This post sees me head out of London to look at Zone 8’s finest town – Dartford. It’s the latest in a irregular series where I set off to areas not generally covered on the site to look at current developments. Previously I did so in Erith whilst covering 2,000 homes being constructed.
So then, Dartford. Around 40 minutes from central London as things stand. Home to many commuters.
And from December, that journey time drops substantially as Crossrail at Abbey Wood kicks off.
Alongside the advent of Crossrail we’re seeing a number of developments in the town. Firstly, there’s Langley Square directly north of the station. More than 400 homes are underway from Weston Homes at a site formerly known as Mill Pond.
Someone moving in could be at work in Canary Wharf in 30 minutes door-to-door. That puts Dartford on the map for many central London workers.
It’s not the only development underway to the north of the station. There’s the Northern Gateway from Barratts. Over 1,000 homes will be built.
The architecture and street design is straight out of the ’80s in places.
Unfortunately despite the huge number of homes being built directly north of the station no new station entrance is being built.
It means climbing steps or a meandering walk to access public transport.
South of the station there’s a site on Lowfield Street where Tesco pulled out of plans to build a store. Meyer Homes buying the site. Unlike Lewisham and Woolwich where tower plans have met opposition, mid-rise plans were approved by Dartford Council. 548 homes are planned.
Last month plans were also announced to build a cinema, hotel and 140 homes in the town centre which this site covered here.
Tory Council LeaderJeremy Kite has previously stated that: “Town centres are seen as places where you need a buzz of people. The old high streets are still with us but need to be sustained by the people who live there. Providing a market for the local shops is really important.
There are different approaches to living these days and we’ve got to make sure we provide not just the open spaces, but also for the people who do want urban living.”
The High Street is now a shadow of its former self – strangled by Bluewater and continual clogged traffic at the nearby Dartford Crossing. Yet it’s still full of character and attractive buildings.
Many units in the two shopping centres are empty or occupied by low-end, temporary looking shops. Out of this some great shops have however emerged, including one that sells food from around the world. American snacks here and Indonesian food there.
New housing brings the usual grumbles about schools and health services – which are often fully justified. Addressing that is a way to nullify NIMBYism – though it’ll never be eradicated as many simply dislike change in future – even if an area has completely changed for the worst over prior years.
There’s the usual complaints too about dormitory towns. But with major centres of employment 30 minutes away it’s inevitable many will commute. But those people don’t disappear in the evenings or weekends. If there’s things on the doorstep money will be spent and the local economy improved.
Despite the many promising changes Dartford has a long way to go. It’s High Street can’t really compete with Bluewater so retaining the best budget shops alongside interesting curios is the way forward.
Another big improvement would be improving links between the station and town centre. It’s not awful but there’s a lot of single-level car parks and vacant land between the two.
One landlowner is Dartford council themselves who have a civic centre. It would be no great surprise to see it rebuilt and a new development built with many new homes alongside new offices.