Medway came under the microscope this week as a key regeneration hotspot of the Thames Gateway.
Government minister Bob Neill visited as part of a tour of North Kent to see how investment is continuing to improve the area.
He first went to Chatham, where he was shown the new road scheme and officially opened the bus station, before going to Rochester Riverside to see the Hyde Housing development taking shape.
At Rochester Riverside, the minister also met with six apprentices from Medway who have been taken on to help with the construction of affordable homes on the site.
At the Chatham Waterfront Bus Station, Mr Neill – the Thames Gateway Minister – unveiled a plaque in the Visitor Centre and commented on the great improvement the new bus station has made to the area.
He added that this was particularly evident when comparing it to the old, outdated Pentagon Bus Station – which he used when he was a barrister visiting the magistrates’ court in Chatham.
Mr Neill, whose ministerial brief includes local government, said:
“I’m delighted to be able to visit Chatham and open the new bus station – a symbol of development and regeneration.
“The Thames Gateway is well and truly open for business and offers untold potential for industry, employment and housing close to central London. I look forward to seeing the progress that the area makes in the coming years.”
Mr Neill added that as he lived in Chislehurst, he was a close neighbour to Medway, and was impressed to see how much regeneration had happened in recent years.
Rodney Chambers, the Leader of Medway Council, added:
“I was very pleased to show Mr Neill around some of the key regeneration sites in Medway and he seemed suitably impressed with what has happened, and is continuing to happen here.
“He remarked that he knows Medway as he lives nearby and he was very interested in how his ministerial department – Communities and Local Government – has helped regeneration in Medway.
“Mr Neill officially opened Chatham’s Waterfront Bus station, which is used by around 1,100 buses and 60,000 passengers a week, during his visit and it was good to show him how well it is working and how much better it is than the old, outdated Pentagon Bus Station.”
Arriva’s Regional General Manager Glen Shuttleworth said:
“The new bus station is an important part of the regeneration of the central Medway area and we are very pleased with the way that it has been operating from the very start.
“Its layout allows us to operate and manage our services more effectively than was possible in the old bus station and the improved environment has been welcomed by our staff and customers.”
During the ministerial visit on Tuesday, 1 May, Mr Neil, Cllr Chambers and Mark Reckless, MP for Rochester and Strood, also met apprentices at Rochester Riverside and looked at the new Hyde Housing affordable homes development underway there.
Mr Reckless said:
“I was delighted to welcome Bob Neill to Rochester to see some of the significant regeneration work which is being done locally here in Medway.
“Medway Council in partnership with Hyde Housing are working hard to deliver quality affordable and private sector housing on Rochester Riverside. It was great to see we are also giving our young people the opportunity to gain much needed hands on experience through Medway’s very successful apprenticeship scheme.
“This, coupled with the government backed 95 per cent mortgage scheme, aimed at helping aspiring individuals and families get onto the property ladder, will really help local people get ahead here in Medway.”
Steve White, Chief Executive of the Hyde Group, added:
“We’re very proud of what we’ve achieved at Rochester Riverside, working in partnership with Medway Council.
“The development partnership is not only building desirable and much needed homes; it’s also providing opportunities into employment for young local people. I was delighted to be able to share the work so far and our vision for the future of this part of Medway.”