The Big Tesco Question

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29 Jan 2010
At last weeks Sittingbourne Local Engagement Forum, Interim Regeneration Director, Pete Raine explained that because of the financial down-turn, Tesco were moving away from mixed use development towards solely retail, and that Sittingbourne Town Centre development was therefore likely to be delayed.

By all accounts that is something of an understatement which could see the Town Centre regeneration plans put on hold for a substantial time.

This has several implications beyond the obvious fact that Sittingbourne will struggle as a retail centre during the economic recovery as it unfolds.

However most importantly for Bapchild is the fact that the majority of the funding for the final section of the Northern Relief Road was anticipated to be obtained from Section 106 agreements derived from both the employment and housing development in the town centre.

Stones Farm which has been brought forward by Swale Borough Council on the basis of meeting its housing quota will only ever be able to offer a relatively small portion of the likely costs, whichever route is finally selected.

Even though Swale Borough Council officers and now leader of the council Andrew Bowls are bleating on about the phasing of the site in relation to the development of the road, it was already made clear by KCC over three years ago that they would allow the entire site to be developed without completion of Northern Relief Road.

The planning department at Swale Borough Council believe that the Northern Relief Road could be completed as early as 2018. However following conversations with the Highways bods at Swale and KCC this is considered hopelessly optimistic, especially in light of Tesco’s newly found position.

The real irony is that the town centre is also conversely dependent of the whole of the Northern Relief Road being complete which provides Swale Borough Council with the classic Catch 22 situation of being unable to deliver either.