Green light: The new bus station in Chatham
THE GO-AHEAD has finally been given for Chatham's new high-tech bus station after a lengthy planning dispute.
The £6 million state-of-the-art depot, to be built at the junction of Globe Land and Dock Road in the town centre, will be up and running by April next year.
Negotiations on diverting services began immediately after approval was given at last Wednesday's planning committee, despite protests from residents.
The "13-bay dynamic bus facility", as it has been described by the council's regeneration bosses, will replace the 1970s built station inside the Pentagon Centre.
Buses will be fitted with global positioning systems providing passengers with up-to-the-minute arrival and departure display boards, backed by verbal announcements.
Plans include three public toilets, a travel information centre and the White House on Riverside is to be refurbished as a base for bus drivers.
The development has been revised on several occasions following extensive public consultation.
Among the main concerns to the original project was the loss of 17 mature chestnut trees on The Paddock and 14 more in Riverside Gardens.
The final plan affects a total of 17 trees, but the council has pledged to plant two trees for every one felled.
It is being paid for by the Homes and Communities Agency from the Thames Gateway funding secured by Medway from central government.
The council's Conservative group voted unanimously to push the scheme through, despite a last-minute plea from Labour members for a site visit.
Labour's Cllr Bill Esterson said: "People have raised many compelling objections to this application, about the location, the trees, shelter and access. The siting of the station will mean it's difficult for less mobile residents to get their shopping to the station and it will block off the river from the town, the very thing the Tories said they were trying to open up."
But Robin Cooper, the council's regeneration director, argued that they would be getting rid of "one of the worst bus facilities in Britain at the Pentagon".
He added: "It will provide a welcoming experience for the 60,000 passengers a week who get on and off buses here in Chatham. This is very good news for the bus travellers of Medway."