Hailed by urban taskforce chairman Lord Rogers as a flagship urban renaissance project, Rochester Riverside was stalled after negotiations with developers collapsed. In November 2000, a Berkeley Homes-led consortium, with designs by Demetri Porphyrios and HTA Architects, dropped out because of low land values at the site. Reserve bidder Wimpey dropped out last year for similar reasons.
The South East England Development Agency has since offered the council £15m to help it complete compulsory purchase orders at the 30 ha site by the end of the year.
Colin Lovell, regeneration and environment projects manager at the council, said: "We are looking to develop and formalise a partnership with SEEDA."
Sources close to Medway council said it will launch a developer competition for the project once the compulsory purchase orders are completed. A council source said: "It is most probable that we will advertise in the European Union's Official Journal once land assembly is complete."
The council has kickstarted the project again after an inward investment conference in Kent in June. It is believed that Harrow Estates was one of several developers that showed interest in the scheme, which could produce up to 2000 homes.
But it is thought that developers will be wary of the project – one potential bidder said the remediation work at Rochester Riverside could run up to £100m.
The work required includes decontamination and strengthening of flood defences. Councillors are equally wary of pouring that amount of public money into the scheme.
A source involved in the original developer competition said: "There cannot be a developer-led option without serious subsidy."
In 2000 a source at Berkeley did express hope that the project could be restarted. The source said: "It was very exciting. The idea was to create a compact European city. Because of the nature of the site you can create a highly defined place."