Bapchild Parish Council held a meeting with Swale Forward on the 6th January, to discuss the implications of its regeneration programme for Bapchild and the wider community. Primarily we wished to discuss the final phase of the Northern Relief Road and the Kent Science Park expansion.
The meeting commenced with Ross Gill from Swale Forward providing a brief background into the reason why they had been established and how they operate. Ross also gave the first indication that Swale Forward may exist longer than the initial two year period, depending on future funding from the ODPM.
With the recent news that the Northern Relief Road has gained the essential funding for the middle section, which crosses the creek, we wanted to ask what the position was with the final development stage from East Hall Farm to Bapchild.
We are already aware that there are at least three possible routes, with two possible end points onto the A2. We do know that a route ending somewhere in the vicinity of the cricket pitch was favoured over the other possible ending, but not which route they might use to get there.
What we don’t know is just how they might fund this final phase and what the timescales are likely to be for the project delivery. So our first question to Swale Forward was
Q - The final phase of the Northern Relief Road does not currently have any funding, can you explain what funding options you are considering and what the likely timescales for the project are.
A – Ross Gill said that they had not considered funding options at this time and nor had they any ideas on likely timescales for delivery.
Q – We explained that our ward councillor Don Jordon had suggested that funding would be derived from large-scale housing developments to the north side of the A2 in Bapchild, and that other research had suggested that this had at least been considered.
A – Ross Gill suggested that private funding wasn’t out of the question and that this was the only way some projects get off the ground. It’s a matter of compromise and clearly something of this nature might well happen, although it need not be housing.
Next we moved on to the subject of the Kent Science Park and asked
Q – Please can you explain how you are going to create the 5,000 new jobs you have published in your literature and website.
A – Ross said that he did not know where the figure of 5,000 new employees had come from and admitted that they could not substantiate this figure, nor any others at this time as they had no definitive plans.
Q – We suggested that only a very large scale expansion could possibly generate this number of employees and that ergo they were indeed backing the expansion plans as submitted by the developer.
A – Ross was unable to make any comment on the scale of any expansion, again suggesting that they had no plans at this juncture.
Q – We also asked why they had publicised a figure of 2,000 current employees, when not only had Ross acknowledged earlier in the same meeting that there were currently around 1,000 employees, but also so have the Science Park themselves.
A – Ross suggested this was a misprint and that they would review the figures for both the number of new and existing employees.
Q – We did point out that there misprint appeared more than once, and is still displayed on their website.
A – Again he said this would be changed.
The conversation then moved on to the Northern Relief Road where we asked
Q – What is your position with regard to the Northern Relief Road
A – Ross suggested that they had no position and were waiting on the results of the Kent & Medway Structure Plan due out at the tail end of January. He then explained that another Swale wide traffic survey was about to be commissioned and that this is expected to be published in the summer.
The meeting continued with questions regarding their education initiatives and the plans for the town centre redevelopment, which provided some interesting points for discussion, but ones that ar