Email sent on behalf of Cllr Andrew Bowles:
Thank you for your email dated 9 June 2014, regarding Sittingbourne High Street and the town centre.
I fully appreciate your concerns over the gradual decline in the High Street. As I am sure you are aware, the current economic climate has had a less than favourable impact on many town centres across the country. On a positive note the current regeneration proposals for Sittingbourne do seek to address some of the issues you raise, and encourage future investment.
Regarding your thoughts on pedestrianisation of the High Street, you may be aware the Council is considering proposals to relocate the market into the High Street and to expand its operation over two days. This will require an additional road closure on Fridays, and we are currently consulting on these proposals.
I can assure you that we will continue to promote Sittingbourne as an attractive location to all retail developers, whilst seeking to identify ways to best support our existing independent stores, and this does include an awareness to ensure our high streets are accessible, and also to provide suitable, convenient places for shoppers and visitors to park.
Through delivery of the regeneration proposals, development of the Forum Centre and other sites around the town will allow for larger floor-plates and greater retail offer and choice. This in turn will attract other investment, bringing more shops and facilities to Sittingbourne. The proposals concentrate on the town centre and station area. We recognise that car parking is a concern to businesses in Sittingbourne to ensure the sustainability of the high street, but enhanced leisure and community uses and improved connections across the town are also important to the vitality of the town.
I think that in future our high streets will need to change and adapt their offer in order to survive and grow, and I am sure through the regeneration plans, Sittingbourne will be in a much stronger position to do this. It may be that a greater residential offer in and around the town centre will become a way forward.
Regeneration of the town centre is a long term project and current development plans are based on a great deal of research and consultation. We have a real opportunity now to deliver a significant regeneration project and achieve the step change Sittingbourne deserves.
Please be assured that Swale Borough Council is working to support all our town centres, and make Swale’s offer attractive to traders, retailers, community groups and residents alike.
Once again, thank you for your enquiry. If you would like further detail, please do not hesitate to let me know.