Key speakers reveal the future of North Kent at Guild event

The many changes likely to come to North Kent were on the menu at Rochester Cathedral Business Guild’s first breakfast meeting of 2019.

Some 50 guests heard Matthew Norwell, chief executive of the Thames Gateway Kent Partnership, and Gordon Pratt, project director of Thames Gateway Tramlink, developer of a proposed tram transport scheme, outline an exciting future for the region.

The Guild is hosting a series of breakfast meetings this year with the theme Changing Kent. The first, on February 12, turned the spotlight on North Kent whilst the next on June 18 will focus on East Kent and Coastal Region.

Matthew spoke about the substantial economic opportunities and potential benefits for the area spanning Dartford, Gravesend, Medway, Swale and Maidstone.

Photo caption: Changing North Kent – (from left) David Ward, Matthew Norwell, Philip Hesketh (Dean of Rochester) and Gordon Pratt

Photo caption: Changing North Kent – (from left) David Ward, Matthew Norwell, Philip Hesketh (Dean of Rochester) and Gordon Pratt

It was not just about building more homes, as implied by a recent government report, but job creation and economic growth.  He said it was vital that the area “should not just be seen as a dormitory town for London.”

He mentioned a number of key infrastructure projects that would ease the area’s traffic density, including  extending Crossrail from Abbey Wood to Ebbsfleet, and the proposed Lower Thames Crossing. The partnership was lobbying hard for the former and contributing to consultations on the latter.

The area could potentially see the creation of around 100,000 jobs, with the creative industry a key sector in what is now called the Thames Estuary Production Corridor.  Some 45,000 people leave the region every day for creative jobs outside, he said.

He urged Kent not to have a negative mindset about developments, and urged each business guest to be “an advocate and champion” for the area.

The £600 million KenEx tram system would do much to relieve congestion in North Kent and South Essex, said Gordon.

It would enable the 20% of people without a car or not wishing to drive, a valuable alternative means of getting around the region.

Trams would link Dartford, Crossways, Greenhithe, Bluewater, Ebbsfleet, Swanscombe, Gravesend and Grays (Essex), complementing the existing Fastrack system, not replacing it.

Gordon is working closely with local councils on the scheme which would be privately-funded.The first stage of the planning process could start later this year.

Both speakers got the Guild’s 2019 programme off to a cracking start, with valuable insights into the future of North Kent.

After questions, David Ward, the new Guild chairman, thanked Matthew and Gordon for their stimulating and enlightening contributions.

 **Next time: Thursday May 16, 2019 (8am – 1pm) – Annual Seminar: United Kingdom, Europe and the Global Community

 To reserve your place email or telephone 01634 810074.

Article by Trevor Sturgess