Labour Councillors on Swale Borough Council say there is a serious risk that the Council’s current scheme for the regeneration of Sittingbourne will either be abandoned or seriously reduced. They say that the scheme, agreed with development consortium the “Spirit of Sittingbourne” is unviable in its entirety, especially the so called “second phase” that involves the building of a new civic centre in the town. Labour says that it is time to start again, with more realistic and less grand ideas, building stage by stage in a business-like way. They add that the existing High Street must be part of the town’s future and that means an immediate improvement in the appearance and state of the main street.
Group Leader Cllr Mike Haywood says,
“We know that the Council has been worried about a cooling of interest by the developers for some time. We know too that a high level meeting took place recently at which the Council’s anxieties were so great that they raised the possibility of their helping to raise extra capital for the project. It will be very frustrating to local people but it may be time to think again, to be more realistic and to move forward stage by stage. It may be that parts of the present scheme can be retained, such as the introduction of a new cinema to help kick start the process.
Cllr Roger Truelove, the Group’s Spokesman on Economic Development adds
“I am afraid I have never been convinced that the scheme was going to be viable. The idea that the phase 1 development around the Cinema would yield sufficient capital to fund phase 2 and the new Civic centre was unrealistic. We know the partners are still talking as if it is but we will not be surprised to find this project moving in another direction next year.
“We must look more carefully at the existing High Street. In the first place that means taking action on the crumbling highway, the appearance of the street furniture and the general cleanliness of the area. I have met with both the Kent Highways and Swale’s cleansing department to start addressing these issues.”
At a full meeting of the Council on Wednesday last, Labour raised questions about downgrading the scheme and the Council’s possible involvement in capital funding and received equivocal replies from the administration.