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Home Sittingbourne News Article
Julie Gamble pulled up in her Mercedes Benz CLC just minutes before the rear of the derelict Bell Centre in Sittingbourne came crashing down.
She was collecting washing from her business, Julie Gamble Advanced Skin and Beuaty Clinic, when she heard an "almighty crash" and went outside to investigate.
At the same time, Kathryn Talbot, who owns JK Hair next door, also came out to see what had caused the noise. Her Chrysler Crossfire was parked in front of the wall.
Both women stood open mouthed when they saw the devastation before dialling 999 at about 6pm on Saturday.
Ms Gamble said: "At first it was so dark I could only see the car had a dent down the side, but when I got closer I could see what had happened.
"Then Kathryn came out and we both stood there open mouthed. Five minutes earlier I would have been parking the car.
"What's more frightening is an hour earlier both sets of staff [who also park out there] would have been leaving and possibly standing in the car park talking so it could have been an absolute tragedy. I try not to think about it."
Miss Talbot, 36, said: "I thought because they had been doing work out there that the metal fence had come down. I didn't expect to see bricks on my car. It was a big shock.
"All the staff had left, luckily. Had it been during the week they would have still been there so there would have been more cars and people."
Three fire engines, Kent Police, and a Swale council structural engineer were sent to the scene.
At 6.25pm, the Sittingbourne Sports Bar snooker club was closed down for safety reasons due to brickwork blocking a fire escape.
The nearby Summoner pub was also evacuated while it was inspected for structural damage.
The Bell Centre, which has been derelict for several years, is the planned location for a Travelodge hotel.
The development was put on hold after an application to downgrade how environmentally friendly the building would be from "very good" to "good" was rejected by Swale council's planning committee in June 2012.
Permission has since been granted on appeal, but work is yet to start.
A Travelodge spokesman said: "We still plan to open a hotel at the site in the future. We expect to make an announcement on this in 2014."
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