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Proposals for a new out-of-town shopping centre could be a tipping point for the town’s independent traders, claim the Federation of Small Businesses.
The organisation took to the streets to ask shop owners what they thought of the proposed £85m development at Newnham Court in Maidstone by Land Securities.
They claim 70% of independent firms are against the development as it stands.
However, the research comes as bosses at the nearby Kent Institute of Medicine and Surgery express fears over the plans being rejected by councillors.
They say they would consider moving the site to Ashford or Kings Hill if planning authorities reject the proposals at a meeting tomorrow.
The plans say they will create more than 1,000 jobs with new Debenhams and Waitrose stores and an improved Nottcutts garden centre.
FSB Mid-Kent member Nick Rowell said: “We had already conducted an online survey of our local members which showed that more than 70% of independent firms are against the development in its current form.
“Now, having been out and about talking to local firms over the past few days, the point we have picked up is that we are happy for big companies to join us in Maidstone, but not at the expense of the town centre and small businesses as a whole.”
He added: “We have also had a further 40 companies respond to the survey, the results of which we will again present to the planning committee when it meets to determine the application on Thursday.”
The FSB argues the Land Securities scheme does not conform to the Government’s “town centre first” policy when it comes to development.
But Kent Institute of Medicine and Surgery president Franz Dickmann - which is based next to the proposed retail site - said that the new retail development was an “essential” part of the entire development scheme at Newnham Court.
Without it, he says on-site and offsite infrastructure that would support plans for an extended medical campus at the site would be jeopardised.
He warned Maidstone council that if the Land Securities scheme were refused, he would consider relocating the proposed medical campus to Ashford or Kings Hill.
The planning committee will decide the issue in the Town Hall on Thursday at 6pm.
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