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Lowfield Street Lifts-Off

Bellway starts work to bring Tesco’s toxic legacy to an end.

It’s been a long time coming but Dartford finally looks to be shaking off Tesco’s toxic legacy with news that Bellway Homes is set to start work on the regeneration of Lowfield Street.
Dartford was one of nearly 100 towns left high-and-dry when Tesco started acquiring land and property along Lowfield Street only for it to abandon plans for a superstore after nearly a decade of blight when the giant retailer ran into trouble.  At the time, local councillors called for changes to the law to ensure powerful companies could no longer be allowed to create havoc and dereliction to town centres across the country.
Dartford Council refused to be beaten by Tesco’s failure and continued to invest heavily in improvements to both Central Park and Fairfield, as well as making a successful multi-million pound bid for funds to improve Market Street and town centre traffic flows.

Councillors Chris Shippam and Richard Wells at Lowfield Street

Now, housebuilder Bellway has announced that work is to start on Lowfield Street and new hoardings marketing one, two and three bedroom apartments have appeared at the site.
The scheme includes a range of apartments, public spaces, a cafe and a new Brewery Quarter linking the scheme to Dartford Council’s own heritage proposals for the Acacia estate and Market Square.
Bellway say they will lay foundations for the first phase closest to the town centre as soon as the site is cleared and once complete, the scheme will wipe away all traces of the dereliction of the Tesco years.

“The frustrating thing is that SO much work has been done to improve council owned places like Central Park and Fairfield but Lowfield Street is in private hands and beyond the control of the council. People just want to see the developers get on with it and the start can’t come soon enough for us.”  Councillors Chris Shippam and Richard Wells.

To say that the regeneration of Lowfield Street has had its ups and downs would be an understatement. There were times when it looked like the years of Tesco’s failure to deliver might never end. As local councillors, we understood why people looked to us for answers but with more than 100 towns and cities from
Wolverhampton to Bridgewater in Somerset treated just as badly by the supermarket chain it seems that the lesson is for our lawmakers who surely ought to look at why big retail giants can accumulate so much land and be under no legal timetable to start work.
Tesco’s departure saw a new company, Meyer, acquire the site and it’s hard not to feel the smallest pang of sympathy for them as they tried to engage with a town that had a grown tired of words and just wanted to see action.
To their credit, they pressed on and secured planning permission for a range of homes and retail pretty quickly but, of course, we can’t forget the Tesco years and we made it clear we would judge them by deeds, not plans.
We councillors hardly gave them a moments rest. We lobbied, pushed and harried them for a start date we could believe in.
Well, that moment appears to have arrived. Housing partners Bellway tell us they wanted to get underway without delay and although a fire at some of their properties near Fairfield caused them to start demolition there, Bellway have made it clear that they want to get work underway on the ‘town centre’ phase
It’s been a long, long time and we can’t tell you how many hours we have spent pushing for this moment. For us, and for Dartford, it can’t come a moment too soon.

LINK: BBC Report. Tesco urged to ‘get out of town’ after store scrapped

LINK: Guardian. Tesco betrays 49 towns as stores are scrapped

DIGITAL BOOKLET: Discover Dartford – progress on Town Centre projects Spring 2018

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