Business partners have been left frustrated waiting for a decision on plans for a children’s play centre at Herne Bay’s former sorting office.
Paul Eley and Anna Andreeva, of Stour Side Investments, have been trying to convert the Eddington Lane building into a centre offering activities for toddlers, children and teenagers.
The pair hope to offer a soft play area, indoor slides, a laser arena and restaurant. But they say council planning officers want to keep the building open as an industrial site.
Paul Ely and Anna Andreeva with plans for play centre
Mr Eley said: “This site has huge potential and has been empty for more than a year.
“We plan for it to be open soon, and have equipment outside ready to be set up, but the council say it’s a change of use and that the building should be industrial.
“It’s holding up everything and it lacks imagination.
“They should have given their decision by now, but the officer has gone on holiday until February 11, so we can’t get the decision that was due on January 29.
Play equipment awaiting installation in the former sorting office
“It’s very frustrating. We could keep this as a storage facility, but it would only employ a couple of people. But if we change to a play centre it will create a dozen jobs for people in the town.
“Trying to find a building somewhere this size with such a big space and lots of safe parking is a very difficult thing to do.
“Our only recourse is to assume that it has been rejected and so we have to go through the appeals process.”
Should the sorting office become an indoor play centre?
According to a letter from planning officer Ben Young, the council is “relatively discouraging” of non-industrial uses for more modern, fully-usable warehouses.
He added that the council would prefer leisure uses to be located nearer to the town centre, or in older industrial buildings with a lack of market interest.
But Mr Young also said that the council would consider evidence put forward by Stour Side if it could prove that there is no interest in using the building for industrial purposes.
Play equipment outside former sorting office in Eddington Lane
Mrs Andreeva said: “To date it has cost us £100,000 to move all the equipment and get it ready for the centre.
“For older children there aren’t many places to go in Herne Bay, so it would give them something fun to do, rather than being on the streets or on computers.
“It would also be better for the council, because they aim to bring more young people to the town and make Herne Bay good for them.”