Twenty years ago this week, Bluewater opened its doors to the public for the first time and the rest, as they say, is history.
Since then, the centre has become the premier shopping and leisure destination in the south, as well as our town’s largest employer.
More than 7,500 people work at Bluewater, with thousands more taken on for the Christmas period. In the week it turns twenty, Primark, one of the UKs most popular shops, is opening its doors in the centre.
Since I became MP for Dartford in 2010, Bluewater has been a central meeting point for people. It is where people get together, shop, eat and spend their leisure time.
As well as bringing huge employment to the area, I think the key to Bluewater’s success is how it has become part of the community it serves.
One great asset at Bluewater is the hugely successful Learning Shop which is a partnership between Bluewater, North Kent College and the Department for Work and Pensions and has been operating at Bluewater since 1999. Since its inception, it has trained over 22,000 people and has helped more than 50,000 people find employment. Its annual Jobs Fayre, which had its seventh anniversary last September, has thousands of jobs on offer and is one of the highlights of the year.
To mark its 20th year, Bluewater has pledged to do 20 good deeds this year and in the coming years, both in time and money in a number of community initiatives. This pledge backs up its ethos as a key community and charity supporter. Bluewater already sponsors a number of local events as well as supporting a wide range of charities.
Bluewater is a great asset to our town and I hope the next 20 years are as successful as the last.