'Closing Chatham Docks is an act of economic vandalism' say Medway Liberal Democrats
By alan wells - medway liberal democrats
*photos by Martin Rose, Medway Liberal Democrats
The plans to redevelop Chatham Docks in the pursuit of building flats to meet arbitrary targets, is effectively economic vandalism by this Conservative administration, say Medway Liberal Democrats.
The loss of the of this asset would affect more than 860 jobs and businesses unique not just to Chatham but to Kent. A University of Kent report produced in 2020 stressed the closure will cost Medway's economy £258 million worth of business every year, having a devastating impact on jobs in our towns, stating 'the Docks are the largest private sector single source of revenue in Medway, with existing jobs in the Docks representing a significant local, economic resource.' - Prof. Tim Strangleman, University of Kent.
John Castle, Chair of Medway Liberal Democrats said "Chatham Docks are a vital part of our town's infrastructure, where a wide variety of trades flourish and the Council does not want to go down in history being responsible for destroying businesses and jobs. The Docks, future employment and trades need to be safeguarded for Medway's future generations.
The Docks support 16 apprenticeships which are projected to grow to 30, and provides training opportunities for local colleges with skills and knowledge, which clearly benefits Medway's youth and future local skill base. The Docks provide employment and much of its workforce is made up of local people - with more again employed through various supply chains.
With investment plans of more than £60 million, this would create a further 200 jobs from the current 860 to in excess of 1000 people in port and manufacturing jobs. .ArcellorMittal Kent Wire - the largest employer on the site - planned to invest £1m and provide 50 new jobs having secured a contract to help build the HS2 railway line which is testament that businesses on the site are thriving and growing in the face of uncertainty. Closure, would prevent any future for this type of development and growth. Liberal Democrats have visited the site and seen for themselves how important the Docks are to Medway, all this would be lost if the closure were to go ahead."
Economically, with so many businesses having to close down as a result of the effects of COVID 19, our towns now face a critical stage and this is not the time to close a thriving enterprise. We strongly urge the Council to give assurance that these hundreds of jobs and apprenticeships are not at risk and to guarantee a firm commitment to protect the long-term future of the Docks. Liberal Democrats are calling for the land to be protected for employment use only, to close the Docks would be a body blow for Medway. Chatham has already lost its historic dockyard and now faces the loss of its commercial Docks.
Chatham has been a commercial port for centuries, and we believe that the Docks are an asset for Medway as a thriving viable enterprise for ship repair. Medway Council's policy of increasing commercial use of the river, is undermined by this action, 'The River Medway is a key asset, the river has played a functional role in the transportation of goods to wharves, reflecting the area's manufacturing and industrial heritage. the infrastructure associated with a range of economic activities, from aggregates importation to marine engineering and leisure activities. The river represents an important transport corridor for commercial and leisure traffic.' - Section 11 - https://www.medway.gov.uk/download/downloads/id/2199/transport.pdf
More than ever, Medway now needs economic vitality and the departure of the Docks will leave a deep hole, which would take years to recover from. The impact and ripple effect of the closure would be catastrophic. The Docks give continuity of employment as well as a sustainable location for industrial activity, which deserves protecting for future generations, and that's worth fighting for. In these challenging times, Medway's recovery is going to depend on job creation and economic growth, Medway demands better, Liberal Democrats demand better.