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A Vision for Sittingbourne

              A Sittingbourne Vision for 2018 by Derek Wyatt

The potential £1.2 billion investment for Sittingbourne over the next decade gives us the chance to upgrade the town centre, provide a bridge to the proposed retail-housing-entertainment development on both sides of the creek at Milton (which has been badly neglected) and to re-think the railway station which desperately needs an upgrade especially for our disabled constituents.

So, if we were shopping or living in the new park (Regis Park?) in 2018 what do we hope the local politicians, planners and developers would have achieved?  I am sure local citizens will have their own views but here are mine.

Clearly, by 2018 with oil over $250 a barrel, the whole green-conservation-carbon-eco movement would have become the number one political issue in the world.  Knowing this, I think I would like to see Regis Park set a new standard for the UK by creating an eco-centric series of building blocks. 

This would mean looking beyond just the current footprint of the development so the transportation solution embraces south Sittingbourne, its rural villages plus Iwade, Milton and Sonora Fields as well as the new development at East Hall farm. 

I am not sure whether this will mean free solar driven or nitrogen based golf carts or trams but it would be pointless building a car park hungry solution today knowing this would be obsolete in 2018.  So we’ve to be brave about our eco-park and ensure from Day 1 it is carbon neutral.

The site(s) will need upwards of 1500 builders, joiners, electricians, welders, plasterers and the like to build this ambitious project.  Once up, it is possible that Regis Park will provide a further 800-1200 jobs.  It is therefore incumbent on us to ensure (as Terminal 5 did) that all of the labour to build it and all of the labour to service it, is local.

At the moment, without an FE college or a university base, we are handicapped as a community.  Everyday, 400 students leave Sittingbourne to travel to either Mid Kent College or Canterbury College.  This is unacceptable. 

The Government has make available £12 million for a FE hub connected to Canterbury College but the Learning and Skills Council and KCC are at loggerheads and the decision has been delayed and delayed and delayed.  Nonetheless, it is clear we need a FE hub to work in partnership with our other local skills providers to ensure our children do not lose out.  I think the new Apprenticeship schemes the Government has introduced are welcomed and I have asked Tesco’s (the main backers of Regis Park) if they would consider becoming a player.

We need an FE College to service the building needs of Regis Park and we need this to be signed off by the end of the year.  We will also need a university presence.

What will the university sector look like in 2018?  We will have three different elements – undergraduate universities, a mix of undergraduate and post graduate universities and just post-graduate institutes or universities.  Kent is not well placed for this model. 

By 2018, I expect the three Kent based universities to have merged and to have restructured themselves into the Oxbridge –London-Durham model of a number of colleges based throughout Kent including its fastest growing town, Sittingbourne.  We will need an undergraduate university college to be on Regis Park by 2012 and to be offering first degree courses in retail management, accountancy, civil engineering, conservation, tourism and green ecology.

If, in 2018 none of this is delivered, then Sittingbourne will have missed what I think is its first and only golden opportunity not just of the 21st century but since it first developed as a staging post and port as part of the old Roman Road from Dover to London.

2nd June 2008

© Derek Wyatt MP



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