John's Jottings for June 2004

John Ward

Please note: these Jottings are purely personal comment, and do not necessarily or directly represent the policy of either the Conservative Party or the Conservative Group on Medway Council.

Regeneration: Is It Worth It?

One of the comments I have heard several times in recent months asks whether there is any point in spending millions of pounds on bringing Chatham town centre and riverfront into a twenty-first century thriving area.

Well, I believe that it is.

For one thing, it is not acceptable to look at the run-down state of the area and judge it to be too late to do something about it. Since the 1980s there have been plans to transform the area, but despite initial work such as studies and assessments, nothing much happened during the last decade. Consequently the area simply deteriorated.

Crime and anti-social behaviour went up, unlicensed street traders moved in, and several good shops moved out or simply closed their doors.

Is any decent resident of the Medway Towns going to be happy to leave things in this state? No, of course not. Now, with some of our national taxes—usually siphoned off to bail out inefficient Labour councils elsewhere, and sunk into weird and wonderful Socialist schemes—at last coming back to the Medway area as this resource should do, albeit strictly for this regeneration of Chatham, we can get some real benefit from the Treasury for a change.

We must get rid of the yobbish and drug-based sub-cultures that are dragging our society ever downward, and return our town centres to the people of Medway. No-one should be afraid to enter Chatham town centre and to stay around for the evening life that promises to blossom gently along and near the riverside. Who could possibly want to keep the area as it is now, with such great possibilities for its future as are promised?

The shop situation is not the easiest to solve, with Lakeside and Bluewater already well-established retail centres for Medway residents among others. However new and existing shopping centres, from Hempstead Valley to the recently-opened Docklands Outlet Centre, show that it is possible to thrive despite such strong competition.

With an anticipated influx of what are termed key workers (for example, doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers and similar professionals) during the next few years, Chatham and its environs will bring new shoppers into this part of Medway that will appreciate the higher-quality end of the retail market, and could well prefer the convenience and atmosphere of a rejuvenated Chatham to the hustle and bustle of a crowded mega-centre like Bluewater.

When I moved to Kent, nearly eight years ago, I was very disappointed with Chatham's town centre, and was pleased to end up living right out here near Bridgewood, as far away from Chatham town as I could be without leaving the Medway area altogether. I for one shall be so pleased to witness the long-awaited and oft-delayed transformation of that tatty and run-down town into a place I shall really enjoy visiting often.

Next time: It Takes Two to Quango