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Minister Opens Fitted Rigging House Project

19 October 2018

Minister Opens Fitted Rigging House Project – Unlocking the Historic Dockyard’s Financial Sustainability and enhancing the economic contribution of the Historic Dockyard to Kent and Medway

We are delighted that the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism, Michael Ellis visited us to formally open our latest capital development project – The Fitted Rigging House.

The Fitted Rigging House (1793, Grade I listed, Scheduled Ancient Monument (SAM), 9,000m2) is a huge, previously underutilised building and was increasingly at risk. CHDT’s corporate plan identifies the urgent need to find a productive re-use.

Thanks to National Lottery players, this multi-faceted, £8.2M, project has unlocked an exciting new and sustainable future for the building and the wider Historic Dockyard site by creating new rental spaces within the building for commercial tenancy. Additional revenue created combined with other activity on the site brings the Trust’s long held ambition of being financially sustainable on a revenue basis to fruition. A remarkable achievement for such a vast and important heritage collection.

We are delighted to announce that 2 anchor tenants are in the process of creating their spaces within the building, including:

  • Dovetail Games – Medway-based video game producer and developer who started their story in small business units within The Historic Dockyard. They are now taking significant space on the third and fourth floors of the Fitted Rigging House. (17,511sq.ft.)
  • Ward Security – Long standing, national security company previously based on Medway City estate. (6,000sq.ft.)
  • A third prospective tenant, Chapman BDSP, is currently in detailed discussions about relocating to the Fitted Rigging House. The building services and environmental consultancy was founded in Canterbury in 1972 and has worked on landmark projects around the world. It has signed a ‘heads of terms’ agreement and is looking to relocate to the dockyard from Kings Hill early next year.

Alongside this, the Fitted Rigging House project will create a Volunteer Centre of Excellence within the building to greatly improve our facilities for volunteers on-site to include training and social spaces. The project will also see the Dockyard’s excellent library and archive rehoused in appropriate conditions and made much more accessible with enhanced visitor access to this nationally important collection (opening in early 2019).

As part of the Trust’s strategy of “Preservation through re-use” (see http://thedockyard.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Corporate-Plan-2016-2021.pdf ) this project will secure the long term financial sustainability of this building itself but also of the wider Historic Dockyard site through the rental incomes created by the development of the commercial tenancy spaces. The project will cost a total of £8.2m. The project has received £4.8m support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), made possible by National Lottery players, alongside support from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and a wide range of other Charitable Trusts and Foundations.

Now totalling circa £70m grant funded investment since 1984 when the Royal Dockyard closed, the Historic Dockyard’s 80-acre site has been transformed from near dereliction to a well-restored, world-class heritage location and thriving mixed use community. The completion of the Fitted Rigging House project significantly increases rental income achieved and brings self-generated income into balance with the revenue costs of operating the site and the Trust’s charitable activities for the first time in its history.

We are also delighted today to announce that economic outputs from the new uses of the building derived from the project and added to those of other activities across the site will bring the total annual contribution made to Medway’s economy to £26.3m building on the 2012 estimate of £16m (64% growth). This represents a remarkable payback of grant contribution in under 3 years. 

Medway itself is undergoing a monumental regeneration programme which began when the unitary authority was formed 20 years ago, in 1998. Medway’s wider economy has significantly grown since the unitary authority was formed – it is now worth £5.17bn. This huge transformation journey is to provide growth for all and is laying the foundations now for a successful future. Alongside the resurrection of the Historic Dockyard site by the Trust the remainder of the former Naval Base, totalling circa 300acres, Medway has also been transformed by a strategic regeneration programme and is now home to modern residential developments, retail, office and commercial spaces, as well as a university campus with more than 12,000 students. Medway is fast becoming known as the new economic powerhouse for the South-East and has a growing reputation for innovative businesses.

Bill Ferris OBE, DL, Chief Executive of Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust said: “We’re delighted that Michael Ellis MP is able to join us to formally open The Fitted Rigging House. This project marks a significant point in Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust’s history where we begin to move into a position of financial sustainability on a revenue basis. Creating 21st Century spaces within historic buildings is something we have undertaken for many years and this project extends the creative business cluster that is thriving within The Historic Dockyard site. All of this would not be possible without the significant financial contributions and support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, DCMS and a wide range of Charitable Trusts and Foundations who have made this project move from a concept to reality”.

Michelle Roffe, Head of HLF South East, said:

“We look forward to welcoming the Minister Michael Ellis MP this week to celebrate and mark the completion of another great example of heritage conservation in action at Chatham Historic Dockyard. The Fitted Rigging House, Grade I listed and a key part of Chatham’s heritage, played a vital role here for over 200 years and will now do so again thanks to money raised by National Lottery players. We are delighted that this will build upon the impact already made at the Dockyard – where HLF has contributed over £28m to regeneration and restoration – through this latest offer that marries an exciting blend of commercial viability with a new provision for visitors and volunteers.”

Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism Michael Ellis said:

“Chatham’s Fitted Rigging House Project is a perfect example of how we can make our heritage buildings work in the modern world. As communities change, often these buildings struggle to meet our needs and fall into disrepair. This project is a blueprint for how to utilise our historic sites, so they can be preserved for generations to come.”

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