This article first appeared in KentOnline in May 2015 and was written by Alex Matthews
The new leader of Gravesham council has vowed to make sure the area does not miss out on the benefits of London Paramount, Ebbsfleet Garden City and the Heritage Quarter.
Cllr John Cubitt (Con), 73, took over from Cllr John Burden when Labour lost seats, and control, in the borough elections earlier this month.
After years in opposition, he is now at the helm and there is plenty to get to grips with.
Several large projects which will change the face of Gravesham and the surrounding area are looming, and it is important the decisions made are the right ones.
Cllr Cubitt said he was determined to work with developers to ensure local people got building work as well apprenticeships from them.
He said: “My position will be one of negotiation, not one of demanding.
“I will, certainly with these bodies, be looking for three things particularly: infrastructure that doesn’t clog up the whole of the transport arteries of Gravesham, the opportunity for our local businesses to participate in the development and for as many of the local population to be employed during the construction process.
“There is an expectation for the contractors to make apprenticeships.”
The Paramount resort in Swanscombe will open in 2019, providing planning permission is granted, and is expected to attract thousands each week, while the garden city at Ebbsfleet will include an estimated 15,000 homes over 1,035 acres.
In Gravesend the £120m heritage quarter will transform the town centre with flats, restaurants, a 50-bedroom hotel and underground car parks.
All three developments symbolise significant employment and economic opportunities for Gravesham but it is important it is not at the expense of anything else. When in opposition, the Tory party was strongly behind bringing in free parking on Saturdays in Gravesend, to attract more shoppers and keep them in the town centre longer.
Cllr Cubitt said he was passionate about making Gravesham attractive to both visitors and businesses but free parking would have to be assessed financially.
He said: “I’m looking at the financial implications of that. The budget was coordinated at the council’s finance meeting and the process will be for it to go through cabinet and it will need approval at full council. But it is something we’re looking to progress.”
Cllr Cubitt, who is also chairman of Gravesend Rugby Football Club, has youth in his cabinet including Jordan Meade, who at 19 was the youngest person ever to be elected to council, representing Singlewell ward.
Another young cabinet member is Cllr Gurjit Bains,26, representing Whitehill, who will be working on diversity, cohesion and events.
Cllr Cubitt said all his cabinet were well equipped to deal with their responsibilities and that picking young people was not a risk.
He said: “I’ve selected them in areas where they have something to contribute, that could perhaps be different to that of an older person.
“Jordan will be working on tourism and youth and he was the former chairman of the youth council. I think the roles are appropriate to their abilities and the structure of the council’s portfolio.”
Gravesend Old Town Hall in High Street is a landmark of the town and one of the area’s most impressive buildings.
However, it has been considered a white elephant for some time and is being partly used by Kent County Council (KCC) as a coroner’s court.
The building is owned by KCC but Cllr Cubitt said he was going to discuss with the council how it could be used for the community.
He said: “It’s the sort of thing we can negotiate over with KCC, to make a better offer for the people of Gravesham. It’s a lovely building. People should be getting the best benefit possible out of it.”