have cost Medway Council nearly £60,000.
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