Upgrades will boost economy and create more jobs.
A major revamp of Tonbridge Lock has been hailed as a key step towards wider economic regeneration plans which are already attracting national retailers to the town.
The £1.9million Environment Agency and borough council project includes an enhanced riverside walk and street scene along Medway Wharf Road, as well as essential upgrades to flood walls.
It comes just weeks before work on an eagerly-awaited £2.65million Tonbridge High Street improvement scheme is due to finish, which traders believe will prove crucial for encouraging new businesses.
A further boost comes as developer LondonMetric has gained permission for an M&S food hall within the Halfords site at Cannon Lane.
The location is also set to feature a Home Bargains store, which along with a number of other retailers is in talks to take up space on the B&Q site which closes this month.
Robert Styles, Director of Street Scene, Leisure and Technical Services at Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council, feels the Tonbridge Lock scheme, which includes a new boathouse and a telemetry station, will have a positive impact.
He said: “We are trying to improve the whole appearance of Tonbridge, and we wanted to create a lock area that residents can be proud of.
“The economic regeneration of the town is one of the council’s main priorities, and we are doing everything that we can to support local businesses and support the town’s high street.”
Neil Gunn, of the Environment Agency, confirmed the organisation had contributed £700,000 towards the new lock improvement project.
He said: “This was a scheme that we have been looking to do for many years as the flood wall was coming to the end of its life and needed to be replaced, and this is a really good project for us to have been involved with and a scheme we are proud of.”
Gareth Price, of LondonMetric, said the Cannon Lane plans for the B&Q site would bring significant employment.
He said: “We are downsizing the Halfords unit and putting in a new M&S which should be open by Christmas. We have also agreed to take back the 38,000 sq ft B&Q store.
“Home Bargains will be taking 15,000 sq ft of this space and we are in detailed discussions with a number of other retailers.
“Planning is due to be determined in the summer, which would allow work to commence later this year. It will complement the town centre and will also create a number of job opportunities.”
Steve Humphrey, Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council’s Director of Planning, Housing and Environmental Health, added: “It is very encouraging for Tonbridge that there is a high level of investment interest being demonstrated by organisations who wish to redevelop and reuse sites in the town for a range of uses.”