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Changing the face of Gravesend

PUBLISHED: 13:54 20 September 2012

Western Quarter of Gravesend Heritage Quarter

Western Quarter of Gravesend Heritage Quarter

Archant

A £120m facelift is on the horizon for Gravesend town centre - Anna Dubuis looks at the final plans

Market Square of Gravesend Heritage QuarterMarket Square of Gravesend Heritage Quarter

The final plans to redesign Gravesend’s town centre were unveiled last week which aim to reconnect the high street and the river in a £120m bid to revitalise our heritage.

Drawings have been revised from those first published in 2009, with the regeneration now focusing on three spaces – the Eastern Quarter (transforming the car park behind the market), the Western Quarter (around St George’s Church) and St Andrew’s Gardens, which wasn’t included in the original proposals.

If approved, the revamp will provide a new town square surrounded by family restaurants, a new retail area extending from the St George’s Shopping Centre, a re-landscaped riverside garden and walkway, a community centre, a hotel, underground parking and approximately 330 flats, of which one third will be affordable homes.

Food and antique markets will be held in the square throughout the week and business units will be rented to start-ups.

Western Quarter of Gravesend Heritage QuarterWestern Quarter of Gravesend Heritage Quarter

An estimated 550 jobs will be generated across the shops, restaurants and hotel.

Bringing in chain retailers is imperative, said Richard Hughes, from Edinburgh House developers, who are managing the scheme.

“You need to attract big retailers to the town centre which gives confidence to smaller shops. They will take over the empty shops in High Street. Shops in Gravesend are never going to be Bluewater, but it has something quite special being next to the river. We are changing the face of the town to make people stay in town,” he said.

Edinburgh House’s initial proposals were turned down by Gravesham Council in 2010, but the old and new plans are, Mr Hughes says, “like chalk and cheese”.

Architect Andrew Ogg said: “This has been evolutionary because everyone has been very involved.

“We have done a lot of consultation. One of the most enjoyable ones was with some school children. They wanted more activity, more restaurants, good management and more shops. What we are looking at is public realm of a high quality.”

Revisions include reducing the building heights, increasing the amount of green space around the church and amending the overall look to fit in with the existing surroundings.

To be built in two phases over four years, with a planned 2014 start date, the company hopes to use local labour to bring the plans to life.

Consultant Johnathan Shaw said: “We want to maximise the numbers of local contractors and the apprenticeships on offer. With youth unemployment figures as they are, we want to target youngsters and will be working with North West Kent College to train students. It is not just about regenerating buildings, it is about regenerating life for young people.”

The planning application will be submitted to the council next month and if approved, building will commence by the end of next year.

What do you think about the new plans? Email anna.dubuis@archant.co.uk

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