The Rochester Bridge Trust, a charitable trust that exists to maintain the bridges and serve the local people of Medway, will soon sell the Medway Tunnel to the Medway Council for £1, following a request from the Council, to simplify and clarify the management of the tunnel.
The Trust, a charitable organisation that exists to maintain the bridges and serve the local people, is selling the Tunnel because it makes sense for the Council to combine ownership and management of this important piece of transport infrastructure in the South East.
While the Trust is technically the Tunnel’s owner, Medway Council is, and always has been, contractually responsible for maintaining, operating and ultimately replacing the tunnel under a 999 year lease. The Council taking full ownership will make it easier to access other funding sources in the longer term, secure the Tunnel’s future and simplify its management. This change of ownership is in the best long-term interests of Medway residents, who will notice no change on a day-to-day basis.
When the project was first proposed by Kent County Council, out of goodwill the Trust agreed to take on official ownership of the Tunnel so it could be built, knowing the tunnel would benefit residents and help regenerate the Medway area following the closure of the Chatham naval base. The Trust purchased the necessary land surrounding the tunnel and has paid a voluntary annual contribution for maintenance ever since. Upon the transfer the Trust will make an upfront payment to the Council of £3.6 million for future maintenance costs, several times the amount of its annual contribution.
The Rochester Bridge Trust has served the people of Kent for centuries by providing crossings over the River Medway and making charitable and educational grants. Regulated by the Charity Commission, the Trust must use its income “for the passage over, under, or across the River Medway,” for the “maintenance of the banks and channels of the River Medway” and for “other charitable purposes primarily in the County of Kent.”
As a charitable trust, the Rochester Bridge Trust has followed Charity Commission best practice guidelines throughout the negotiation process, and the Charity Commission will make the final decision as to whether the transfer can go ahead. Cabinet decisions made by the Council were also done according to procedural guidelines and can be accessed on their website.
The Trust has a duty to serve the local community and intends to continue this for the benefit of the people of Medway and the surrounding areas by providing crossings over the River Medway and making charitable and educational grants provided for in its constitution.
N.B. The Trust’s wardens, who are not paid, include members of all three local Councils in the area to ensure fair representation. Since 1999 a new Charity Commission scheme has provided for twelve wardens and assistants: three nominated by the Medway Council, two by the Kent County Council, one by the Maidstone Borough Council, and six assistants drawn from the local community and appointed by the Trust.