The Council has been aware of the potential sale by Tesco of its holdings in Lowfield Street for a while but has been bound by a confidentiality arrangement until the completion of the transaction today.

In the spirit of cross-party working that has been in place for many years in relation to dealings with Tesco, I briefed the Leader of the Opposition on developments some weeks ago and both party leaders met with representatives of Tesco in September.

Few will be sorry to see an end to Tesco’s involvement with Lowfield Street. The financial and trading difficulties recently encountered by the company do little to comfort our town, which has seen Lowfield Street become a site of dereliction and wasted regenerative opportunity for more than a decade. Dartford is far from alone, with councils of all sizes, in all regions and of all political complexions have been let down too.

But it is Dartford that we all care about and today’s news at least provides a fresh start with new owners who have a track-record of creating and maintaining quality property and civic environments. For years, the Council has been frustrated by its inability to drive forward development at Lowfield Street because it owns little or no land and had few legal powers to force progress. It would be disingenuous to say that today’s sale changes all of that. It doesn’t. But what it does do, is see the land at last in the hands of owners who seem motivated and able to make something good happen in a way that Tesco clearly weren’t.

The important thing now, is to ensure that Meyer Bergman bring forward plans that meet our town’s aspirations, respect the quality parkland environment it borders and make a positive contribution to the growth and resurgence of our Town Centre. We have been working with stakeholders, local traders and others with a key interest in our town to develop some core principles to set before the new owners. At the very top of that list is the need to have some real and meaningful engagement with the shoppers, residents and businesses of our town to create something of which to be proud.

The Council has a meeting with representatives of the new owners later this month.