A decision on whether to turn a former munitions factory into a supermarket and shops cannot now be taken locally after Maidstone council missed a deadline.
Councillors on the planning committee felt the disused Power Hub in St Peter’s Street, which dates back to 1917, should not become a retail centre.
But because the application by a company called Baltic Wharf (Maidstone) Ltd was not debated within a set time limit, the council can only make their recommendation known.
It now falls to the planning inspectorate to consider the issue as an appeal and make the decision on the scheme, set to cost £30 million and create 350 jobs.
A council spokesman said it had been dealing with the application, but said its complexity meant the time frame lapsed.
The plans included a walkway on the river side of the Power Hub, plus space for offices and leisure activities.
Councillors were particularly concerned that the area was already congested with traffic heading to Asda and The Range and new stores would push it to breaking point.
John Rees, for the applicants, said: “Only you and the council have the ability to save this listed building. This is the only viable scheme which offers this opportunity.”
Ward councillor David Pickett (Lib Dem), who was instrumental in getting the building Grade II listed, said: “To my mind it hasn’t yet been appreciated as a historical asset.
"I would not wish to see this building badly shaken. We await a viable use of this landmark and important monument.”
So far there is no named supermarket operator in mind for the structure.
But Cllr James Ross (Lib Dem), felt that if the plans are rejected then some other regeneration should go ahead.
After the meeting, Stuart Jeffery from Maidstone Green party, called on local people to write to the planning inspectorate.
He said: “The plan for the supermarket in an already congested residential area is simply untenable. The impact on lives would be appalling with traffic levels rising by 54%.”