Discover more from Local Authority
What does Chatham look like in 2050?
Plus the culture wars come to Halling, the latest on the Housing Infrastructure Fund, and more
Editor’s note: Welcome to the free Friday edition of Local Authority, rounding up the big Medway news of the week. This week we have a potential view of Chatham in 2050, a church stoking the flames of the culture wars, the latest on the infamous Housing Infrastructure Fund for Hoo, and more. We can only produce Local Authority as a result of our generous paid supporters, so if you enjoy these updates, please consider joining our hundreds of existing paid subscribers in supporting independent journalism for Medway.
Vision of a Future Chatham
For better or worse, Medway Council continues to drive forward their plan to make Chatham the ‘city centre’ for all of Medway. As a result, the town sees the bulk of town centre investment, and while little of it has come to fruition yet, there are some significant developments underway on the waterfront and the coming redevelopment of Mountbatten House.
Medway Council are now working to develop a design code for the town. Design codes are an agreed set of principles based on what local residents and stakeholders want their towns to look like. The idea is to make development straightforward by promoting development that is broadly popular and for the good of the entire community.
The second stage consultation for the Chatham design code is now underway, but most excitingly, there is now a sketch of a potential Chatham in 2050 from the results of the first stage:
And you know what? It’s pretty good.
If you complete the consultation, building types are heavily featured within the questions, with a clear intent to promote gentle density buildings of 4-6 storeys rather than the kind of towers that have become popular in recent years.
As such, we have a vision of a Chatham that looks fairly pleasant. Some things that can be spotted from the sketch:
Significant in-filling of the town centre with mid-height buildings.
The redevelopment of Medway City Estate as a mixed-use development.
A bridge linking Chatham and the Medway City Estate redevelopment.
The top of the Pentagon becomes a big garden, and other parks are dotted throughout.
Wickes and Halfords both redeveloped, with B&M’s car park becoming a public square.
Big redevelopment around the railway station with new routes into the town centre.
Most of this seems eminently sensible as a way to improve the public realm in Chatham and make it more livable.
That’s not to say it’s perfect though. The plans feature no changes to an already creaking road network and also show the redevelopment of nearly all of the car parks in the town. In an ideal world, this would be fine as reducing car usage is desirable, but without a significantly improved public transport network, it feels aspirational rather than realistic.
Still, there’s a lot to like here, and you should definitely take part in the consultation if you have any thoughts on what the future of Chatham should look like.
It won’t be easy to make Chatham all it can be though. The town suffered another blow this week as The Fire Station Brasserie, one of the more pleasant places to eat in the town, announced they will be closing their doors next month following a prolonged period of struggling to survive. If Chatham can’t support one slightly fancy restaurant in a prime location, it’s going to be a long hard slog to turn things around.
Local Authority is a reader-supported 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.
The culture wars come to Halling
The village of Halling might not feel like it should be at the centre of Medway’s culture wars, but for a second year in a row, the local church is deciding to antagonise during Pride month.
Last year, Halling Baptist Church put up a poster during June’s Pride month highlighting that they ‘don’t celebrate Pride’. Following media attention about the poster, the church was unrepentant, posting an extensive ‘Why the poster?’ page on their website. The page doubled down, setting out how anything other than marriage between a man and a woman was sinful, and went on to compare homosexuality to the grooming of children.
In September, the pastor of the church, Kevin Felix-Hollington, decried homosexuality as ‘the work of Satan’ during a sermon, while going after ‘wokeism’ at the same time for good measure.
They are back at it again this year too. With Pride month in full swing, they are holding a talk entitled ‘LGBTQIA+ and the sexualisation of children in schools’, rallying against the ‘LGBT ideology’ in schools. They don’t really set out what that ideology is beyond being grumpy about schools teaching basic sex education and providing suitable facilities for everyone.
The talk is being delivered by Tim Dieppe, Head of Public Policy at Christian Concern. The organisation’s website is littered with the kind of culture war issues that would feel more at home with what we see from US evangelical campaigners: strictly anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, rejecting trans rights, and anti-Islam. It’s all pretty grubby reading. A glance at Dieppe’s own Twitter profile shows similar sentiments, with recent posts supporting conversion therapy, referring to drag as ‘grooming’, and regularly attacking Islam.
For the most part, Medway has managed to avoid the worst of the culture wars that we see happening in other parts of the country. But it’s a shame that one church in our village is choosing to repeatedly antagonise our most marginalised communities.
Are the Conservatives a busted flush?
Tough times for the Medway Conservative Group, who fresh from their defeat in last month’s local elections, are now settling into their new offices at Gun Wharf. Gone are the days of the dizzying heights of the upstairs offices, and instead, they are having to make do with more modest surroundings. A reader sent in this snap of their new digs:
Our thoughts and prayers for all involved.
Hoo infrastructure latest
Following years of indecision on how to use £170m of Housing Infrastructure Fund to facilitate development on the Hoo peninsula, it came as little surprise this week that Homes England recommended withdrawing the money from Medway.
Development on the Hoo peninsula is one of the most contentious issues in Medway, and as a result, the HIF money became an epicentre of opposition to housebuilding on the peninsula. The £170m was earmarked to provide supporting infrastructure to future homes, from a new link road to a passenger rail connection to the peninsula.
After Medway Council withdrew plans for the rail connection in March, and with time to spend the money running out, it would appear that Homes England has finally lost patience.
As new Medway Council Leader Cllr Vince Maple set out this week in response to the news, this “would not stop new homes coming”. Homes are going to be built en masse in Medway, and a significant number of them will likely end up on the peninsula. The withdrawal of this money just means that local residents face worse infrastructure and connectivity when they arrive.
Medway Council are now lobbying Homes England to keep the money, but it remains to be seen if this can be successful. What is clear is that the issue of building on the Hoo peninsula is going to continue to dominate our political discourse, even under a new administration.
🏳️🌈 The first Medway Pride Radio awards took place this week. The awards celebrated those within the Medway LGBTQIA+ community, as well as allies and organisations.
🏨 The Gordon House Hotel in Rochester is up for sale. The 10-room High Street hotel and attached chip shop will set you back nearly £2m.
🔥 Snack Bar & Best Kebab in Walderslade caught fire this week. The uniquely positioned takeaway sits inside the park at Hook Meadow on Walderslade Road.
📖 Medway Adult Education is having an Open Day tomorrow (Sat 17 Jun). There will be opportunities to learn about the courses on offer, take part in workshops, food, and for some reason, wrestling.
🍕 A car crashed into Papa John’s in Twydall this week. There’s no clue how it happened, but thankfully no one was injured, and if you know the road layout in the area, it would take an impressive bit of driving for a car to end up there.
Paid supporters of Local Authority receive extra editions of the newsletter every week. This week, we sat down for an exclusive interview with the new Conservative leader of the opposition at Medway Council Cllr Adrian Gulvin. It was a revealing interview where he set out how he differs from his predecessor, how he thinks Brexit is disastrous, and where his party has gone wrong.
We also sent out our monthly planning report, covering all of the interesting proposed developments in Medway this month. It includes an extensive development by Rochester Independent College next to the old railway station in Strood, a slightly odd terrace for Ye Arrow pub, a school expansion local residents are already unhappy about, and more.
Becoming a paid supporter ensures we can keep this thing running for the long term and costs less than £1 per week when joining us for a year. Please consider it if you can!
A note on covid data: Unfortunately, covid data is no longer being consistently reported in the way it has been over the previous two years. As such, it is no longer possible to publish the kind of weekly covid data that we have published since the start of Local Authority. If useful data becomes available again in the future, we’ll start including it again, but for now, there’s little Medway-specific data for us to work with, so this is likely the end of the weekly data updates.
Get in touch with us at email@example.com if you have any stories or information that might be of interest to our readers.
Music that soundtracked the creation of this newsletter: Going to Hell by Lande Hekt, Fuckin A by The Thermals, You Might Be Smiling Now… by The Just Joans, Lean Into It by Allison Crutchfield, and Bigger Than Before by Ex-Vöid.