The news that Tesco/Spenhill is to pull out of the Sittingbourne Regeneration project comes as no surprise. The growing business pressures on Tesco are well known, whilst in Sittingbourne in particular the Company has been frustrated by the Highways Agency objections to their planning application, the failure at every level of government to complete the Northern Relief Road and by the Council’s decision to work with another development partner, in Spirit of Sittingbourne.
There will be mixed feelings around the town, because many did not want the town they had grown up in transformed into what they feared would be Tescoland. However, many will also see that this closes almost ten years of wasted time and money.
This is an enormous embarrassment for both Swale Borough Council and Kent County Council. It is certainly true, since the financial slowdown of 2009 that schemes such as these have had to be scaled down. However, there is no doubt in my mind that there was a window of opportunity from 2005 to 2009 that was wasted by our local councils.
Instead of seizing the moment, we saw nothing but delay and procrastination. There was an endless carousel of consultation, public exhibitions and over optimistic press coverage, but too little was achieved in terms of planning and project development. By the time the plan emerged, the moment had been lost.
Labour Group Leader Roger Truleove says: “We are all now left to dwell on the amount of public money wasted, taking people up to the top of the hill and down again. Sittingbourne now has an enormous area of wasteland. It will be as well to consider how this might be used before Swale adopts plans for the future that involve the development of Greenfield sites.”
Promoted by Margaret Cooper on behalf of Sittingbourne and Sheppey Labour Party both c/o 29 Park Road, Sittingbourne ME10 1DR