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Work on building 1,800 homes under Gillingham’s so-called ‘Southern Extension’ will not begin before the summer of next year at the earliest, councillors have been told. Planning officer Robert Lennis also revealed that the development, which is being built by a consortium of three firms, could take ‘at least ten, 20 years’ to complete even when work does start.

Robert Lennis, who is Senior Planning Officer (Major Projects), was giving councillors an update on the plans at a planning committee meeting at Gillingham Town Council last month. He said officials were still discussing with the consortium the infrastructure that needed to be agreed before the outline application to build 1,800 on the southern edge of the town could be lodged.

‘So with a fair wind behind its back you’re looking at outline permission being approved at the end of December, or January 2018.’ This would be followed by a detailed application for the project which states ‘where the doors and windows will be….’. It would be up to the consortium to decide which of the developers went first, and in any case they have three years in which to make a detailed application once outline approval is granted.

‘So the timeline is anyone’s guess. But I would say the earliest anyone is going to break ground is about June 2018,’ Lennis told councillors. He was speaking in response to a question from Councillor Roger Monksummers who wanted to know about the likely ‘timescale’ of the development and approximately how long it would take to be built.
‘I would envisage the development to go on for a number of years. At least ten, 20 years. It’s in our local plans to go out to 2031 – that’s an educated guess as to how things might progress,’ said Robert Lennis.

The planning officer insisted that they were doing all they could to avoid delays in the project and that they had ‘taken a heavy hand’ with the consortium in recent months. This included a meeting a month ago at which there was a ‘rather frank’ discussion with the developers. He added: ‘We told them to push the ball a little bit harder,. We want to see something happen. Sooner rather than later.’ Robert Lennis insisted, though, that before the developers could submit the ‘Masterplan Framework’ for the scheme the planning authority had to be convinced about the viability of the proposed infrastructure that would accompany it – for example the provision of schools and roads.

Councillor Val Pothecary welcomed Robert Lennis’s update, noting that the situation had been ‘grinding on’ for some time and that nothing had appeared to be happening. ‘People stop us in the street and ask us “What is happening, is it going to happen?”. It’s nice to be able to say what the current situation is,’ she told the meeting.

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