Cinema, restaurants and homes plan takes major step forward

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Plans for a five-screen cinema, restaurants, almost 200 affordable homes, student homes, a public square and entertainment area in Kingsmead took a major step forward today (Friday 26 April).

The scheme, known as The Riverside, is set to transform the former coach park and Serco depot in Canterbury and bring a wealth of new jobs.

Last year, councillors on Canterbury City Council’s Policy and Resources Committee authorised Chief Executive Colin Carmichael to negotiate the final details of a revised deal with developer Linkcity.

Today, Mr Carmichael, in consultation with the Chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee, decided to accept that deal after a 30-day window to challenge its terms in the courts came to a close at midnight on Thursday without anyone initiating proceedings.

He was satisfied the 189 homes delivered as part of the project would be 100 per cent affordable, which was one of the committee’s key concerns. The indications are around 40 per cent of the new homes will be for social rent with the remainder being allocated to a shared ownership scheme.

The Riverside site will be split into three components – residential, student and commercial.

The residential element will go to Linkcity’s social housing partner to deliver the 189 homes in a long-term lease arrangement, while the student component will be used by Linkcity’s student accommodation partner in another long-term deal.

The council will receive a capital receipt of just over £2 million once the development is complete.

Late last year councillors agreed to invest around £23 million in the project which will see the council retain ownership of the third component, which includes the cinema, restaurants, the car park, the public square and the entertainment area. It will therefore receive a rental income from the businesses operating there.

Final contracts are due to be exchanged in the coming weeks and work will start on site in the summer.

Mr Carmichael said: “The Riverside will create scores of jobs and enhance the entertainment that is on offer in a 21st century and forward-thinking city, at the same time as regenerating a key area.

“The city has been crying out for this style of cinema for a very long time and residents are tired of driving to Westwood Cross or Ashford for this type of experience.

“The opportunity to deliver a raft of affordable homes was too good to turn down and we have been working extremely hard in the background to make it happen.

“This project will also unlock a raft of benefits including drawing people along Northgate and boosting the businesses there, improving pedestrian and cycle links into the city from the east, creating new areas of publicly accessible open space and improving landscaping along and access to the River Stour.

“The council will also benefit from more business rates revenue, an uplift in the value of nearby council land, infrastructure improvements funded by the developer through the planning process, car park revenue and the reimbursement of the demolition costs incurred so far.”

The wide mix of uses earmarked for the site are in line with those suggested by residents in the 2004 Kingsmead development brief which included a cinema, housing, open space, a performance venue and a bowling alley.

Mr Carmichael said: “When we completed the development brief we knew we had a long road ahead because of the complexities and challenges of delivering any sort of scheme on this site.

“But this has been a long-held ambition for the council which has had the support of politicians of all political persuasions over the last decade and a half and I am very pleased we are now in the final straight and closer than we’ve ever been to having shovels in the ground and work beginning.”

Elements of that brief have already been completed such as housing at Kingsbrook Park, money from the sale of which helped to fund the new Marlowe Theatre.

In addition, Riverside Children’s Centre has been built and the majority of Kingsmead Field has been designated as public open space and will gain village green status in the coming month.

Five new houses for local families on the council’s housing waiting list will be built as part of a 16-home development on the part of the field allocated for housing, with the remaining 11 sold on the open market.

The council is also investing £11.2million in the refurbishment of Kingsmead Leisure Centre, Herons and Whitstable Swimming Pool, with the bulk of the money being spent on the former.