News that eight major capital projects in Kent and Medway are to receive funding of more than £37million from the government’s new Getting Building Fund has been welcomed across the county.
Central government, working closely with local authorities and local enterprise partnerships, has produced an extensive package of measures that will drive economic recovery and get Britain building again.
The Getting Building Fund, which was announced today (4 August) by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, will help stimulate the economy, drive forward new employment and learning opportunities, and support the delivery of new housing.
These projects were carefully selected by the Kent and Medway Economic Partnership , the local federated board of the South East Local Enterprise Partnership, for their ability to be delivered quickly, but also for the size and scale of their wider economic impact. More than 3,600 jobs will be realised as a result of this significant investment.
Mike Whiting, Kent County Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic Development, said: “I am delighted that the three projects put forward by KCC have been approved for the funding we requested.
“All three will have a significant impact on the economic future of the areas involved.
“Thanet Parkway, in particular, is important as it will make East Kent more accessible for companies and employees alike, bringing London only just over an hour away.
“Improving broadband connections to more of the rural areas of Kent and Medway has become even more vital with the current emphasis on home-working during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“And although the Javelin Way project has been in the pipeline for some time, the impact of Covid had put its immediate future in jeopardy, and the funding means that work can start immediately and the development will move forward at pace.”
The GBF grants were for the following eight projects: Thanet Parkway railway station; digitally connecting Kent and Medway; Laboratory upgrade at Discovery Park, Sandwich; Javelin Way development in Ashford; North Kent College performing arts facilities; The Meeting Place, Swanley; and Romney Marsh Employment Hub.
The details of each project are as follows:
Thanet Parkway railway station- £11,999,000
The grant will fund a new railway station near Cliffsend village in Thanet, consisting of two platforms of 12-carriage length to accommodate high-speed rail services.
The provision of Thanet Parkway would result in a journey time of 69 minutes from London St Pancras to Thanet Parkway. Being within an hour from London will help improve investors’ perception that East Kent is easily accessible and an attractive place to invest in and do business.
A study by Wessex Economics into the wider economic benefits of the new station found that over the first 30 years of opening it will accelerate the delivery of up to 3,200 homes. It will also create an additional 400 – 800 jobs over the same period.
Digitally connecting rural Kent & Medway – £2,290,152
The Covid-19 pandemic has further demonstrated the need for good broadband connectivity.
Although this project will not be able to support every rural home and businesses without a superfast broadband connection, it will work to support an additional 1,200 homes and businesses with poor or no broadband connectivity.
It will particularly benefit those hard-to-reach homes and businesses that have proven too expensive to connect under the existing scheme (and the existing funding allocation) and Ofcom’s recently launched Broadband Universal Service Obligation.
This project will also help safeguard jobs, grow employment in Kent’s broadband infrastructure sub-contractor supply chain (particularly in small, Kent-based firms) and help boost Kent and Medway’s recovery.
Javelin Way (educational/light industrial), Ashford – £578,724
This project sees the development of the Javelin Way site for employment use, with a particular focus on the development of Ashford’s creative economy. The scheme consists of two elements:
- The construction of a ‘Creative Laboratory’ production space, with an area of 13,530sq ft to be leased from Kent County Council by the Jasmin Vardimon Company, a major dance and creative organisation. This will be used as education space for accredited courses.
- The development of 29 light industrial units with an area of 47,163 sq ft for sale and/or lease, suitable for additional creative businesses as well as the general market. The light industrial units are being used as an enabling development to fund the education space but will also seek to support the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises in the post-pandemic world.
The scheme will accommodate approximately 311 full-time equivalent employees, in addition to 21 freelance and contractor opportunities. It will also deliver opportunities for business development in the creative sector, as well as business rates and educational impacts.
A grant of over £3million has been secured by Arts Council England to help fund this development.
The Getting Building Fund grant will cover the shortfall in the gross development value of the sale of the industrial units following the Covid19 impact and will allow the project to start on site immediately.
Laboratory space upgrade, Discovery Park, Sandwich – £2,500,000
Discovery Park, one of six Life Sciences Opportunity Zones in the UK, is focused on the development of a world-leading science park. Key to this is flexible, collaborative space where life sciences start-ups and SMEs can establish their operations and grow as part of an innovative community.
Discovery Park has the ideal space for this activity, within Building 500, and the grant will be used to refurbish this space to create a compelling home for companies from across the UK and abroad.
Building 500, which consists of 250,000 sq. ft across four blocks, was designed as a single occupier building, and therefore some redesign and development is needed in order to create the flexible laboratory, write-up and office space a multi-tenant incubator requires.
The capital grant monies will be used to refurbish the main atrium and create about 50,000 sq.ft. of individual biology and chemistry laboratories together with associated write-up space.
Performing & Production Digital Arts, North Kent College- £12,625,000
North Kent College was ranked second (out of 169 further education colleges) in the UK for Level 3 (A Level equivalent) in 2019, so it remains an important engine in the delivery of better prospects to the younger generation.
The project relates to the building of a new two-storey state-of-the-art performing and production digital arts facility within the Dartford campus, to replace old, dilapidated and historic accommodation that is unfit for modern education purposes and very expensive to maintain. The new building received full planning permission in March 2019 (unanimously supported by the local authority), so is ready to start construction immediately.
Job prospects will be enhanced as the new facility will provide high-quality education to students, supporting young people in developing new skills and, in turn, playing a large part in supporting economic regeneration such as the Thames Gateway Production Arts Corridor.
The project replaces former university accommodation which is expensive to maintain and run with modern facilities which will adopt modern building techniques and more efficient use of energy including renewable.
Romney Marsh Employment Hub, Folkestone – £3,536,466
The Hub is a proposal developed in partnership with the Nuclear De-commissioning Authority (NDA) to mitigate the loss of about 1,000 jobs from the closure of Dungeness A (already closed) and Dungeness B (by 2028) by creating up to 700 alternative jobs over 10 years by bringing forward about six hectares of land for employment uses in the Romney Marsh area.
The proposal comprises two stages: the construction of a business centre and the servicing of the remaining five hectares for business use. The first stage business centre comprises 751 sq. metres divided into 14 rooms of varying sizes able to accommodate from two to ten people: detailed planning consent was gained on 25 September 2018.
The second stage is the servicing of the remaining five hectares in accordance with a masterplan commissioned by the council with NDA support to facilitate the construction of 14,500 sq. metres of space.
The Meeting Place, Swanley – £1,490,000
Sevenoaks District Council has planned a new high-quality, sustainable, mixed-use development at a key gateway to Swanley town centre, which will set high standards and help kick-start urban renewal essential to the wider development vision for Swanley.
The project will fund the creation of 17 new quality homes and a business hub co-working space of 250 sqm at ground floor for local residents providing a welcome and active frontage along the High Street.
The building is in a central location in a deprived area with need of regeneration, but has remained empty for a number of years and this development will kick start a wider programme of regeneration in the area. The building is in council ownership with planning permission granted in May this year. The project would provide much needed housing in an area with excellent transport links.