This week the Leader of the Labour Party Sir Keir Starmer voiced his support for the campaign to Save Chatham Docks, fighting to protect the 800 highly skilled jobs located on the site as well as almost 1,000 additional jobs likely to be impacted through the supply chain and local stakeholder dependence.
The Labour Leader’s support is just one of many voices across all parties, including local Conservative MP for Rochester and Strood, Kelly Tolhurst. However, Medway’s Conservative-led council are yet to vocalise a stance on this.
The Docks are currently in the freehold of Peel Land & Property, who intend to develop the site for luxury housing and retail uses at the end of the lease in 2025. The move threatens the £258 million worth of business that takes place due to the working commercial port.
Keir Starmer, Leader of the Labour Party said that; ‘We can’t recover from a health and economic crisis like coronavirus on the back of unemployment. That’s why I’m proudly backing the campaign to protect quality jobs at Chatham Docks.
‘This campaign also shows the importance of Labour in local government – fighting for jobs, communities and people across the country. I’m looking forward to working closely with councillors like the Medway Labour team to win the trust of voters and campaign on issues that make a real impact.’
Cllr Vince Maple, Leader of the Medway Labour and Co-operative Group added that, ‘I’m grateful to Keir for his support on this matter, and it really does show how important the preservation of these jobs are.
‘At a time of national crisis and the detrimental consequences this is having on the employment market, it is unfathomable that Medway Council are silent on this matter.
‘It is simply counter-intuitive to purposefully axe local jobs at a time whereby the number of people on national payrolls are down by almost 700,000 since March 2020, particularly in place of luxury housing and retail sector development. Similarly due to the volatile future of the retail and service sectors at present, I’d urge the Conservative administration to use common sense and intervene in this situation immediately, particularly given the further uncertainty to the local economy beyond the Covid-19 crisis.’
Cllr Andy Stamp, the group’s spokesperson for Regeneration and Communities added that, ‘The support from the Labour Leader is really appreciated, and the gravity of national party intervention highlights the scale of this decision.
‘Not only do the Docks provide vitally needed highly-skilled employment opportunities for the people of Medway and make the area an even more appealing place for young graduates to live and work, the use of the river to transport building materials means countless heavy goods vehicles are kept off the road.
‘I urge Medway residents to write to the council in order to highlight the importance of our environment, skilled jobs and local economy particularly in such a pressing time of uncertainty beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.’
Medway Labour and Co-operative Group will continue to support the fight to save Chatham Docks, and Leader Vince Maple will be asking the following question at the upcoming October Full Council meeting to push the Conservative Council to do the same;
‘Cross party support including local Conservative MP Kelly Tolhurst and the Leader of the Labour Party Keir Starmer has been given alongside hundreds of residents who have signed a petition and more than a dozen local businesses to the campaign to save Chatham Docks.
The campaign recognises the importance of more than 1,400 highly skilled, well paid jobs located within Medway, and the vital need for this employment to stay within our local area particularly given the economic pressures to the employment market as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Will the portfolio holder reconsider her decision not to change the designation of Chatham Docks in the new draft local plan and instead retain the site for this vital employment for the people of Medway?’