The future of a former nurses’ home is still up in the air, after councillors deferred making a decision on its demolition.
The Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Hospital Trust NHS is seeking permission to pull down the building in Hermitage Lane, Maidstone, which dates from 1926, and to build 53 homes in its place.
The council’s planning department was all for granting approval - with the exception of conservation officer Mike Parkinson.
Maidstone councillor Brian Moss (Con)
Planning officer Peter Hockney admitted: “It is a significant building of some character, and the conservation officer considers it to be a non-listed conservation asset, but we accept the applicant’s submission that it is not possible to find a viable use for the building.
“The loss of the building is regrettable but acceptable.”
But the viability study presented by the applicants had been kept confidential and was not issued to either the public nor the councillors on the planning committee.
Cllr Brian Moss (Con) said: “The applicants say it is not viable - they would say that wouldn’t they?”
He said the building that had been opened by HRH Princess Mary was of historic, architectural and social importance and should be preserved.
Cllr Fay Gouch (Ind) said: “It would be an absolute tragedy for this building to be lost.”
Cllr Stephen Paine (Con) said:”It would be a terrible shame to lose this building.”
He asked whether the viability report had been prepared on the assumption that the development would provide 40% affordable housing and that if the council did not insist on that level of affordable housing would the scheme become viable?
But Mr Hockney did not answer that question, saying only: “We have to decide on the application before us.”
Maidstone councillor Ian Chittenden (Lib Dem)
Cllr Jenni Paterson (Lib Dem) said: “The conservation officer says this is a heritage asset that should be retained. I do wonder why we have a conservation officer on the council since we seldom seem to accept what he says.”
Cllr Daniel Moriarty (Ind) said: “We haven’t seen the viability study. Perhaps we should get an independent survey.”
Cllr Ian Chittenden (Lib Dem) said: Maidstone has a horrible history of knocking down its old buildings. Sometimes you have to stand your ground.”
Only Cllr Harwood (Lib Dem) seemed prepared to let the application go through - though he too sought a deferment so that guarantees about the design and layout of the future development could be obtained.
He said: “I fear we’re putting off the inevitable.”
The committee voted by eight votes to zero to defer for three weeks pending further investigation.
The effect of extra traffic on Hermitage Lane from the proposed redevelopment of the former nurses’ home was scarcely mentioned by councillors,
But it is of concern to the St Andrew’s Road Residents’ Association.
Vice chairman Ray Neville addressed the planning meeting and urged the application be deferred until the council had approved a transport strategy for the borough.
Should the former nurses' home be saved from demolition?