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News | Junction 7 Shopping village plan rejected

THE proposal to build an out-of- town shopping centre off M20 Junction 7 has been comprehen- sively thrown out by councillors. Land Securities’ scheme for Newnham Court would have seen the introduction of more than 28,000sqm of retail space – about a third of that in Maidstone town centre and twice the size of Frem- linWalk. Members of Maidstone Council’s planning committee sided with of- ficers, who felt the introduction of aWaitrose, Debenhams and 17 re- tail units would be detrimental to the town centre.

The proposal

Waitrose: 2,744sqm, in north- west of site. Debenhams: 5,584sqm, in south-west of site. Notcutts: replacement store, 4,513sqm, in north-east of site. Retail units: 10 new and seven replacement, 16,128sqm, southern and eastern frontages. A3 café/restaurant: serving cus- tomers of retail park, centrally lo- cated. Converted oast house and exist- ing pub retained. 900 pay and display car spaces.

Cllr Tony Harwood, a member of

the committee, said: “The proposal could not be more brutal, any more cramped, nor overbearing.” DTZ, Maidstone Council’s retail consultant, said the schemewould reduce trade in the town centre by 11.3%, much higher than Land Se- curities’ estimate of 2.97%. The council’s draft local plan earmarks the land for 15,000sqm of retail space. Cllr Gordon Newton, a member

of the committee, said he had un- dertaken a survey and found that there were 31 shops and eight charity shops unoccupied in the

town centre. He said: “Whywould we want to damage the town cen- tre through this abhorrent pro- posal? “The damage to the town centre

would be irreversible. Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Marks & Spencer have all put their faith in the town centre.” Land Securities argued that the scheme would create 1,500 jobs and stop the chain stores going elsewhere. Cllr Mike Hogg, a member of the committee, supported the pro- posal. “Notcutts is a shanty town,” said Cllr Hogg, who previously

worked at the garden centre. “Staff have to work in freezing temperatures in the winter. “There aren’t units large enough

in the town centre for Debenhams andWaitrose.We have set a prece- dent with a new Next opposite [given planning permission last year] and if we refuse it will go to an appeal, whichwould more than likely be won.” But only Cllr Malcolm McKay agreed with Cllr Hogg and voted against the motion to refuse the ap- plication, which was passed through the support of eight mem- bers of the committee.

Objectors voice concerns In support

KCC strategic: said landscaping enhancements were needed. Town Centre Management: felt it would harm town centre. The Mall: said it would compro- mise refurbishment plans. Fremlin Walk and Broadway: owner Nathaniel Litchfield said the applicant underestimated trade diversion from town centre. Solum Regeneration: claimed it would hinder supermarket regen- eration scheme at Maidstone East. Medway Council: concern over

impact on Chatham town centre. Hempstead Valley: fears of nega- tive impact on shopping centre. CPRE Protect Kent: argued it would harm Kent Downs AONB. Kent Wildlife Trust: said it would damage local biodiversity. Veterinary hospital: concern over disturbance and pollution. Parish councils: Boxley and Detling voiced traffic fears. Neighbours: Concerns included parking, congestion, disrespectful to Vinters Park Crematorium.

Ten letters of support emphasised the economic benefits and said it would en- courage people to shop in Maid- stone instead of Bluewater, Lakeside and Hempstead Valley.

Kent Highway Services was happy with the proposed traffic improvements, which included dualling Bearsted Road and off-site bus priority signal upgrades in Ashford Road.


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