A Royal Mail sorting office could be reopened just months after it was closed, the Kent Messenger can reveal.
The Maidstone postal centre, in Sandling Road, was one of four shut in the summer as part of a £70 million modernising programme across Kent.
The Royal Mail brought in new technology and working conditions, which led to Maidstone, Dartford, Canterbury and Tonbridge offices relocating to the Medway Mail Centre in Rochester and 250 redundancies.
Royal Mail sorting office by Maidstone East railway station
The county town site had been put up for sale, but letting agent Jones Lang LaSalle confirmed it has suddenly been removed from the market.
No one could comment as to why.
Royal Mail is said to be considering reopening the centre.
The shock move was revealed at an extraordinary business briefing meeting at the Town Hall on Wednesday , called by town centre management to discuss the potential impact of the proposed Newnham Court Retail Shopping Centre on Maidstone’s existing traders.
When the viability of an alternative location, on the land occupied by the sorting office site, was raised, developers revealed it was no longer available.
Director at property agent Savills, advising Land Securities, Nick Green, said: “The post office sorting site is no longer available. They have decided to take it off the market and retain for its own use. They want to occupy it as a sorting office.”
But the claim was denied by director of consumer and business media relations at Royal Mail Group Ltd, Tim Cowen, who said: “We are not planning to do anything with that site. Our position has not changed.”
However, he could not explain why it had been taken off the market.
The move could cause problems for Maidstone Borough Council, which had included Maidstone East and the Royal Mail Sorting Office in its draft Local Plan – the document intended to guide development in the borough until 2031. It was one of two town centre candidates earmarked for future retail growth for the town, along with an expansion of The Mall Chequers.
It was also put forward as suitable for “an element” of residential use.
The sorting office, three-storey office block and car park occupy 3.42 acres of the site.
In total 250 staff opted for redundancy across Kent during the Royal Mail reorganisation, while 860 were transferred to Medway. The 200 staff from Maidstone received extra payments to cover the cost of reaching the new location, 4.3 miles away.
Delivery services at the Road depot in Sandling Road were transferred to Park Wood in May, while the transfer was completed in July.