In June 1981, the then defence secretary John Nott announced that the naval base and Royal Dockyard at Chatham would close in 1984, as part of a wider review of UK defence policy outlined in the 1981 white paper United Kingdom Defence Programme: the Way Forward.

Chatham Dockyard was closed on 30 March 1984.

Following closure, the dockyard was divided into three sections, to be maintained by Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust, English Estates and Medway Ports Authority.

The section maintained by the Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust is now a maritime museum and visitor attraction and, as well as a popular filming location.

The section initially maintained by English Estates is now maintained by the Chatham Maritime Trust has been redeveloped and now includes housing, a marina, an entertainment and retail complex, and Universities at Medway, a joint campus of the University of Greenwich, the University of Kent and Canterbury Christ Church University.

The third section, Basin 3, became a commercial port known as Chatham Docks, and was initially the responsibility of the Medway Ports Authority. The port was privatised in 1992 and was originally sold off to a management and employee buy-out team called Medports Mebo Ltd. In 1993, Medports Mebpo was bought out by the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company (MDHC). In 2005, Peel Ports acquired MDHC, including its ownership of the Medway Ports of Sheerness and Chatham. 

Proposed redevelopment of Chatham Docks Basin 3

In 2019, the Peel Group announced plans to close Chatham Docks by 2025 and redevelop the site for housing and commercial use, citing costs “in excess of £35 million” required to refurbish the docks’ freight lock gates making it economically unviable to maintain the site as a port.

In 2021, the Peel Group published a ‘masterplan’ for the redevelopment of Chatham Docks, outlining plans for the construction of 3,625 homes and commercial space.

In November 2023, P4 Planning, on behalf the Peel Group, submitted a planning application for the redevelopment of a portion of the docks as a “business and enterprise campus” called Basin3.

The application states the redevelopment would create “circa 31,000m² of adaptable workspace” and “attract high-value jobs in target growth sectors, including creative industries and advanced manufacturing, potentially tripling current job numbers on the site.”

A consultation on the redevelopment was open from 21 November to the 5 December 2023.

Following the consultation, P4 Planning submitted a planning application for the Basin3 development in January 2024, stating the “submitted plans have taken into consideration feedback from the local community.”


Groups arguing for Chatham Docks to remain a functioning port have claimed the redevelopment plan will result in job losses to the area, through those employed directly by the port and through industrial businesses based at the docks being forced to relocate.

The Save Chatham Docks campaign have claimed Chatham Docks generates “£258 million worth of business for Medway”, with the Docks directly employing 800 people, and a further 1,400 jobs supported indirectly through the Docks’ supply chains.

Further reading

Dockyard History, The Historic Dockyard at Chatham

Chatham Dockyard: Reinvention of site 40 years after closure, BBC, 28 March 2024

Fears ‘800 skilled jobs could be lost’ as Chatham businesses fight docks closure, ITV, 11 March 2024

Chatham Docks regeneration plans submitted to council, BBC, 25 January 2024

Chatham Docks: Business campus plans submitted but battle for docks far from over, campaigners warn, Kent Online, 23 January 2024

Chatham Docks, HC Deb 16 September 2021, c 1221-28

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