Medway Labour councillors yesterday met with the Association of Chatham Docks Commercial Operators (ACDCO) to join the campaign to stop the closure and sale of Chatham Docks. The Docks are under threat from the landowner, Peel L&P, who wish to build luxury housing on the site.

Peel L&P have said that the site will provide “much needed housing on a brownfield site”, but brownfield sites are only classified as such if they are derelict or no longer in use.

Medway Labour Councillors at Chatham Docks with members of ACDCO
Medway Labour Councillors at Chatham Docks with members of ACDCO

Cllr Vince Maple, Leader of Medway Labour Group said, ‘It’s crucial to Medway’s economy that Chatham Docks remains a commercial port. Considering the fact that the Dock’s annual turnover exceeds £150 million, Peel L&P’s assertion that the Docks are “financially unsustainable” is frankly ludicrous and untrue. There’s no doubt we need to tackle the housing crisis but not at the expense of 800 skilled jobs. Medway will continue to benefit much more from hundreds of highly skilled jobs and a thriving business hub, than it will luxury housing.

Medway council have the power to protect Chatham Docks from closure, and in doing so say categorically that they will protect local businesses and local jobs over outside interests. The uncertainty this is causing for workers and businesses is preventing further investment and growth at the Docks, so I call on the Conservative administration to intervene in this situation immediately. If they do nothing it will not only be a short sighted business decision, it will be the second time the Conservatives have closed a dockyard in Chatham, shutting off access to skilled work and negatively impacting the livelihood of working people.’

Medway Council have the power to protect Chatham Docks from closure, and in doing so say categorically that they will protect local businesses and local jobs over outside interests Cllr Vince Maple, Leader of Medway Labour Group
Cllr Vince Maple, Leader of Medway Labour Group

Cllr Andy Stamp, Medway Labour Shadow Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Culture said, ‘Chatham Docks has so much to offer. It makes up the fabric of our towns, contributing positively to the economy, environment, and culture of Medway. Peel L&P have declared that the businesses at Chatham Docks are able to move to a different site in Sheerness, but this is simply not possible. Chatham Docks is home to a static recycling plant that specialises in recycling materials that can’t be recycled by other companies.

‘Chatham Docks is as important internationally as it is locally. The use of the river to transport materials up and down the country and across to Europe means that countless heavy goods vehicles are kept off the road, not contributing to traffic congestion and road emissions, and Chatham is the only dock that is fit for this purpose.

‘On a local level, the majority of people who work at the Docks are local and 65% either cycle or walk to work, but if over 800 jobs moved to Sheerness most employees would have no choice but to drive. The closure of Chatham Docks would have a disastrous impact on the environment at a time when the council has just committed to tackling the climate emergency.’

The closure of Chatham Docks would have a disastrous impact on the environment at a time when the council has just committed to tackling the climate emergency Cllr Andy Stamp, Medway Labour Shadow Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Culture
Cllr Andy Stamp, Medway Labour Shadow Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Culture

Cllr Teresa Murray, Medway Labour Deputy Leader said, ‘Chatham Docks is a thriving commercial port and manufacturing site, and Peel L&P’s attempt to portray it in any other light is a smokescreen; the businesses here directly supports 800 full-time skilled jobs and more than 16 apprentices.

‘These 2000 additional jobs that Peel L&P have promised are a complete red herring. They will not be the highly skilled, well paid work for local people that Chatham Docks offers, but instead relatively short-term work creating new luxury homes, which will be gone in a few years leaving Medway permanently short of 800 jobs and opportunities for our young people to get into a skilled trade. Medway Council need to ensure they do not give developers the opportunity to turn Medway into a dormitory town devoid of a strong local economy.

‘Peel L&P are behaving in a capricious way. Their applications for Chatham Waters clearly states that development there would secure the future of the Docks and ensure jobs were protected, yet they are now reneging on those undertakings in order to make money from this important industrial area.

‘Peel L&P are presenting this as a done deal, but this if far from over – I encourage Medway residents to write to the council, and after 12th December to their MPs, to show them that we value our environment, a thriving local economy, and skilled jobs that build on the legacy of innovation associated with Medway manufacturing and production.’

I encourage Medway residents to write to the council... to show them that we value our environment, a thriving local economy, and skilled jobs that build on the legacy of innovation associated with Medway manufacturing and production Cllr Teresa Murray, Medway Labour Deputy Leader
Cllr Teresa Murray, Medway Labour Deputy Leader

John Spencer, Managing Director of GPS Marine, one of the South East’s leading maritime services companies said, ‘Medway Council has a duty to maintain vital strategic assets in the Medway area, not just to optimise the production of housing stock.

‘If the dock is closed, Medway will forever lose its ability to make use of water freight. Transport of freight by water is cost effective and delivers clear environmental benefits in terms of reduced carbon (greenhouse gas) emissions, improved air quality and reduced traffic congestion. I have no doubt that if Medway Council allows Peel L&P to close Chatham Docks, then Sheerness Docks will also be lost within 10-15 years.’

Phil Taylor, CEO of ArcelorMittal Kent Wire and founder member of the Association of Chatham Docks Commercial Operators (ACDCO) said, ‘We’re delighted to have Vince’s, Teresa’s, Andy’s and Labour’s on-going support. They clearly understood the importance of Chatham Docks to the economic wellbeing of Medway. We only wish the Council had half as much interest in this as they do. Despite repeated requests we are still waiting for a meeting with Medway Council officers who seem disinterested with our plight.’

Photo 2 Matrix III, 2019, by Antony Gormley. Photography: Jessica Klingelfuss. The recycled steel used in an exhibition by renowned sculptor Antony Gormley was sourced from Chatham Docks, and is available to view at the Royal Academy until 3rd December 2019.
Photo 2 Matrix III, 2019, by Antony Gormley. Photography: Jessica Klingelfuss. The recycled steel used in an exhibition by renowned sculptor Antony Gormley was sourced from Chatham Docks, and is available to view at the Royal Academy until 3rd December 2019.

Further information

Background to Chatham Docks:

Chatham Docks is an active operating commercial port on either side of a basin linked to the River Medway by double locks. It is in the freehold of Peel Land & Property.  ArcelorMittal Kent Wire occupies a large part of the port and there are other industrial users, including port-related waste and recycling operations, ship repairers, cement imports, steel fabricators and a national logistics company.

A list of the businesses that operate at Chatham Docks and have joined ACDCO include:

  • ArcelorMittal Kent Wire (the country’s leading manufacturer of fabric reinforcement, which it supplies to the construction industry in the UK & Ireland)
  • Paragon, (cement importers)
  • European Active Projects Limited (providing support services to the Marine & Industrial sectors)
  • Street Fuel, (recycling business)
  • P&D Material Recovery Ltd (PDMR), (recycling business)
  • Downtons Transport (logistics)
  • Upland Engineering (marine and industrial engineering)
  • WCB, (utilities provider)
  • Mobile Compactor Services
  • GPS Marine
  • Paramount Timberframes

Medway Council’s current development plan, The Medway Plan 2003, protects existing employment uses for Chatham Docks and states in policy ED1: Existing Employment Areas that “proposals for development resulting in the loss of existing industrial, business or storage and distribution development to other uses will not be permitted.”  In addition, policy ED9: Chatham Docks states, “port-related development and an expansion of the commercial port, as defined on the proposals map will be permitted.”

Medway Council is currently working to produce a new development plan that will set a framework for the area’s growth up to 2037. In preparing the Medway Local Plan 2018-2037 (MLP 2037), Medway Council prepared a Strategic Land Availability Assessment (SLAA) in 2018 to demonstrate the availability of potential development sites within their administrative boundary.  Included with the SLAA 2018 was Chatham Docks that had been put forward by Peel to provide a range of uses including housing, retail and leisure.  In particular, site 824, an area of 29-45 hectares that contains ArcelorMittal Kent Wire’s current site as well as site 1143, the current Chatham Waters development, was identified.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government announced plans on 1st November 2019 to invest £170 million on the Hoo Peninsula through its Housing Infrastructure Fund following a bid from Medway Council.  Money is due to go towards developing 10,600 homes as well as supporting road and rail connections.  £85.7million will be used to make improvements to Medway’s roads, including the A228 and A289, as well as a new relief road to help ease local congestion while £14.35 million will be used to invest in the peninsula’s country parks.

Medway Council declared a climate change emergency following a cross-party decision by Medway councillors approved at a Council meeting on 25th April.  The council noted its previous targets were inadequate in responding to the challenge of keeping the world’s temperature below 1.5C.

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