Lord Heseltine, government local growth adviser and chair of the Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission, has welcomed the potential of the Port of Sheerness to contribute further to economic development in the area.
The Commission’s delegation met representatives of the port’s operators, Peel Ports, to hear about the company’s vision for new infrastructure on the River Medway.
The visit included a tour of the port, which currently handles around 1.4m tonnes per annum in bulk cargo and car importation, providing around 600 jobs. Peel Ports has a long-term plan to reclaim up to 125 hectares for expansion, mixed use developments and a new marina.
The delegation also heard about plans to create new logistics facilities, including a railhead, at the site of the former Thamesteel plant which shut in 2012. The tour ended with a visit to the former Dockyard Church and Naval Terrace, which form part of the historic port and could be released for public access, boosting heritage tourism and providing community development opportunities.
Paul Barker, Port Director at Peel Ports London Medway, which includes Sheerness, welcomed the visit, saying: “We see very exciting possibilities for the whole area, building on the strategic opportunities presented by our successful port and other major infrastructure developments close by. While there is much to be pleased about already, I’m very confident that we can aim even higher by working together to make the most of our shared vision for the Medway economy. Lord Heseltine and his colleagues on the Commission can make a major contribution to the process by facilitating the public sector leadership and investment necessary for private companies such as ours to flourish.”
The Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission was announced in March 2016. It has been tasked with developing an ambitious vision and delivery plan for North Kent, South Essex and East London up to 2050. The Commission will, by March 2017, produce an interim report setting out its vision for the region. It will then report back to the Chancellor by Autumn Statement 2017 with a clear and affordable delivery plan for achieving its vision.
The port of Sheerness, along with the port of Chatham, forms the core of Peel Ports’ London Medway cluster. The company handles a range of cargo along the 27 mile stretch of the Rivers Medway and Swale, including forest products, steel and cars.
In June, Peel Ports opened new grain loading facilities at Sheerness in partnership with multinational commodities giant Glencore, opening up new opportunities for farmers in Kent and Sussex.
The River Medway has the largest catchment area in Southern England, with deep-water access and onward connection by road, rail and water.
As part of the visit, Lord Heseltine and other delegation members also visited:
- M2 Junction 5, which is to have a £100m improvement programme with a planned start in 2019.
- Kemsley Fields Business Park, which has been developed as a location for larger industrial users, includingSwale’s largest manufacturing operations, with total employment of around 3,000. The latest development is the £340m, 43MW Wheelbrator CHP plant, due to open in 2019.
- Queenborough and Rushenden, Isle of Sheppey, which is a HCA-led regeneration programme to provide up to 2m sq. ft. of commercial and 1100 homes.
- Aesica, a pharmaceutical manufacturer employing around 500 people, which recently invested £80m in new plant creating 100 jobs.
- Eurolink, the largest commercial area in the region with around 280 companies and 6,500 staff. Now served by new road, part funded by Thames Gateway money and opened in 2011, Eurolink phase 5 could provide a further 500,000 sq ft and 1,000 jobs.
- Kent Science Park, a 56 acre site which provides 515,000 sq. ft. of accommodation and is home to 60 companies, employing around 1650 people and with growth potential for up to a further 3,000 jobs.
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