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Waterside Park: Ferdinand Bilstein, formerly ADL, to cut 100 warehouse jobs and relocate after pulling out of development near M20 Junction 8

By Chris Price

Nearly 100 jobs are set to go from a car parts supplier less than a week after it announced it was pulling out of a scheme to develop a giant new premises in Kent.

Ferdinand Bilstein UK, formerly known as ADL, told workers today it has decided to move its warehouse operations to the Midlands within two years after plans to develop a new base near Maidstone were twice rejected by councillors.

The company had hoped to relocate its base in Marden to a new facility near Junction 8 of the M20, dubbed Waterside Park, but pulled out of the scheme at the launch of a planning inquiry last week.

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One of Ferdinand Bilstein's seven warehouses in Marden

Maidstone Borough Council have twice rejected plans to develop the site since 2013 on the grounds it is on greenfield land and could damage tourism at nearby Leeds Castle.

Ferdinand Bilstein UK said it had found no other suitable locations in Kent and with its current lease due to run out in January 2017, said it had been “forced” to look beyond the county.

The company had originally said it intended to create 150 jobs at Waterside Park as its distribution centre expanded, describing the site as the “perfect location”.

Ferdinand Bilstein will keep its head office staff in Marden
Ferdinand Bilstein UK in Marden
Operations director Paul Dodgson and managing director Mark Northeast

The business, which was bought by German automotive firm Bilstein Group in 2011, will keep its head office in Marden, near Maidstone, which employs 135 management and administration staff.

Managing director Mark Northeast said: “The decision to split our operations has been a tough one, but in order to protect the business we need to do everything we can to retain our experienced teams, the majority of whom live in the borough.

“Maidstone will remain home for our office staff, but our distribution centre’s spread over seven buildings at Marden are no longer big enough or suitable for our future growth.

“Despite an exhaustive search, Waterside Park remained the only viable site in Kent.

“However, due to the planning delays it could not be delivered within our timescales, forcing us to look beyond the county.”

The proposed site for Waterside Park near Junction 8 of the M20
An artist's impression of one of the proposed new buildings at Waterside Park

The decision to refuse Waterside Park is being appealed by Maidstone-based developers Gallagher Group, which still has interest in the site from Scarab, a neighbour of Ferdinand Bilstein, which manufactures road sweepers.

Villagers, the council and environmental group the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) have each objected to the 42-acre development on the grounds it is on greenfield land and could damage tourism at nearby Leeds Castle.

They argued Ferdinand Bilstein’s decision to pull out has weakened the economic case for the scheme.

A decision from the planning inquiry, which runs until next week, is not due for months.

Ferdinand Bilstein’s 100 warehouse staff have been asked to stay at the company until it moves in 2017 and will be offered a training plan.

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