Bridge opening - speech by Trenport MD Tony Parson sets the scene
Source: Steve Loader
16 September 2016
"I am delighted to welcome you here to mark the formal opening of a bridge, named after the Peters Family, one of the pre-eminent families of the Medway Valley in the 19th Century and owners of the Wouldham Hall Cement Works, whose descendants are represented here today.
The construction and opening of this bridge represents more than another crossing over a river. It links three local authorities, creates the access way to a new community and provides significant improvements to the amenities and communications between the existing nearby settlements. It will in the future, I hope, be viewed as a classic example of the public and private sectors working together for the common good.
When Trenport acquired its interests in the Medway Valley from Blue Circle Industries in 2001, our aim was to create real communities sitting harmoniously in the environment and not simply further ‘housing estates’.
In so doing, we were executing a vision first set out in the Medway Gap Local Plan of the 1980s, the brainchild of a young far-seeing Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council planning officer, Brian Gates, working with members of the cement Industry – notably Tony Every-Brown of Blue Circle Industries and David Rixon of planning consultancy Vincent and Gorbing - to create three new communities in the Medway Valley: at Holborough, and on the sites of the former east bank cement manufacturing plants at Peters Pit and Bushey Wood, all linked by a new crossing over the River Medway.
Brian and Tony and David are all with us today, Tony retired many years ago and Brian and David have just reached that point – best wishes to you both for your retirement! They and the many others involved at the inception of the vision for the Medway Valley, including the river crossing and the birth of the new community to be known as Peters Village, will be delighted now to have seen the second of their ‘triplets’ safely delivered.
The gestation period may have been long, over 20 years with Blue Circle and then a further seven years under Trenport’s stewardship before all our plans were finally in place.
But just as we were ready to start construction, the recession beginning in 2008 forced us to put everything on hold.
In 2014 we received an offer of help from the Government’s Homes and Communities Agency Infrastructure Fund, responding to the urgent need to unlock housing sites for new homes in the South East.
By so doing the Agency fully justified its title, for the bridge is the key to this new community and its 1,000 new homes.
Most importantly it provides the new residents of Peters Village and their neighbours in nearby Wouldham, Burham, Eccles, Halling and Snodland with a far wider and easier access to jobs, education, recreation and other services than previously available along this stretch of the River Medway, with east bank residents now able to readily access even London in little over half an hour.
Peters Village has been designed to be a sustainable community with its own village hall, playing fields, school, medical centre and shops sitting alongside homes enjoying a quality and style that blend into the natural environment taking full advantage of the riverside location.
The first new homes being built by Bellway are now well under way with a second phase of New Market Homes and Affordable Homes by Orbit Homes due to be started shortly.
Kent County Council is also actively involved in the ongoing development of Peters Village, building the new primary school that, like many of the new village facilities, will also serve the neighbouring communities.
Trenport continues to work with Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council and Vincent and Gorbing to deliver the final element of the 1980s vision for the third community at Bushey Wood.
But let’s not forget the history of the east bank of the Medway and all who live there.
Looking at archive pictures of the heyday of the Peters cement works and quarries, you might think that this area would become a sterile wasteland…
Far from it.
Trenport inherited an acreage teeming with interesting wildlife. Amazingly, we have rare orchids, bats, newts, butterflies and moths here, flourishing where cement was once produced and exported to the world!
Working closely with Natural England and the Kent Wildlife Trust, we have not only nurtured this wildlife by creating and preserving habitats, but also put in place the mechanism for the future protection and management of those parts of the former Peters Pit to remain undeveloped as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Before concluding I should like to express our thanks to all of those who, along with our funders, the Homes and Communities Agency and RBS, have supported us in the delivery of this great project.
Next in the line-up is our Peters Village site contractor BAM Nuttall, which built all the infrastructure – including the bridge – on schedule, enabling housebuilding to press ahead as planned.
No easy task in itself when one considers the community issues that inevitably arise with a development on this scale. ‘BAM’ always endeavoured to respond sympathetically to local comments and resolved issues amicably, fully justifying its reputation as a considerate and responsible contractor.
We thank the many other consultants who worked on the project too, plus our own people ‘at the coal face’.
We must also thank the various council officers who liaised with the construction teams and consultants, and the many councillors at all levels who worked so hard as the links between their electors and ourselves.
And, finally, we thank you all once more for joining us on this special day – the opening of a new bridge and the birth of a new community.