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Plans to turn Tollgate Hotel next to the A2 into BP petrol station approved

By Ed McConnell

A highly controversial planning application to turn a hotel into a petrol station has been approved.

Plans to tear down the 114-room Tollgate Hotel and build a BP petrol station in its place were recommended for approval despite almost 1,000 objections being lodged with Gravesham council.

Situated on a 2.5-acre plot, off Watling Street, Gravesend, the hotel closed its doors in 2006 after the Highways Agency bought it under a compulsory purchase order for £4.85 million to facilitate the A2 widening scheme.

The Tollgate Hotel, in Watling Street, Gravesend.

The Tollgate Hotel, in Watling Street, Gravesend.

Site offices were based there until 2009 when it was remarketed as suitable for continued hotel use.

But progress has stalled ever since, with plans to build a McDonald's drive-thru, BP garage and M&S Food court approved by Gravesham before being quashed at an appeals court.

The latest vision will see half the site turned into a BP with the remaining land being kept for future development and used as a meadow until then.

But the scaling back of the plans did not prove any more popular, particular with owner of the nearby Shell Tollgate Service Station, Simon Privett, and his legion of loyal customers.

 Simon Privett owner of Tollgate Services in Gravesend

Simon Privett owner of Tollgate Services in Gravesend

Mr Privett has invested more than £1 million in his garage — which includes a fried chicken restaurant and a Subway — and says there is simply no need for another so close.

Mr Privett said the scheme and the likelihood of further development would "change this part of Gravesend like you cannot believe."

Adding: "To put it simply, the whole thing is unfair. It's not like I have just been through it once.

"The road widening cost us 45% of our business but we were positive and invested when others wouldn't have and we managed to survive."

The council stated in its reasons for recommendation that: "Although there are significant objections to the development on grounds of potential harm to other similar businesses, and questions over the need for the development, competition between businesses or diversion of trade is not a material planning consideration. Government policy seeks to positively promote competition between retailers and enhanced consumer choice."

It adds although the site lies within the Green Belt it has previously been developed and further development would not harm the landscape.

The application was passed by six votes to one at a planning regulatory board meeting at the Civic Hall on Wednesday.

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