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The Medway – Swale Arc Assisted Area

In July 2014 the European Commission confirmed the Assisted Areas Map 2014-20 which determines eligibility for European Regional Aid, allows limited relaxation of State Aid rules and confers other benefits including certain tax allowances.  More information about the benefits of Assisted Area status is contained in an explanatory note.

The Medway-Swale Arc has been designated an Assisted Area, recognising both its economic challenges and its huge potential and opportunities.  The Arc thus offers additional potential benefits to companies looking to invest and grow in North Kent.

The Area Covered (see map)

The Medway–Swale Arc contains 17 contiguous wards, with a population of over 157,000.  The wards contained are:

  • In Swale: Chalkwell; Iwade & Lower Halstow; Kemsley; Milton Regis; Murston; Queenborough & Halfway; Sheerness East; Sheerness West; Woodstock.
  • In Medway: Chatham Central; Gillingham North; Peninsula; Rainham Central; River; Rochester South & Horsted; Watling; Twydall.  

Opportunities and Challenges

The Arc offers immense potential and opportunity for investment and growth.  The area encompasses much of the local economy of Medway and Swale, with over 57,000 jobs across a range of employment sites.  These established sites have capacity to accommodate new investment and build upon the well established and diverse manufacturing base.  There are also excellent opportunities to deliver state of the art commercial space for new and growing industries in the area, including offshore renewable engineering, environmental technologies, digital design and life sciences. 

At the same time the communities within the Arc face significant challenges, with low employment rates and a high dependency on out of work benefits.  This Partnership and the two local authorities concerned are committed to creating opportunities accessible to local people, by helping create the right pathways to employment. 

Building on firm foundations

Existing Manufacturing Base 

The Arc contains one of the largest concentrations of manufacturing in the South East. 7 of the 17 wards have over 20% of employment in the manufacturing sector.  At Eurolink in Sittingbourne over 250 companies occupy 200,000 sq metres, employing an estimated 6,500 people.  Kemsley Fields is home to some of Swale’s largest employers and has scope for further development along with Neats Court on the Isle of Sheppey.  In Medway, the Gillingham Business Park provides over 140,000 sq metres of employment space, with 3,200 jobs and numerous companies.  The Rochester Airport industrial estate has 59 businesses including BAE Systems (one of Medway’s largest business employers) and its Digital Platform Solutions centre of excellence.   Other major sites include Medway City Estate, which comprises businesses mainly in manufacturing and distribution. 

Development-ready sites

The Arc contains several sites whose potential can be realised in the period up to 2020, including:

  • Chatham Waters – owned by the Peel Group, a mixed use development opportunity set to regenerate part of Chatham Docks, with outline consent for 180,000 sq metres of commercial space.
  • Kingsnorth Commercial Park  - A development ready commercial site, with outline consent for over 250,000 sq metres of commercial floor space. 
  • Rochester Airport – An exceptional new development opportunity, building on the great success of the Innovation Centre Medway.  More than 160,000 sq metres of the site will be able to accommodate new employment, located adjacent to BAE Systems.
  • Eurolink phase V – Has planning consent for 45,000 sq metres of new development and up to 1,000 new jobs as an extension of the established Eurolink Business Park in Sittingbourne: marketing and development are underway.
  • Kent Science Park– Already attracting and growing technology led companies the site has planning permission for a further 12,000 sq metres of development, providing the opportunity to meet bespoke requirements of existing and new occupiers.

The South East CORE

The Arc is wrapped around the Medway Estuary and the Swale, and one of the UK’s most promising centres for offshore wind operations.  The Medway-Swale Arc is at the heart of the South East Centre for Offshore Renewable Engineering (CORE).  It comprises a cluster of sites suitably sized and positioned to accommodate the integrated manufacture, construction, operations and maintenance of offshore wind turbines, including:

  • Port of Sheerness: 50 ha, port facilities, rail
  • Thamesport International: 75 ha, port facilities, rail
  • Kingsnorth Commercial Park: 47 ha, water access
  • Queenborough and Rushenden: 18 ha, mixed commercial
  • Ridham Dock: 4 ha, water access

Together, this cluster of sites forms part of a wider offer across Kent and the Essex side of the Thames Estuary linked with the major operations and maintenance centre focused on Ramsgate in East Kent and offshore renewable activity at Harwich and Brightlingsea (all of which also benefit from Assisted Area status).  The Arc therefore offers enhanced potential for businesses looking to invest in offshore renewables industries.  More detail can be found on our dedicated page.

Skills

The past decade has seen the expansion of skills provision in higher and further education, including universities at Medway and the Swale Skills Centre, which provides engineering training to pre and post-16 students and was the first to offer wind turbine technician apprenticeships, working in Partnership with DONG Energy UK.  Through partnership with Jobcentre plus and initiatives such as the Employ Medway Advice Centre, local partners also work closely with local employers to secure job outcomes for local people.

Innovation

Alongside Discovery Park in Sandwich, Swale and Medway make the most significant contribution to the Kent Life Science cluster, with the Arc containing the highest concentration of life science businesses within Kent.  In Sittingbourne, Kent Science Park offers over 46,450 sq m of flexible, high-spec accommodation for over 60 companies, operating across a range of technologies, employing 1400 people, a figure which has grown by 500 since 2008.

Since 2009, the Innovation Centre Medway (ICM) at the Rochester Airport site has flourished, achieving full occupancy, specialising in high growth technologies such as specialist software development, renewable energy technologies and advanced manufacturing product design. 

Funding and business support

Assisted Area Status extends the scope of companies that might be eligible for future funding schemes continuing from the successful TIGER scheme. Information about future schemes will appear on the TGKP website in due course.

For more information about opportunities in the Medway-Swale Arc, contact:

Medway - business.support@medway.gov.uk   Telephone: 01634 338215

Swale - edu@swale.gov.uk    Telephone: 01795 417398