As the elected representatives for the Chalkwell area of Sittingbourne we want to express our anger at what we see as the continual manipulation of the planning system by the owners of the Old Mill Site.
In 2012 the Council gave planning permission to re-develop the old Mill Site. It was a hybrid application, meaning there were a number of connected parts to the proposal. The applicants, Essential Lands, had produced lots of brightly illustrated leaflets to show how good the whole development would be for the town. In addition to a Morrison’s Supermarket, there was to be housing, leisure and community buildings and a linear and waterside park.
We can all see what has actually happened; one large supermarket and a bombsite. Ever since, the developers have been going backwards and forwards trying to get out of carrying out their part of the bargain.
First, we had a concerted attempt, which the Council backed, to release the developer from providing social housing in the development, though it is desperately needed in Sittingbourne. This was reluctantly accepted but as local Councillors we insisted that there could be no housing until the linear park and Waterside Park had been completed. This was agreed as the developer and the Council wanted to allow the housing to go through.
Our thinking was that the site would never be regenerated, unless a lock was put on the housing. So, now, and to no great surprise, they are applying to remove the condition to complete the open space prior to occupation of the residential units.
At planning meetings, Essential Lands have sought to portray themselves as supporters of the town, contributors to the “spirit of Sittingbourne”. The never ending derelict state of this site is poor testimony to this claim.
Roger Truelove and Ghlin Whelan