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Maidstone East Edition July 2013 No.195 Next wins out-of-town store battle

NEXT’s proposal for a large out- of-town superstore near M20 Junction 7 has been given the go-ahead – despite claims it would badly harm the appeal of Maidstone town centre. The retailer’s plan to open a

Next Home store at Eclipse Park divided Maidstone Council’s planning committee, whose vote was split along party lines. Six Conservatives voted in favour, with five Lib Dems as well as Independent Daniel Mo- riarty voting against. But the casting vote by com- mittee chairman Cllr Richard Lusty, a Conservative, pushed the scheme through. Planning officers had urged members to reject the planning application

to site the £9m home and fash- ion outlet on land adjoining the Hilton Hotel, in Bearsted Road, due to the adverse effect it would have on town centre businesses. The council’s retail analyst,

DTZ, had forecast that the 5,748sqm store would reduce trade in the town centre by 2.13%, but the applicants claimed the negative effect would amount to 1.37%. Officers came up with alter- native sites, including the for- mer Royal Mail sorting office near Maidstone East railway station, the former Somerfield store in King Street and the ex TJ Hughes unit in The Mall – but Next regional estates man-

ager Iain Allsop claimed these were not viable. “It is a case of Eclipse Park or nowhere,” he said, explaining that there would be only 20Next Home superstores throughout the country, and Maidstone’s would be the sole one in Kent. Eclipse Park, owned by Gal- lagher Properties, was previ- ously an area designated for business and office use and it was predicted that the Next store could encourage other re- tailers to move there. With nearby Newnham Court ear- marked for retail expansion in the borough council’s emerging Core Strategy, there were con- cerns about the cumulative ef- fect on town centre businesses.

But council leader, Cllr Chris Garland, who sat in on the item as a substitute committee mem- ber – he left the chamber as soon as it had been determined so did not vote on anything else inapackedagenda–was in favour of the scheme. He said: “The council’s com- mitment to the town centre is there for all to see, with the best part of a £4m investment in re- cent years. I am keen to go for approval on this one. “If the application is refused

Next will walk away and end up somewhere else in Kent. This will send out the wrong message and also damage us economically. “There is an events

Morrisons may


come to town MORRISONS has admitted that it wants to open a store in Maidstone town centre. The supermarket chain has

been given planning permis- sion to move into the former Army and Navy store at 69-77 Week Street. Earlier this year it was given licensing consent to sell alcohol. The M Local store would create 20 jobs. Laura Stubbs from Morrisons

THESE youngsters flew the flag for Hollingbourne’s new twin town, Templeuve, at the village fete. Summer events elsewhere, including Bearsted and Downswood, have also helped make the cold spring a distant memory. Picture: Paul Dixon

Confusion over solar farm plan

BEARSTED and Thurnham res- idents were left confused and frustrated when a public exhi- bition revealed up to 16,000 solar panels could be built on the proposed KIG site, near Bearsted. The news came just two weeks after the company be- hind the idea told Maidstone Council it wanted to construct 50,000 panels. The dramatic re- duction was due to electricity distributor UK Power Networks revealing the local power cables did not have the capacity to cope with such a large amount of energy. Several residents told the

Downs Mail they only found out about the proposals on the day of the exhibition. Solar Securities presented a

report to Maidstone Council on June 3, setting out its intention to build a solar farm containing 50,000 panels in a 25-hectare field between Thurnham Lane andWater Lane, part of the land Axa wanted to turn into road and rail freight interchange Kent International Gateway. However, when the company hosted the public exhibition at St Peter’s Church Hall, Button Lane, the number of proposed panels had been reduced from 50,000 to 16,000. At least three

quarters of the panels are now intended for a field on the east side of Water Lane, also planned KIG land. If the com- pany cannot fit all the panels it requires for its 4MW output in the new location, it hopes to put the rest in the top left-hand cor- ner of the original field, director Clive Richardson said. Resident Rosemary Harlow,

who attended the exhibition after finding out about it the day before, said: “It’s the haste with which it’s been done that I don’t like. Nobody I spoke to on the day of the public exhibition knew about the proposal. Most people were shocked.


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Recycling boost FROM Monday, August 5, re- cycling and rubbish collec- tions in Maidstone will change to help increase the amount residents can recycle from home. For more details, see the Maidstone Council- sponsored 12-page Borough Update in the centre pages.

Firms back business park plan for J8

Volunteers project receives funding

P12 P4

said:“We’re in the early stages of discussion about bringing a Mor- risonsMlocal to Maidstone.We look forward to sharing our plans with the community, should things progress.”

Pictures: pages 24 and 34

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