A centuries old former asbestos factory is set to be demolished and transformed into new industrial units under proposals submitted to town planners.
The Nuralite industrial estate in Canal Road, Higham, has been earmarked for “systematic redevelopment” in a move which would see the historic landfill site sealed.
An application is due to be considered before Gravesham council’s planning committee on Wednesday.
Proposals include the capping and removal of areas of hydrocarbon pollution, the laying of new service and utility infrastructure and the construction of 11 new purpose built light industrial type units.
It will also see the materials imported to cap and landscape the historic asbestos landfill.
According to planning documents the development is “located in an isolated location within the green belt which has been in existence since the late 19th century and has developed in a piecemeal fashion”.
And while the report concludes the development is “inappropriate” in the green belt, because of the uncertainty over part of the site’s previously developed land status, it says “very special circumstances” have been demonstrated which outweigh harm to the green belt.
Asbestos was historically used in building construction for insulation, flooring and roofing, among other uses.
It is now banned in the UK but can be found in buildings built or refurbished before 2000 and poses a risk to human health having been attributed to numerous asbestos-related lung cancers such as mesothelioma.
Due to its contamination risk all 30 existing buildings and compounds at the Higham site, near Rochester will be demolished under the plans.
Remediation of the site is projected to take place over a three year period and will see the site raised from 1.8m to a maximum of 2.5m, as well as works to address the former Thames and Medway Canal, which is heavily silted up and contaminated.
Another major factor in planning officers recommending permission be granted is employment.
Developers say the project will bring more than 270 construction jobs and when operational this will expand to between 600 to 680 full time positions at the site.
Gravesham recorded a 7.4% registered unemployment rate for October 2020, which is more than double the level recorded a year prior and represents a rise of 123% – in excess of 2000 additional individuals unemployed this year.
This does not yet factor in the additional unemployment projected to accompany the end of the government’s job retention scheme, set to concluded on April 30.
As a result planning officers believe if this scheme proceeds it could, to some extent, offset an “already serious unemployment position within the borough”.
The report concludes: “On balance, the recommendation is for planning permission subject to the planning conditions and heads of terms for the legal agreement which will be set out in the supplementary report.
“It is recommended that the application is delegated to the service manager (development management), in consultation with the Chair, for the issue of planning permission subject to planning conditions and the completion of a Section 106 legal agreement.”