Possibly turning the corner may be a bit ambitious but recent news suggests that it has at least started to negotiate the bend.
This week news broke that Peacocks were looking to return to the town when it was noticed that they were advertising for staff and had submitted a planning application to Dartford Borough Council for provision of a new shopfront, etc. at 30 – 32 High Street. Assuming this meets the normal planning regulations, hopefully this will go through with the minimum of fuss.
This, coupled with the news at the end of last month that the planning application had been agreed by DBC to allow alterations to Unit 12/13 in the Orchards Shopping Centre, thereby preparing for the arrival of Aldi, will give a boost to that Centre following the departure of Waitrose, Evans and more last year. Although there is no definite date for the opening of Aldi, the Orchards Shopping Centre are now showing on their website that ‘In the New Year, Aldi will be opening in the centre’.
This week also saw Lidl hold a public consultation event regarding their plans to develop their site in Instone Road. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend this event so I can’t comment on their new plans. Previously the cross-party Development Control Board at DBC turned down a planning application on the same site and I’m sure I was not alone in finding this decision disappointing. Hopefully this time, DBC and Lidl can work better together to ensure that a suitable arrangement can be reached. Although, I don’t know what timescales are envisaged, I suspect that it will be nearer to 2016 before we can see Lidl opening on the proposed site.
So what of the rest of the town centre? Lowfield Street and development by Spenhill/Tesco seems to have made some progress and it appears that disconnection of the services is going ahead as previously advised. I suspect that unless anything major happens in the meantime, the next update on progress (or lack of) will be given at the next meeting of the General Assembly of the Council, scheduled for 15 December.
The move of the Thursday Market to the High Street has now been in place for several months. I don’t know if it is my imagination, but there does seem to be less stalls than when it was situated near to the Priory Centre. With that in mind, I have today asked DBC whether the number of stalls has in fact dropped since the move. Whilst the move apparently has been welcomed by the High Street traders, public reaction has been mixed. The main criticism appears to be the lack of space but, if the lease was up and the revised terms (if offered) were unacceptable, the situation appears to have been a fait accompli; either a move to the High Street or to have no market at all.
The old Co-op site still remains unused. Perhaps, DBC might like to give some update on the progress of its future.
What other developments can we expect for the future? We have heard nothing from the Policy Overview Task Group on Town Centre Improvements since our article on 7 October – it may be that there will be no information until the next scheduled meeting of the Policy Overview Committee on 16 December. We are also awaiting full details of DBC’s plans to revive the High Street as reported in our article on 20 October.
Back in August, Dartford Labour launched a Town Centre Survey and at that time, I gave my response. Apart from a message on their website to the effect that ‘there has been a very good response to Dartford Labour Party’s Town Centre survey, with some clear threads developing’, we are none the wiser to what the results of this survey were. Perhaps, we will have to wait until the run up to the Borough elections next May before Labour’s plans for the town centre are revealed.
I look forward to responses to all of the above in due course and hopefully whatever other initiatives are eventually decided upon, these will help towards pushing the town centre around the corner.