St. Mary's Island Residents' Association Ltd. (SMIRA)
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Frequently Asked Questions

Here you will find answers to questions that are frequently asked at SMIRA meetings, or in emails to

  We were told by Countryside that there was 24hour security* when we purchased our property.
  What is the telephone number to report an incident?
Dogs on St. Mary's Island
  Dogs to be kept on leads
  Dangerous dogs
  Is your dog barking too much?
Rent Charge
  What is the Rent Charge?
  What does the Rent Charge pay for?
Flood Risks to St. Mary's Island
  There is little risk to flooding from the Medway
Car Parking on St. Mary's Island
  Problems with non-resident parking
  Consultation regarding the introduction of a Controlled Parking Zone
  New development to have dedicated parking spaces for school drop-off and pick-up
  Do any buildings on St. Mary's Island have flammable cladding?
Dockyard Toxic Waste
  Is the soil on St. Mary's Island toxic?
  Finsborough Down Bund Containment System
  Why were the trees on Finsborough Down removed?
  What is an encapsulated bund?
Why is St Mary's Island Residents' Association a limited company?
  Why is SMIRA a limited company?


We were told by Countryside that there was 24hour security* when we purchased our property.

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, if they were doing so.

*Chatham Maritime Trust has a security contractor monitoring the CCTV cameras 24/7, covering the land maintained by CMT, but it is not responsible for private property on the Island.

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). 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 will make the service affordable into the future.

Cameras are monitored 24/7 by a specialist local contractor who will respond on the ground within minutes when a problem is spotted. There will also be a hotline to the control room to enable you to report any incidents or concerns 24/7 on 01634 890292. However, if it’s a crime actually taking place (emergency) 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.

Happily, Chatham Maritime is a very safe place to live; generally the crime rate is about 27% lower than the national average.

There will still be on the ground monitoring. The CMT Estates Officer will drive round the estate in a badged vehicle, getting out and patrolling the open spaces and footpaths daily and checking the playgrounds and safety equipment. A vehicle security patrol will check the whole estate every evening and will do an additional patrol to the playgrounds at weekends.

The Trust also pays for a full-time PCSO for the estate – increased from the half-time cover we had at first.

See our contact page for emails and telephone numbers


Dogs on St. Mary's Island

On St. Mary's Island dogs must be kept on a lead, as part of the Island Regulations, except in the dog run area on Finsborough Down where dogs can be let off their leads. Please use the dog run and encourage your children who are taking the dog out to use it too.

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 in any public place then it's a dangerous dog and needs to be reported to the police (phone 101) under the Dangerous Dogs Act Section 3.

Below is a diagram showing who to contact about incidents with dogs causing "fear, alarm or distress".

Dangerous dogs

Is your dog barking too much?

It's normal and natural for dogs to bark but when barking happens a lot, or goes on for a long time, it can be annoying and upsetting for your neighbours. If you're out a lot, or you're just used to the noise, you might not realise just how bad it is.

This leaflet from DEFRA is designed to help you work with your neighbours to sort out any problems caused by your dog barking without having to involve the authorities. Click here to access the PDF leaflet.


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.


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:
Tidal flooding
Surface water

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.

Chatham Maritime Trust document on flood risks to the estate (Feb 2013; PDF file).


Car Parking on SMI

Car parking on SMI is an increasing and serious concern. The enforcement of parking regulations in the terms of the lease at the Watersmeet Apartments and the enforcement of a two-hour time limit in the Ship &Trades car park has exacerbated the situation.

Residents who are most affected by these developments are those living in roads closest to HMS Chatham Bridge such as Marine View and Haven Way. Most of the parking issues on these roads are caused by non-Island residents who commute to London or work locally where inadequate parking is provided by their employers and it was these same people that caused the time limit at the Ship & Trades car park to be enforced.

Controlled Parking Zone

As Medway Council have either adopted or are very close to adopting most of our roads, our Ward Councillors, Andrew Mackness and Habib Tejan, arranged for a consultation document to be sent to all SMI residents to determine their interest in introducing a residents’ parking permit scheme on the Island.

However, there was a movement against such a scheme and Medway Council have ceased any further consultation.

New development to have dedicated parking spaces for school drop-off and pick-up

As part of the new Azure development there will be dedicated parking spaces for school drop-off and pick-up at the back of the new Assisted Living apartments. There is now a new pedestrian crossing near the bus stop on Island Way West to help parents with children using the dedicated parking spaces for ‘school drop-off’.


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.


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, Homes 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).







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