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Tesco must have thought Maidstone Council would back down in a head-to-head over the retail giant’s plans for a new supermarket in Staplehurst, but it was wrong.
In May last year, the council rejected an application from Tesco for a superstore on the site of the existing British Rail car parks at Staplehurst, with a new large commuter car park proposed to the north of the railway-line with access off George Street.
The council accepted that the store plan itself was satisfactory, but rejected the application because it felt the car park would be too intrusive in the countryside.
Meanwhile it granted permission for a rival store from Sainsbury's a few hundred yards down the road in Station Approach.
But Tesco is appealing the refusal and a government inspector will hold an investigation later this month.
The borough is usually reluctant to fight appeals, because if it loses there is always the risk it may be ordered to pay not only its own costs, but also those of the applicant.
Tesco simultaneously submitted a revived plan for consideration by the council’ planning committee last Thursday, with a reduced number of car parking spaces to make room for extra landscaping.
Tesco’s corporate affairs manager Beth Greenhouse assured members the firm was still prepared to build at Staplehurst even with the Sainsbury’s store going ahead.
Staplehurst ward councillor Richard Lusty spoke strongly in Tesco’s support, arguing that the chance to revitalise the rail station was too important to miss.
He said the council also had to take note of the needs of the extra 3,000 residents the village would have to take as a result of the 905 extra homes destined for Staplehurst in the borough council’s Draft Local Plan.
But Staplehurst resident Dave Staunton-Lambert warned that Tesco was proposing to build Kent’s third largest rail car-park between two breeding ponds for great crested newts and Staplehurst Parish Council also warned that the site of the car park regularly flooded and drained into a stream that went into the River Beult.
Cllr Neal Kemp said that allowing development could have a disastrous impact on villages further downstream (such as Yalding).
Cllr Tony Harwood (Lib Dem) and Cllr Richard Ash (Con) lead objections to the plans, saying that developing north of the rail-line was a step too far.
The plan was rejected by 10 votes to nil, with three abstentions.
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