FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Why is SMIRA a Limited Company?
St Mary’s Island is part of the Chatham Maritime Estate. On 4th June 1995 a planning application was approved by Gillingham Borough Council between them and The Urban Regeneration Agency, Countryside Maritime Ltd and Kent County Council (for the educational facilities) for the development of SMI.
The Urban Regeneration Agency, set up by the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993, was part of English Partnerships, the national regeneration agency for England. It was responsible for land acquisition and major development projects, in SMI’s case in joint partnership with private sector developers.
Because of the large government investment a trust was set up in 1994 to manage the estate after development for at least 100 years. This became Chatham Maritime Trust and its structure is currently governed by four member organisations: Medway Council, Home England, SMIRA and SouthCo (the commercial organisations south of the basins).
The Trust's purpose is solely for the management and maintenance of the Chatham Maritime Estate and the immediate and surrounding community, and so not diverted by external matters. As a charitable trust, it doesn’t have shareholders who require dividends. The Trust has representation of local interests on its Board, ensuring that the future control of the Estate will reflect the wishes of its occupiers, investors, and other stakeholders. Finance for future maintenance of the Estate is secure within the Trust, and cannot be spent on other, external, projects.
Because SMIRA is an integral part of Chatham Maritime Trust's governing structure and is also funded by the Trust, when it was set up it had to have a proper structure itself with financial controls and a legal basis to its operation. Therefore SMIRA was set up as a limited company, as the easiest way to comply with the legal guidelines behind its creation. In this respect SMIRA is quite unlike most residents' associations but then most other associations are not set up as part of a government project.
In 17 January 2007 Ruth Kelly, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, announced proposals to bring together the delivery functions of the Housing Corporation and English Partnerships to form a new unified housing and regeneration agency, the Homes and Communities Agency (which has since been renamed Homes England).
We were told by Countryside that there was 24hour security* when we purchased our property, is this correct?
There is no legal obligation for Chatham Maritime Trust to provide security for residents and it is wrong of Countryside sales people to imply that there is.
*Chatham Maritime Trust has a security contractor monitoring the CCTV cameras 24/7, who respond, on the ground within minutes when a problem is spotted on land now maintained by CMT. It is not responsible, nor covers private property on the Island e.g. resident homes.
Initially, when the Island was in the early stages of development, SEEDA (South East England Development Agency) and Countryside helped fund a vehicle with a security guard to patrol the estate (SMI and south of basins) as there was a greater area of undeveloped land. Although the security guard rarely got out of his vehicle, many residents saw the patrols and felt safer, although the patrols were not providing security for people’s homes, they were providing security for the development plots and those areas owned by the Urban Regeneration Agency (the landowner at the time). The Urban Regeneration Agency later became the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA; now Homes England).
As some residents were aware the rent charge did not cover all the SMI costs (mainly because of the costs of buying and running a security vehicle and employing a number of security staff to man it). Chatham Maritime Trust relied on a monetary top-up from the HCA which ends with the completion of the development. So CMT needed to use the last few years of development to invest in infrastructure and procedures to provide a sustainable system to carry the Island forward into the future.
All the CCTV cameras on the entire estate have been upgraded to current models with better night-time vision, better resolution and some with automatic number plate recognition. Additional cameras have been installed to cover the River Walk along with new lighting where currently there was none. Though immediate savings were only modest, the investment in the CCTV network made the service affordable into the future.
Cameras are monitored 24/7 by a specialist local security contractor who will respond on the ground within minutes when a problem is spotted. There is a hotline to the control room to enable residents to report any incidents or concerns 24/7 on 01634 890292.
However, if it’s a crime actually taking place (emergency) residents should ring the police on 999. If the crime has already taken place (non-emergency) ring 101. The security personnel cannot replace the police and the police will NOT attend if a crime is reported by security personnel if they did not witness it first hand. The police will need to be contacted by you if you see a crime being committed.
On the Ground
There is still on the ground monitoring. The CMT Estates Officer drives round the estate in a badged vehicle, getting out and patrolling the open spaces and footpaths daily and checking the playgrounds and safety equipment.
The Trust also pays for a full-time PCSO for the estate – increased from the half-time cover we had at first.
For more information on security on the island, please go the Chatham Maritime Trust website at www.cmtrust.co.uk
What is the background on the past security patrols on the Island?
The decision to reduce the regular mobile patrols for all CMT land and assets was taken back in 2014 as the cost was over £300,000 plus per annum across the 350 estate* and could not be covered by contributions from the rent charge or service charge from businesses alone. A sub-committee was set up by CMT to come up with an alternative.
*When CMT talk about the 350 estate they refer not only to St Mary’s Island but also land and assets managed by CMT which include parts of Dockside, the university and around the Marina area.
This resulted in the security cover the island now has, that is a fully funded PCSO solely for the CMT estate, replacement of the old CCTV cameras , 360 degree coverage and recording facilities with 24/7 monitoring. As of Sep'18 there were 48 cameras on the island and CMT will be installing 360 degree cameras under the bridge, Shark Park, Finsborough Slip, Colonial house, at the back of MHS Homes and on the main traffic circles. At no point were the security patrols ever in place to cover individual resident homes.
For further information: CMT web site www.cmtrust.co.uk/about-chatham-maritime-trust/land-management/
The decision was reiterated to all resident through the web site, Friday Flyer, a flyer to all properties and at SMIRA AGM and meetings at the time.
SMIRA has in the past discussed this with Countryside and local estate agents with a view to trying to dissuade them from marketing a 24/7 security package. If this is still happening then please let SMIRA know and we will re-iterate.
How much do residents pay for SMI security?
10% of the rent charge is used for Security provisions on SMI.
The PCSO is funded by SMI residents, SOB South of Basin commercial tenants and the community centre.
Note: for all services on SMI residents pay £1 pound for every £4 paid for services i.e. made up of Rent Charge, Dowry (CMT) and Homes England.
Although the island residents only pay for 51% of the PSCO cost, the PSCO does spend on average at least 60% of her time on the island but can be called away if there is an emergency in other parts of the estate e.g. Dockside.
A fuller breakdown of the costs can be found at https://www.cmtrust.co.uk/live/rentcharges/
What are the working hours of the PCSO, Estate Officer and Community Warden?
Visible security presence (for CMT land and assets and not private resident homes) covers the open spaces such as parks, play areas, infrastructure etc.
The PCSO works a day/night split working shift. Evening shifts are up to 10pm. If not available 101 or 999 should be used as normal police procedure.
On the ground monitoring; Carl Davies is the current Estates Officer with effect from September 2017; he maintains a high visual presence across the estate. Carl is familiar with the area as he has assisted with the Estate Officer role in the past so knows his way around! He will liases with St. Mary’s Island residents and South of Basin occupiers ensuring that estate regulations are being adhered to; he also supports the estates team in the office.
Carl can be contacted on 07787 292088 during his core working hours which are 7 am to 4 pm.
Council Community Warden
dangerous and illegal
stray and dangerous dogs
refuse put out early
street cleansing issues and assisted collection referrals.
How does the CCTV work?
The cameras all work although during bad weather visibility is reduced.
The key focus is on deemed high risk areas, including the river.
Many of the cameras now have 360 degree capability. CMT are looking into allowing public access to security cameras although there are some GDPR issues to overcome before this goes live.
The cameras across the 350 acre estate known as Chatham Maritime are used to monitor owned and maintained open land by CMT for ASB and other criminal activities along with monitoring water safety across the estate.
Although the cameras are only for CMT land and assets as part of the trust and do not cover privately owned properties, residents on the island do have a secondary benefit of public perception that there are cameras are on the island.
Can the current security arrangements be reviewed?
The remit is not to provide 24/7 security across the whole island as the cost is prohibitive.
CMT have provided 48 cameras and plan to invest in more CCTV cameras particularly along the River Walk (including additional lighting) and to upgrade and renew existing cameras.
These cameras are monitored 24/7 by Ward Security who will respond on the ground within minutes if a problem is spotted. The security is to cover CMT land and assets only e.g. open spaces and river walk and not for privately owned properties.
Like any other organisation, CMT procures services through a tender process as part of a procurement strategy in line with best practice and needs under the contract specification which is agreed at board level.
SMIRA has asked that resident feedback is included in the review of the service contract for security and residents are made aware of the cost of the procured services. This review is scheduled for 2022/23.
CMT will need to balance total security costs post procurement, with available budget and how any increase stays within the percentage increases contractual rules.
Do any buildings on St. Mary's Island have flammable cladding?
After a full audit of the materials used by Countryside Maritime Limited in the build out of all previous phases (built by the JV) and all phases currently under construction at St Mary's Island, they have not made use of aluminium composite cladding on any of the properties.
On some of the newer builds there is some dark grey cladding which is thin concrete and not flammable. The material which looks like timber on some properties is believed it to be cementitious board, which is inert.
Is the soil on St. Mary's Island toxic?
The development of St. Mary's Island was a particularly difficult project (overseen by the South East England Development Agency – SEEDA) because at ground level the Island was made up from waste materials from the Royal Naval dockyard and brickworks. SEEDA set about determining the nature and level of such wastes as an absolute priority. A detailed research plan to test the ground across the whole of the Island was therefore put into effect, extensively testing and retesting soil and water samples.
Once the testing process was completed, a programme of work was begun to bring the Island up to the most stringent levels recommended by Government safety guidelines. Over a three-year period 1.2 million cubic metres of soil was taken away from the site and replaced. The extent of the clean-up operation and the attention to detail with which it was carried out can best be illustrated by the fact that for virtually three years, every four hours, twenty-four hours a day, a train left the site carrying away soil and unwanted deposits in covered containers. Because the dockyard was the site of nuclear submarine maintenance, radiological testing was carried out by the Ministry of Defence and English Partnerships and checked annually thereafter by an independent assessor.
All these works were a considerable expense to the Government and the regeneration of St Mary’s Island became more than just a building project. St. Mary’s Island has the unique distinction of being Britain’s first and only strategically planned island community.
Finsborough Down Bund Containment System:
This refers to the containment system on Finsborough Down that was built as part of the contamination remedial works before any houses were constructed on SMI.
When the Island was redeveloped the top soil was removed, as necessary, to eliminate toxic materials. Some concrete and other materials were collected at the eastern end of the Island and piled up to form Finsborough Down. This was then completely encapsulated in a sophisticated containment system designed by Ove Arup, the engineering company, who also oversaw the construction works. There are no radioactive materials present in the contained spoil.
The encapsulated system is constantly monitored by CMT as part of their land management responsibilities and Ove Arup are appointed at regular intervals to test a number of specifically located permanent test holes, and the water quality in the surrounding French drains, to check for signs of any toxicity (heavy metals etc.). These tests have been carried out and the results recorded since the beginning of the development of SMI and no leakage has been detected from the system to date. Ove Arup have advised the Trust that the design has stood up very well and that the regular independent testing of water samples ensures that this continues.
However, on the advice of Arups some large trees have been removed, as a precautionary measure, from the edges of the Finsborough Down. This is to prevent tree roots penetrating the containment system located there. The species of tree that were cut down should never have been planted on the Down because their roots could penetrate the barrier underneath the Down.
Maintenance Issues - Foul sewage
Between Redshank Road and Partridge Drive
Near Tappan Drive
Near Goldcrest Bus stop
Maintenance issues - Grounds Maintance
While the Island is under development, there are many parties involved in land ownership, i.e. Countryside Maritime Limited, Barratt, Redrow, Homes England (formerly HCA) and of course Chatham Maritime Trust, and it can be confusing.
A number of roads on the island are adopted by Medway Council and some are still the responsibility of Chatham Maritime Trust or the Developer Countryside Properties.
Who are my local ward Councillors?
The local Ward Councillors for River Ward, where St Mary Islands sits are:
St Mary's Island
6 Manor Road
Who are Chatham Martime Trust?
Dogs and St. Mary's Island
Below is a diagram showing who to contact about incidents with dogs causing "fear, alarm or distress". Further below is a link to a document about dogs barking too much.
Remember that on St. Mary's Island there is a dog run area on Finsborough Down where dogs can be let off their leads. Please use it and encourage your children who are taking the dog out to use it too. In all other areas on St. Mary's Island dogs must be kept on a lead (as part of the Island Regulations).
If residents encounter a dog (that can be any breed, it doesn't need to be a Section 1 listed dog) causing fear, alarm or distress then it's a dangerous dog and needs to be reported to the police (phone 101) under the Dangerous Dogs Act Section 3.
Do I need to permission to alter my home?
Please refer to the Covenants page.
What is the Rent Charge?
A rentcharge is a legal obligation that attaches to a freehold property, and enables collection of a contribution to maintenance costs, and control through restrictive covenants.
On St Mary’s Island rentcharges are attached to the freehold of all houses. They are also attached to the freehold of blocks of flats and maisonettes, so in these cases the rentcharges are collected from the block owner, who passes them on to individual lessees.
Each house is subject to a Fixed Rentcharge of £1 per annum, plus a Variable Rentcharge based on the number of bedrooms in the property (as declared by the developer at the date of first sale). The Variable Rentcharge can only increase annually in line with the increase in the RPI All Items Index, so there will never be any massive hike in the rentcharge.
The rentcharge for the final Azure/Parklands phase was increased in 2016 by £20 plus VAT per bedroom to allow for the increase in costs of expenditure for the maintenance of items on the final phase. This final phase of development has three distinct areas: Parklands, Water’s Edge and The Docks.
The current rentcharge was set originally in 1997 and has only ever increased by RPI. In order for the Trust to maintain the Island to the standard that the residents expect and to reflect this part of the development that has dock basins, river views, attenuation ponds, a neighbourhood play area and a multi-use games area, the Trustees made a decision to increase the rentcharge in the final phase. The Trust is a charity and needs to ensure that maintenance required on St. Mary’s Island is undertaken to high standards as well as safeguarding the financial sustainability of the Trust.
What does the Rent Charge pay for?
All the rentcharge income is spent on maintenance of the Island that falls to Chatham Maritime Trust to maintain. This includes the flood wall, HMS Chatham Bridge, the boardwalk, Finsborough Down containment system, the parklands and play areas, security, insurance, and management.
The total rentcharge income does not meet revenue outgoings. Until the Island is fully developed, the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA, now known as Homes England) contributes to these costs in respect of the unbuilt houses. Chatham Maritime Trust also contributes from its endowment fund towards the maintenance of key infrastructure on the Island.
Conversion of the lifting bridge to a fixed link does not eliminate future maintenance and therefore there is no reduction in the future variable rentcharge. The physical elements of the bridge structure, i.e. deck, railings, surfaces etc. will still require maintenance as well as hidden components such as bearings on which the bridge sits. The bridge will also require future periodic painting. Despite not lifting the bridge will still serve its purpose to the residents in that it will convey traffic onto the Island.
How do I become a SMIRA member?
In accordance with the current SMIRA articles of assocation, you can register for membership via the SMIRA website. Please cllick on the word 'register' located top right of the Home screen and complete the register form.
I’m already a SMIRA member, do I need to re-register online?
Yes, registering again will give you an online account which you can use to show your membership for initiatives like Member Benefits and ensures you receive your AGM voting form.
Do I need to show my old member certificate or need my SMIRA membership number to register online?
No, all you need is your name, address and to state the type of membership. SMIRA collate your online registration with our current held list.
How long does it take to register online?
Approx 5 mins
Do I need a previous password to register?
No, you create one when you complete the online register form.
I’m having problems registering, what should I do?
Use the online contact form and we will help with your registration.
Flood Risks to St. Mary's Island
Whilst the proximity of St. Mary's Island to the tidal Medway tends to lead people to worry about flooding from the river, the risk of this happening is considered to be VERY LOW (a 1 in a 1000 year risk) because of the flood defences. In the Environment Agency flood risk maps for St. Mary's Island (link below), the map is completely clear apart from a little overtopping from the basins into the back gardens of the properties backing onto to Basins 1 and 2.
The Environment Agency flood risk maps for St. Mary's Island:
The potential for flooding due to rainwater is low as some properties discharge surface water into Basins One and Two but the rest of the properties on SMI discharge into the large outfalls into the River Medway. There is considerable storage capacity in the pipes so that the risk of flooding is reduced should there be torrential rainfall whilst the tide is in and the flaps on the outfalls are closed. In the last phase of development (Azure) two attentuation ponds have been created on the bund to collect rainfall so that it does not go into the outfalls to reduce, further, the risk of surface water flooding.
There is no risk from the slipway at the end of Finsborough Down as the tidal defences are also adequate at that point.