Newnham Court development in Maidstone put before traders at the town hall
People were urged to “Say No to Newnham Court” as town centre managers met with developers and around 100 traders this week.
“We are not hostile to Debenhams, Waitrose or any other of the retailers coming to Maidstone, but we are hostile to where they are proposing to go”, town centre manager Bill Moss explained at the town hall yesterday.
"I think the strength of audience reflects the important of the proposal to the town.
Town centre managers hosted a meeting about the proposed Newnham Court Development
"We believe this is inappropriate for the location in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and think it will adversely effect the town centre.
"It doesn't conform to the government's town centre first policy."
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The plan could fail if Maidstone Borough Council deem it to have failed a sequential test, which means that other viable town centre sites have not been fully investigated.
Instead Mr Moss outlined an alternative plan, using land at Maidstone East railway station to bring big name businesses to the town centre instead.
Newnham Court Shopping Village by comparison, would spread over 26 acres on the town’s periphery, with the overall shopping floorspace expanding six-fold, from 60,000 sq ft to 380,000 sq ft.
The number of people employed will also increase nearly six times, from 258 to 1,500.
Representatives of developers, Land Securities, were also at the meeting, to field questions from traders.
They argued that there were no other sites in Maidstone which were viable, available and suitable.
Parking was a major issue among the audience, who questioned whether 901 car parking spaces would be enough to cater for its staff and customers.
There were also queries as to whether the Park and Ride system would be abused by staff.
There is no deadline on when Maidstone Borough Council will make a decision on the plans.
Director of development at Land Securities said: "This site would be differentiated from the town centre. If this doesn't benefit Maidstone the businesses will simply go to other areas, such as Ashford or Tunbridge Wells."
If granted permission the new centre would be open by autumn 2016.
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