Dartford Borough Council partners with Muse Developments to create new civic neighbourhood to transform town centre

Dartford Borough Council has appointed national developer and urban regeneration specialist, Muse Developments, as its development partner to lead the £75 million regeneration of the town’s Westgate area. Muse was appointed following an open tender by the Council to find the most suitable partner.

The mixed-use development incorporates a six-screen cinema at the heart of a new social neighbourhood with bars, restaurants and family-friendly hospitality. The scheme will see the creation of a new public square, a 109-bed hotel, additional town centre parking for shoppers and 140 new homes.

Discussions are also underway with the local Clinical Commissioning Group to collaborate on the potential creation of a new health facility providing space for GPs, family healthcare, social care providers and mental-health services.

Jeremy Kite, Leader of Dartford Borough Council, said: “We are delighted to be working with Muse. So much of what happens in Dartford is developer-driven and the Council rarely has sufficient ownership to shape the use of land for the benefit of local people.

“Westgate is different and Muse has an amazing track record of creating spaces that are not only commercially successful but also hugely popular with people. The Council has an ambition to create modern spaces and facilities which enjoy a direct lineage back to our town’s strong sense of family and community.

“Muse also has a record of delivering creative schemes on time and of the highest quality. They instinctively understood the need to provide spaces with people in mind and their approach and background is refreshing.

“We drew ‘some lines in the sand’ such as the retention of the art-deco façade of the former Co-op store and the need for practical spaces and facilities for families. Cinema operators made a strong commercial case and urged us to find space for them as did mid-market quality hotel chains.

“For our part, the Council also wishes to see a collaboration with local public health services to deliver new GP and health services to support our population.”

Regeneration will take place on the former Co-op store site and surface level car park on Orchard Street. Though part of the façade of the original Co-operative Society buildings on Spital Street will be retained, other buildings that used to occupy the site have been demolished. It is one of the key sites identified by the Council to bring more vitality to the town centre and to realise its potential as an urban market town.

Dartford Civic NeighbourhoodJohn Robinson from Muse Developments, said: “It is an honour to have been chosen by Dartford Borough Council to lead on a project which will have such a positive impact on the town. The site is very well-connected, being close to both the high street and train station, making it the ideal location for a lively and vibrant new community and cultural quarter.

“Dartford is a forward-thinking Council that wants to bring real change to the town centre. We look forward to working with them.”

The area holds an important place in local history, with the name “Westgate” being linked to the Manor House where Anne of Cleves lived between 1553 and 1557. The residence was originally built on the remains of Dartford Priory in 1544, and was given to Anne of Cleves by Henry VIII as part of her divorce settlement. The only remnant of the building is the Manor Gatehouse which stands on Priory Road, just a short walk away from the Westgate site.

Designed by architect and urban designer TP Bennett, the scheme envisages a new network of routes and spaces which will create a vibrant public realm and a more family focused concentration of retail and leisure uses.

Orchard Street will become home to a public space enclosed by both residential and commercial units, linking directly to Hythe Street. A pedestrian arcade will also link the new town square with Kent Road as part of a trail of cultural and entertainment venues.

The scheme will provide Dartford with new facilities which meet the regeneration needs of both long-term residents as well as those who are new to the town. Accompanied by a series of bars and restaurants, the six-screen cinema included in the project will create a family friendly day and night attraction.

140 new homes – a mix of one, two and three-bedroom apartments above retail uses and adjacent to the proposed car park facing Kent Road – will enhance Dartford’s town centre living with a cosmopolitan culture, attracting and retaining new residents. A range of tenures will be offered for these properties, including affordable units for leaseback to the Council.

Dartford’s local economy will greatly benefit from the construction of a 109-bed hotel, with visitors able to stay in a vibrant, central location which is also close to the station. A 167-space shared car park will offer scope for accommodating new residents parking and customer parking for commercial uses. It may also be expanded to accommodate a range of complementary uses, such as a multi-GP surgery.

Muse Developments is looking to submit a planning application in Summer 2018 and to start on site by Spring 2019. Before then, Dartford Borough Council and Muse Developments will be holding public consultation events in early 2018.

Key facts
Gross Development Value (GDV) £75 million.
The proposed scheme comprises:
• 6 screen cinema
• 109 bed hotel
• 5 bars and restaurants
• 140 new homes (39 being affordable).
• A new public square.
• A multi-storey car park with 167 spaces
• Nearly 3,500 square metres of retail floorspace
• 37,250 square feet for restaurant and bar space
• Potential healthcare provision