Today, I held an adjournment debate in the House of Commons on ‘The Future of Chatham Docks’.
(For those who are interested to know what an adjournment debate is, here is a link to explain https://www.parliament.uk/.../business/debates/adjournment/)
I have been a strong advocate for saving Chatham Docks from closure and have been against Medway Council’s plans to re-designate land at the docks for housing development.
This debate will have highlighted to ministers the devastating economic consequences that there will be for Medway if the Docks are closed – including the loss of around £250 million worth of economic benefit to Medway, the loss of 800 jobs (with 1,440 more being lost in the supply chain or those dependent on the docks), and also a massive increase in CO2 emissions as a result of closing the facility which currently allows for goods to be transported along the river instead of road.
I have also used this debate to speak of the success and viability of the businesses that currently occupy the Docks. The businesses have a combined annual turnover approaching £175 million and future investment plans of more than £60 million. Most recently, a main tenant at the docks, ArcelorMittal Kent Wire, have secured a £1 million investment to work on the HS2 national infrastructure project and is set to create 50 new jobs by the end of the year. This is just one of many examples of the successful businesses that make up the thriving manufacturing hub which is Chatham Docks.
Medway Council will soon publish its draft Local Plan which will set out the areas where they have proposed that development will take place over the next 15-20 years. Obviously, it is not just Chatham Docks that Medway Council is planning to build on, with thousands of new homes earmarked for the Hoo Peninsula and many other areas throughout my constituency too. I am continuing to call on Medway Council to ensure that any future development is proportionate, backed up with sound evidence of its sustainability, and that it will also benefit the local community. I know that many of my constituents are deeply concerned about the future of their area, and many feel that their way of life is being hindered as a result of plans to build more houses.
It is anticipated that a motion to adopt the draft Local Plan for consultation will shortly be presented to Medway Councillors at the next Full Council meeting in October. I will be keeping a close eye on developments with the Local Plan and will keep resident’s updated as much as I can. If councillors agree to designate the space at Chatham Docks for housing, it will pave the way to finally close the docks for commercial use, displacing businesses and bring about the loss of high skilled jobs that are desperately needed within the Medway Towns.
I was encouraged to hear that the Minister Eddie Hughes recognised the concern for the future of the Docks and, whilst the Government does support brownfield regeneration to meet housing needs, this must not be at the detriment of a strong economy and our local prosperity.
To watch this debate, please follow this link: https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/5d72fc4c-c074-4be9-85c6-4532da1629a6?in=16:33:16