Published: 17:00, 02 March 2014
Plans for a huge new business park near Junction 8 of the M20 have been rejected - despite the risk to local employment.
Members of Maidstone’s planning committee turned down a proposal from the Gallagher Group that sought outline planning permission for the creation of an industrial estate with 56,000 sq metres of offices, light and general industrial, storage and distribution buildings, plus a cafe and creche for staff, as well as seeking detailed planning permission for a 23,533 sq metre warehouse building, plus 4,145 sq metres of offices, at Waterside Park to the south of the A20.
Parish councils and ward members queued up to speak against the application last Thursday, with many citing the similarity to the defeated Kent International Gateway (KIG) application to the north of the A20.
Cllr Tony Harwood (Lib Dem) described the proposal as “genuinely grotesque.” He said it was a “brutal industrial estate” placed in a river valley close to an international heritage site - Leeds Castle.They expressed concerns about the damage to the North Downs AONB, to the River Len, and the effect of increased traffic movements.
The applicants had produced a model of the plans for councillors, but that seemed to have backfired. Cllr Richard Ash (Con) said he was shocked by the size of the development: "It totally dwarfs the Mercure Hotel," he said.
A key objection was that Gallaghers proposed to remove 435,636 cubic metres of sand from the site, and to refashion in total more than one million tons of sub-strata in order to create a level development platform.
Near neighbour David Beck helpfully told the committee that the amount of sand being removed would fill 175 Olympic-size swimming pools.
It was estimated that 40,240 lorry movements would be needed just to take the spoil away, before construction even began.
The rejection by eight votes to three was a blow for the owners of two Marden-based firms Scarab Sweepers and ADL, who were the only named tenants for the scheme.
Derek Edwards for ADL (Automotive Distribution Limited) said both companies needed to expand and wanted to do so in Maidstone, but no other suitable sites had been found in the town. Between them the firms employed 450 workers and would be taking on more.
Cllr Rod Nelson Gracie (Con) warned that refusing the application could mean the loss of both companies from Maidstone, and even from the country, since they were both foreign owned - ADL is German and Scarab French.
ADL is known to be looking at an alternative site in Sittingbourne that already has outline planning permission.
The only voice in support of the scheme, beside the applicants, was in the form of a letter from Maidstone and the Weald MP Helen Grant (Con).
Every morning at 10am we play you an hour of tunes from the 90s. We call it, #WeLoveThe90s.
Play 'Say It' with Garry and Laura on kmfm Breakfast and you could win £1,000!
Wake up to kmfm Breakfast with Garry and Laura - it's Kent's alarm call.