In the early 2000s, Dartford Borough Council decided to regenerate a 264-acre brownfield site that was originally called Dartford Park and subsequently become known as The Bridge. The Council wanted to create a new, environmentally-friendly community, where people could live, work, send their children to school and enjoy their leisure time. To bring this aspiration to life, it needed to select a private sector partner with the expertise and staying power to transform a derelict, overgrown site into a new neighborhood for Dartford: the Council chose Prologis.
“It was really important to get the right developer on board,” said Graham Harris, Managing Director of Dartford Borough Council. “We wanted to work with a company that shared our vision and was prepared to stick with us for the long-term.”
Now 15 years later, The Bridge is almost complete. We have worked closely with the Council and housing developers Taylor Wimpey and Persimmon to create a development that offers over 1,500 new homes, skilled jobs, the Fastrack public transport system, schools, community facilities and 80 acres of public open space. All the different elements of the development have blended together as we intended and the key to success was careful master planning. As Graham Harris said: “This is a complex development, so every aspect had to be integrated from day one.”
New Opportunities with SEM
A significant factor in this mix was the Council’s aim to attract knowledge-based industries that would bring high value jobs to Dartford. One of these companies is SEM, which moved from Orpington to a bespoke 122,500 square foot headquarters at The Bridge. A high technology manufacturer that designs and produces electric motors for motion control industry sectors, SEM has brought both jobs and training opportunities to Dartford. However, it also provides an insight into how the various strands of The Bridge work together for the benefit of the wider community.
"It was really important to get the right developer on board. We wanted to work with a company that shared our vision and was prepared to stick with us for the long-term."
Graham Harris, Dartford Borough Council
The fact that The Bridge had been designed as an interconnected mixed use development was one of the attractions for SEM of moving to Dartford. Its employees had the opportunity to live within walking distance of the new HQ, their children could go to the local schools and staff who live further away could travel to work on the Fastrack bus service.
Before SEM arrived, CEO Michael Laming said that the company wanted to make a positive contribution to Dartford – and it has been as good as its word. As well as recruiting locally, SEM has established close links with its neighbor, The Leigh University Technical College (UTC) and it is actively involved in encouraging young people to pursue careers in engineering. SEM is taking part in the UTC’s business mentoring program and it also offers a range of work-related learning opportunities for UTC students. At a practical level, the company has also sponsored a new minibus for the UTC, which allows students to get out of the classroom and see industry in action.
As Michael Laming said: “We hope that the opportunity to visit local companies and see the great employment opportunities that are available here in Kent will help students when they are choosing a career.”
Looking to the Future
SEM and the UTC are just one example of the partnerships and collaborations that are developing at The Bridge and we are delighted to have helped create an environment where this can happen. The development is going from strength to strength and we are certain it will endure. I look forward to driving past The Bridge in 20 or 30 years’ time and thinking: “I am so proud to have been involved with that project.”