The Mayor of Gravesham, Cllr Lyn Milner, has formally marked the start of work on The Charter development in Gravesend at an official ground-breaking ceremony.
After several weeks of preparatory ground works on the site between Gravesend Borough Market and Crooked Lane, the ceremony marked the start of the construction phase of the project, being developed by Reef Group on behalf of Rosherville Ltd, a commercial trading company formed by Gravesham Borough Council in 2020.
Once complete, The Charter will comprise 242 apartments, with 20% of those being Discounted Market Rent units, and a multi-storey car park.

Artist impression of a new property in Gravesend

At the ceremony, Cllr Milner said: “The redevelopment of this area of Gravesend town centre has been a long-held ambition of Gravesham Borough Council for many years. Plans have come and gone, raising expectations and then dashing them.

“To be here today to mark the start of work on this site, as we look forward with hope to leaving Covid behind us, it feels like a fresh new start for the town centre. The people who come to live here will help breathe new life into a new look Gravesend.

“I look forward to visiting this community when it is complete and thriving, as I know it will be.”

Cllr Milner was joined at the ceremony by Cllr Lenny Rolles, Chairman of Rosherville Ltd and Gravesham Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Commercial Services, and Cllr John Burden, Leader of Gravesham Borough Council.

Cllr Rolles said: “Nobody should underestimate the significance of this project, on many levels.

“Gravesend town centre, like every other one around the country, was under pressure from changes in shopping habits before the Covid-19 pandemic, and that was coupled with the challenge of having Bluewater on our doorstep.

“If there was any doubt before, lockdown has brought into sharp focus the fact that our town centres will never again be as people remember them. We have to bring fresh thinking to how we use them, how we bring people to them, and what today’s modern generations want from them.

“The first step has to be increasing footfall, bringing people to the town who will support the businesses already here and encourage others to open. The Charter will be part of that, bringing people to live, work and socialise in the town.

“The next stage will be the development of new leisure and retail areas for residents to enjoy, and we are working together with Reef Group on planning applications for those that will be submitted in early 2022.”

Cllr John Burden said the development would make a significant contribution to the Borough meeting its Government-set housing targets, and offer hope to those on the council’s housing register.

While the council is progressing work on its emerging Local Plan to meet a Government deadline of adoption by 2023, it is currently unable to demonstrate it has a five-year land supply for the new homes it needs to be built to meet Government targets.

The housing targets announced by Government in December 2020 mean that as time progresses, the Borough’s housing need for a three-year period will rise from 1,043 new homes to 1,965.

Cllr Burden said: “We have no choice but to make every effort to identify sites on which to build the new homes the Government requires of us. Brownfield sites such as the one The Charter is being developed on are crucial to that.

“I have seen numerous comments about who will be moving into these apartments when they are complete and where they will come from.

“They will be available on the open market and while that means we cannot dictate who occupies them, many of them will be available at rents that are entirely affordable for those on our housing register and we will be encouraging those on the register to move here.

“The Charter is a vital development for Gravesend and the wider Borough. It is hugely positive project that will bring benefits for many years.
“We need to be looking forward to the world as it is now and as it will be in future, not backwards to what it once was but will never be again.
“Today we look forward.”

Peter Langly-Smith, Development Director at Reef Group said: “We are really excited to be here to mark the construction of The Charter and we look forward to delivering high-quality homes.

“We have been working in partnership with Gravesham Borough Council for a number of years and it’s fantastic to see the start of the development build for phase 2 of the Gravesend Town Centre regeneration project.

“We will continue to work with the council and, later this year with the public, in developing the leisure and retail proposals as part of our ongoing regeneration of the town centre.