Gravesend Heritage Quarter stuck in the mud: December 2015 update
Since the Judicial Review decision at the beginning of March to allow the huge and destructive Heritage Quarter scheme to go ahead, what has happened?
Precisely nothing. No move to start the development, and no date for start. Like an old supermarket trolley thrown off the Promenade, Gravesend’s ironically named “Heritage Quarter” scheme is firmly stuck in the Gravesend mud.
Well almost nothing has happened. The Council's development partners, Edinburgh House, have been trying to borrow £120 million to make the scheme happen- without success. And the Council Leader, John Cubitt has, without consulting other councillors, just given the developers an unlimited amount of time to raise the spondulicks.
It is often said of alcoholics that the first step in getting well is to admit that you have a drink problem. We think its time for Councillor Cubitt and Gravesham to admit that the development partnership with Edinburgh House has been an abject and expensive failure and that it is doing serious harm to the future of our town. That way recovery, from years of planning blight, can begin.
Read details on Edinburgh House's position and the Leader's decision.
Future of the town centre (posted December 2015)
Congratulations to the Gravesend Messenger for raising the issue of the future of the town centre in recent editions. Urban Gravesham produced a document back in February on just this topic for the Council's Overview and Scrutiny Committee. it is reproduced here in order to add to the debate
Future of the town centre: Urban Gravesham note for Gravesham Borough Council.
PRESS STATEMENT 08/04/15:
Gravesend Heritage Quarter: Urban Gravesham will not appeal
There is no denying that the result of the Judicial Review has been great disappointment. The Judgement shows the limits of the Courts’ reach in ensuring democratic accountability of planning decisions. The alternative - simply allowing the Council to hide their actions under the table would have been worse. We have accepted the Judge’s decision and will not appeal. Despite the magnificent response of our members and supporters, we simply do not have the resources to fight the council and their co-defendant developer allies in Edinburgh House, who are prepared to waste even greater amounts of council tax in their “win at all costs” attitude.
Urban Gravesham can hold its head up high over the battle for the future of the town centre. It has been a tough fight. There is no doubt that it has been worth it .The 30 storey tower on St Andrew’s Gardens, uncritically supported by Councillor Burden and his predecessor council leader, the late Councillor Snelling was defeated by local people’s action and the first version of the Heritage Quarter scheme was refused by Councillors in 2010 following a massive campaign by UG rousing thousands of objections from local people. Even today, only four members of the Council have ever voted in favour of the Heritage Quarter scheme.
We are proud of our record, holding the Council’s planning department to account and exposing their cosy relationship with developers and we will continue to fight to give local people a real say in the planning process- watch this space!
Court Case: UG Bid to get Heritage Quarter planning decision thrown out fails
Urban Gravsham's bid to get the whole matter of the Heritage Quarter development considered again by the Council's Regulatory Board has failed.
The case hinged on whether the Councillors who made the initial planning decision in favour of the scheme had been given an adequate chance to consider new matters relevant to the decision. The Judge decided that, through Urban Gravesham's actions, they had that chance. He reported that any of the 44 elected members of the council could have demanded that the decision be called back to committee if any of them had any reservations about the decision. None did.
This is a damning indictment of our Councillors. They have sleepwalked their way into agreeing an over-scaled scheme.
However, Urban Gravesham and the tens of thousands of citizens who stood up to be counted can still feel immensely proud of what they have achieved in their campaign for the sympathetic development of the town's heritage quarter. They held our elected representatives to account and got the 32 storey tower thrown out. And they successfully challenged the Council to have St Andrews Gardens protected from mass development forever.
The most likely outcome of the Judge's ruling (to let the Council's final decision on the Heritage Quarter stand) is not the planned high rise development of undersized flats, but years more planning blight- just like Edinburgh House's other regeneration scheme in Castleford. Urban Gravesham will continue to campaign for a better alternative.
UG would like to thank our many members and supporters and assure everyone that we will continue to represent those people who care about the future and the heritage of our town centre.
Read the Court judgement
Read Urban Gravesham's column in the Gravesend Messenger
Nowhere to 'go' ...Keep our town centre loos! (Posted 03/12/14)
It seems that Gravesham Borough Council is determined to loose the little details and unique features that make our town special. Once such example is the planning permission that has just been given to demolish the characterful and potentially very useful public conveniences at Parrock Street. These have been closed for several years However, for Gravesham Borough Council to agree to spend a total of £90,000 buying them back from the last owner just to demolish them really is public money down the pan. Instead the conveniences should be restored and brought back into use.
Read the Urban Gravesham column about the Parrock Street loos (published in the Gravesend Messenger dated 04/12/14)
Sign our on line petition to stop the demolition of the public conveniences
Gravesend Heritage Quarter: Council's Secret Deal
When Councillors on Gravesham Borough Council's Regulatory Board narrowly agreed in principle to grant planning permission for the massive out-of-scale Heritage Quarter scheme a year ago, they were told by planning officers that over £9m in contributions would be sought towards affordable housing, roads and schools via a planning (Section 106) agreement.
Under threat of a High Court injunction from Urban Gravesham’s lawyers, the Council’s lawyers have grudgingly produced a copy of the agreement which reveals that only about 1/3 of that amount has been secured. Most of the secured contribution would merely go towards providing replacement town centre car parking on some unspecified site. Only £1m is being offered for off-site affordable housing– a long way from the £3.6m demanded by the Council's Cabinet.
Absent from the Agreement is the replacement church hall, the community provision and the promised £250,000 boost to the Old Town Hall. The whole of the Western Quarter, including the proposed shopping centre with its promise of jobs, investment and regeneration appears now to be on ice.
A further £3.5 m of contributions may follow – but this is subject to the whole development going ahead, and the development producing a financial surplus after developers’ profit has been skimmed off. However, the viability report carried out by Gravesham Council’s own advisers, Mouchel, stated that the scheme is likely to have a negative value and is not commercially viable.
Download the financial (Section 106) agreement
Download the Council's consultants' assessment of the viability of the Heritage Quarter Scheme
Download UG's comparison of funding sought and funding now agreed.
Gravesend Transport Quarter: A £9.8 million scandal. KCC Councillors vote close the Station Car Park and allow heavy traffic through the Community Square: (posted 03/12/14)
Kent County Council has finally (October 2014) given planning permission for the Transport Quarter road scheme.
Urban Gravesham had argued that the proposal to spend £9.8 million on flipping the main road from one side of the station to the other was a waste of money. Its also damaging- an historic Georgian property on Darnely Road would have to be demolished, hundreds of commuter parking spaces would be lost to make way for the new road system, and many HGV's would end up being diverted through the Community Square.
The decision on this 2012 planning application was delayed because KCC Councillors simply could not understand what benefits it would bring. They finally caved into pressure from Gravesham Borough Council, culminating in Councillor Colin Caller telling them that they should not listen to Urban Gravesham!
This does not show much respect for the 400 commuters who had signed a petition, the traders on Windmill Street who had expressed their concerns, the concerns of Gravesend Access Group and the many who wrote to KCC to make their views known.
However, the scheme has still to pass a value for money test before the Government agrees to fund it. That looks highly unlikely.
How would you spend £9.8 million for the good of the town centre?
To read UG's alternative suggestions about how to spend £9.8 million for the good of the town centre click here
Urban Gravesham would love to hear your suggestions about how to spend the money for the betterment of the town. Please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions. We will take all your suggestions to Gravesham Borough Councillors to feed into a review they are carrying out of the town centre.
Learn more about the Transport Quarter
Its official! Buried bear pit is of national importance (posted 12/01/14)
Back in 2012, and along with a range of other campaigners, Urban Gravesham became involved with the disused factory site that was once the location of the famous Rosherville Gardens- dating from the 1830's and at its height in the 1870's visited by 1 million visitors per year- many of whom travelled by paddle steamer from London. Frequent visitors included Dickens, Lillie Langtry, and Gaiety Girls.
An archaeological investigation on the old AEI factory site came across the well preserved remains of a bear pit- the one time home of 'Rosie the Bear' - who along with other exotic creatures entertained the crowds. Parts of the old Italian Gardens on the site were also rediscovered
We tried to persuade the Government's Homes and Communities Agency, who own the land, along with Gravesham Borough Council in its capacity as planning authority, to drop plans to deposit 1000's of tons of landfill from the London Crossrail project over the remains of the gardens. However, they refused to listen and the historic features are now reburied under tons of earth.
However, we have just learnt that English Heritage have 'listed' the bear pit. This means that it is a historic feature of national importance.
Whist we recognise that not all the old Rosherville Gardens can be restored, we think that the land owner should restore the bear pit and features of the Italian Gardens as a small local park as the centrepiece of high quality development. We hope that this time the Homes and Communities Agency and Gravesham Council (which calls itself the listening Council') should actually listen...We will be writing again to both organisations. Watch this space.
And in the Blue corner (posted 17/07/13)
Since the Gravesham Regulatory Board resolution to grant planning permission for the Gravesend Heritage Quarter scheme, planning permission has been granted by Dartford Council to expand Bluewater by 20%. Both Gravesham Borough Council and Heritage Quarter developers, Edinburgh House, had objected to the Bluewater scheme on the grounds that the retail viability of the Gravesend Heritage Quarter scheme would be affected.
UG agrees. It is now very questionable whether the retail part of the HQ scheme will be built at all. UG thinks that Gravesham Regulatory Board Councillors should look at the whole matter of the Heritage Quarter scheme again.
Read Gravesham Council's letter of objection and report
Gravesham Borough Council Regulatory Board resolves to give Heritage Quarter Scheme planning permission (posted 01/05/13)
At a meeting last night (30/04/13) GBC's Regulatory Board resolved to grant planning permission to the Edinburgh House Heritage Quarter proposals. It was, however, a controversial decision- three Councillors voted for it, three against, and three abstained, thus leaving the casting vote to the Chair, Councillor Jane Cribbon- hardly a ringing endorsement.
This permission is subject to to agreeing financial contributions for health, highways and other matters. These have not been agreed and until they are, the scheme does not officially have planning permission
The meeting was a farce- hundreds of people, the vast majority against the scheme, turned up to observe (as is their right) democracy in action. They were denied access to the Council Chamber where the meeting was taking place, and were instead decanted to the Woodville Halls to watch the meeting via a televised link . The meeting was delayed when the link went down and eventually ended at 10:45pm- by which time many concerned citizens, who stand to have their flats thrown into darkness by the scheme, had had enough of this particular brand of local democracy, and had gone home.
To read more
Urban Gravesham - the Civic Society for Gravesend and Northfleet
We are an ordinary group of citizens who care about the character and environment of the urban areas of Gravesham.
We aim to support positive changes to the town centre but we will, where necessary, campaign against changes that we think would damage the character of area.
We have been involved in major campaigns to save the Heritage Quarter (round St Georges Church and the Market Square) and the Transport Quarter (round the Railway Station) from mass development.
Our major achievement has been to stop the building of a 32 storey tower on St Andrews Gardens.
or phone 01474 359223
Join Urban Gravesham
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Download the membership form
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20 Ridgeway Avenue, Gravesend, DA12 5BB