I met on Friday afternoon at The Old Rectory in Northfleet in my capacity as Chairman of the Kent Thameside Regeneration Partnership with Alan Cherry, Chairman of Countryside Properties, Jeremy Kite, Leader of Dartford Borough Council and Mike Snelling, Leader of Gravesham Borough Council. We we there to discuss how Kent Thameside promoted itself.
The professionals often look at areas of new development, such as Ashford, Thanet, Dover and indeed Kent Thameside as though the existing communities which surround the building sites had never existed. As though the new housing had just sprung up overnight, turning page one on the area’s history.
It was fascinating to join the discussion with Jeremy, Mike and Alan over what made Dartford, Gravesham and the new town of Ebbsfleet so special. All were equally passionate, all equally committed to the overwhelming sense of pride in their existing communities.
But it was the unique nature of the area which created its unique selling point – as my colleagues said, your garden is the Garden of England with all that has to offer; and your shopping centre – Bluewater – is among the finest in the country. The local railway station – Ebbsfleet is modern and efficient, with services to London, Paris and Brussells, and if you needed to catch a bus, your local service was the award-winning Fastrack service.
But what summed it all up for me was the story of the man who moved his family into Dartford a few months ago. He told Jeremy that when they moved in, they were a two car family. But here he was a couple of months ago, and he had told their second car without intending to replace it. Why?
Because the bus service was great, the railway station only just down the road, and because if you had to walk, it just felt so safe.
That’s a truly winning formula.