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Home   Maidstone   News   Article

Out-of-town retail proposals "refined" in favour of supporting Maidstone High Street

17 December 2013
by Alan Smith

Maidstone's Christmas Market - bringing in the shoppers

Maidstone's Christmas Market - bringing in the shoppers?

Maidstone council has struck back at criticisms that it is not doing enough to support the town centre.

The council listed among its achievements the £3.9m investment in the High Street Regeneration project, which included the creation of Jubilee Square – now regularly used for cultural events to help to draw people into the town.

It said the regeneration was expected to generate £4.5 million of additional visitor expenditure in the town and create nearly 100 new jobs in both the day and night-time economy.

The council was currently looking into the possibility of extending the High Street paving to Earl Street, Gabriel’s Hill and Week Street.

Spokesman Louise Smith said that in addition the council “led the Maidstone Town Team, both in terms of investment and officer time.”

She said: “The team is formed from a wide range of local stakeholders from the town centre community, and co-ordinates and promotes town centre regeneration initiatives and cultural events, including the Maidstone Arts Festival.”

The council had spent £74,000 on new Christmas lights and decorations for the town centre and was supporting Christmas shopping with additional Park and Ride services for Christmas late night shopping, and free parking after 3pm at Lockmeadow car park throughout December.

It said its policies were working with Wagamama, The Range, Brenchley, Pops tea bar, and Morrison’s Local all being new businesses that had recently opened in the town. A survey had shown that 28 out of 31 of the UK’s “top” retailers had stores in the town.

The council has come under fire for seeming to support the creation of an out-of-town retail centre at Newnham Park near Junction 8 of the M20, where it has granted an application for a Next store nearby and is considering an application for a Debenhams, Waitrose and seventeen other retails outlets, which town centre businesses fear could devastate business on the High Street.

But the council said cabinet had recently approved a raft of new planning policies to go out to public consultation next year, which were specifically designed to promote the town centre, and the land at Maidstone East station specifically, for retail development.

Furthermore, it had “refined” its draft policy on Newnham Court to focus on the replacement of the existing garden centre and shops rather than large-scale retail-led redevelopment. Retail expansion there would be limited to an extra 700sq m of floorspace.


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