No affordable homes, no financial contribution, and dangerous pedestrian access
Plus Medway's MPs do the right thing, Anchorage House saga rumbles on, and more
How much should developers do beyond the bare minimum when building new housing? A bold new development in Strood proposes doing away with little issues like affordable housing, financial contributions, and safe pedestrian access. But can they get away with it? Further down, brace yourself for all three Medway MPs doing the right thing, the latest in the Anchorage House homelessness saga, and lots more.
No affordable homes, no financial contribution, and dangerous pedestrian access
It’s no great editorial secret that we often approach the concept of development in our towns as broadly a positive thing. Medway faces an acute housing crisis, and current and future generations risk being priced out of the market here as house prices become ever more unattainable and rents continue to skyrocket.
As a result, it becomes easy to argue that pretty much any development is worthwhile, even if they aren’t perfect. Issues like a lack of affordable housing, insufficient infrastructure, and bad design can end up being brushed aside when the need for housing is so urgent.
But how far can developers push their luck and still get away with it?
A new development proposed for Strood this week has chosen to test that theory.
Temple Waterfront is currently undergoing extensive development. This is the area that broadly runs from the Medway Valley Park complex to the industrial heart of Strood. The aim is to eventually create a new residential area, as well as a significant new park. Initial phases are already underway, and this new plan aims to round off the area.
The site in question is the former Morgan Timber site, which you may or may not be familiar with depending on how much time you spend wandering around dead-end industrial lanes under railway bridges.
The plans propose 168 new residential dwellings as a mix of both houses and flats, ‘open space’ which seems to consist of a tiny play area, and that’s about it.
Not every development needs to come with significant supporting infrastructure and facilities if they already exist nearby, and while this site is somewhat removed from Strood town centre, it is fairly close to the upcoming Lidl store in the area and there’s a McDonald’s along the road, so the site is better served than some parts of Medway.
So what are the problems with the plan?
The developer is proposing that because the site is on the river and carries a flood risk, the land will need to be raised significantly to be viable, and as this is very expensive, it wouldn’t be feasible to include any affordable housing within the scheme, or even offer Section 106 contributions. S106 contributions are paid by developers to local councils so they can provide new services for the incoming residents, such as school places, health provision, parks, and whatever else may be required.
Fun fact: Despite claiming the unviable costs because of the land raising required, this is what the development proposes the site will look like:
Still, other than a lack of affordable housing and no contribution to local services, how much worse could it be? Surely it’s easy to get basic things like accessibility right? Surely?
The most baffling proposal for the site is the ‘secondary access’, which will be through an existing rail arch. The ‘primary access’ will be at the other end of the Temple Waterfront site, leading to the M2 and the aforementioned Lidl, but for minor things like local shops, buses, trains, and the nearby retail park, it will need to be through the ‘secondary access’. This access will be shared between vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists.
It looks like this:
The developer is proposing to stick some traffic lights on here, which will alternate between the two vehicle directions and a pedestrian phase where those walking will wander through the main carriageway while motorists patiently wait. It’s hard to imagine this will cause any issues.
It isn’t feasible to widen this kind of bridge, so there isn’t much the developer can necessarily do to avoid this conflict. Unless they just blocked vehicles from using it altogether, which seems eminently more sensible given they could still access from the other end of the site. Even that wouldn’t be a perfect solution as it would just be sending pedestrians and cyclists into a fairly grotty industrial estate on the other side, but they’d have less chance of being run over at least.
In reality, much as developers pay lip service to the concept of active travel, they are well aware that most residents will end up driving (the development proposes two parking spaces per property) either by necessity or because the alternatives feel unsafe and unwelcoming.
If we truly want to break the dependency on car use in our towns, which given the state of congestion and pollution here wouldn’t be a bad thing, letting these kinds of proposals slide isn’t going to help us.
We desperately need the new homes, and conceptually the site is a good location for them, but expecting a little more care and responsibility from developers shouldn’t be too much to ask.
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Medway MPs do the right thing
Get the smelling salts ready, for not one, not two, but all three Medway MPs rebelled against their own government this week in a parliamentary vote.
The vote saw MPs vote by 246 to 242 in favour of setting up a compensation scheme for those impacted by the infected blood scandal. Taking aside why 242 MPs thought this would be a bad thing, it is heartening to see all three Medway MPs be on the right side of history on an issue this important.
Given the margin of the vote, it could be said that Rehman Chishti, Tracey Crouch, and Kelly Tolhurst were the forces behind the vote passing, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
None of the three have offered any comment on why this is the one issue that it’s worth rebelling against the government on, but it should be welcome that they did.
Anchorage House, again
The neverending saga of Anchorage House in Chatham continues to rumble on. For those just joining us, Theori, a company specialising in temporary accommodation, bought and converted the building to house homeless families from Newham Council in London. Medway Council and local residents didn’t take this well as we have our own housing crisis, but they didn’t take much interest in using the building themselves.
Recent discussions have centred around Newham’s ongoing duty of care to the residents and a potential offering of some units to Medway Council, but there is little realistically that Medway Council can do to stop Newham Council from using the building.
Until this week at least, when a new opponent entered the fray: the fire inspector.
Kent Fire and Rescue have surveyed the building and aren’t happy with it. Their exact reasons for blocking residents moving in are vague but focus on “several fire safety concerns relating to means of escape and general fire safety precautions”.
Quite how Theori has ended up in this position is unclear given there were previous (and presumably safe) plans for the building to be converted residentially, and as a provider of such homes, they should know what they are doing, but here we are.
The company now claims to be undertaking the work needed to make the building safe, so while Medway won’t be seeing homeless Newham families arriving at the site just yet, it appears to only be a matter of time.
💷 Medway Council is set to cut £600,000 from the children’s services budget as it seeks to close a £12m budget gap. The council has only recently got back to ‘good’ status after being deemed ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted in 2019.
🚑 The Rail Accident Investigation Branch is investigating after a rail worker was injured during a collision between on-track machines on the HS1 line near Strood.
⚽ Gillingham Football Club’s match against Barrow tomorrow (9 Dec) has been called off. Probably for the best it was done now before any fans made the 330-mile pilgrimage north.
🏘️ 27 new social homes have been completed in Rainham. The scheme by Moat and Medway Council will offer three-bedroom homes for social rent.
💰 Conservative minister Michael Gove has blamed councils facing bankruptcy on financial mismanagement. Medway Conservative leader Cllr Adrian Gulvin took the news well, accusing Gove of stabbing local Conservatives in the back.
🚒 Hempstead Valley Shopping Centre had to be evacuated last Saturday following a fire alarm going off. It led to the editor of this publication having to abandon his shopping in Sainsbury’s and wait in the cold for a while, but he’s not bitter about it.
Can you help us?
We’re looking to speak to anyone familiar with the issues at the Capstone Green housing development near Luton, especially any residents who have faced disruption as a result of having to be moved out of their homes.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re able to help out with the above either on or off the record, or if you have any stories that might be of interest to our readers.
Our paid supporters receive extra editions of Local Authority every week. This week, we analysed the common notion that Londoners are filling up housing in Medway to find out how much truth there is in it. Unsurprisingly, things aren’t as black and white as they often appear. Elsewhere, Steven interviewed John Mountford, Director of Music at the Rochester Choral Society about the 150-year-old organisation. Finally, we published our Medwayish gift guide, full of all kinds of interesting Medway-related gifts and products to treat your friends and family with this Christmas.
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