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Project focus: Chatham placemaking

Wed 14 December 2016, 3:22 pm

Chatham station and the surroundings are set to undergo major regeneration over the next two years. Medway1 finds out more on the plans.

Medway Council has been awarded £4 million of government funding to help make Chatham a better place to live and work and facilitate the journey from the station to the riverfront and the town centre.

The project, called Chatham placemaking, also includes improvements to New Cut Junction, St John’s Square, Military Square and Military Road.

A public consultation on the design plans took place in January this year, and the project is currently at the detailed design phase. Once a contractor has been appointed, works are due to start on-site early in 2017, with a view to being ready by March 2018.

According to the first draft of the plans, Chatham station would be improved with a raised Railway Street, raised pedestrian crossing, a taxi lane, three passenger drop-off bays and improved signage to make it easier for people arriving at the station to find their way.

Footpath and cycle ways would be widened around the station, as well as at New Cut Junction and St John’s Square. The latter would also be provided with a new improved public space. A new lighting feature would be installed under the New Road bridge at New Cut Junction.

The concrete wall near St John’s Church would be removed to improve visibility. The church is also undergoing a £1.3 million project and will re-open after more than 20 years.

New trees would be planted across the whole area, and Railway Street would be repaved with high quality materials.

A core focus of the regeneration project will be art.

Public art consultancy FrancisKnight was appointed to work on the project and commissioned a number of artists to help engage the local community.

Christopher Tipping, the lead artist, is delivering permanent public art works for Chatham town centre as part of the public realm improvements.

Three further artists were commissioned to work on a temporary public art programme: writer Rob Young, printmaker Xtina Lamb and filmmaker Simon Williams.

A series of short films were created and shown on loop at the big screen at Chatham bus station. The first of these is a timelapse of Chatham’s skyline from the University for the Creative Arts (UCA). The second, called ‘These are our Streets’ (pictured), is a collaboration between Williams and Young and features shots of Chatham with text superimposed onto local landmarks, asking residents to reimagine the town and share their thoughts about what the area means to them.

‘Railway Street’ provides an in-depth look at one street in the town, with creative public realm ideas, as imagined by Lamb, superimposed. ‘Station to Station’ is the fourth of the short films and provides a timelapse of the walk from the station to the river, focusing on specific features and areas.

A fifth film, released in early December and entitled ‘The Overland Route c/o Thomas Waghorn by Justin Coe’, sees performance poet Coe walking through the project route while reciting the words of his poem – an ode to the town.

Louise Francis, one of the founders and directors of FrancisKnight, explained that the films had been very positively received locally.  She added that the aim of the project was to make people look at Chatham differently, and that the appointment of Tipping, who himself wasn’t that familiar with the town, allowed a fresh perspective to be brought to it.

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