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Swanton House flats development next to Ashford College set to get green light


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Controversial plans to replace an historic town centre building with 34 flats are set to be approved tonight following a major redesign.

Earlier this year councillors voted to defer a proposal for Swanton House in Elwick Road, Ashford, after the scheme was likened to a “dangerous eye-sore” and a “carbuncular grey egg box”.

Swanton House sits next to Ashford College
Swanton House sits next to Ashford College

The building - next to Ashford College - has been vacant for more than 17 years, with Ashford Borough Council’s property wing A Better Choice for Property Ltd having purchased it from Kent County Council in 2019.

A plan was submitted in June 2020 to demolish the site and build two blocks up to four storeys high.

But the scheme drew criticism from ABC’s planning committee where councillors highlighted the lack of a good design and parking provision.

Now the site has been redesigned to be more ‘in keeping with’ the character of the area with the flat roofs replaced with pitched roofs to make them less ‘grid like’.

Metal-clad gabled features have been introduced to represent the surrounding 19th century architecture as well as the features currently on Swanton House itself.

The redesigned Swanton House scheme as seen from Elwick Road
The redesigned Swanton House scheme as seen from Elwick Road
The rear of the boarded-up Swanton House site
The rear of the boarded-up Swanton House site

Full height screens to the homes facing towards the Memorial Gardens have been added to improve the sense of privacy.

Despite the changes, the plans still only incorporate 25 parking spaces which will be fitted with electric charging bays.

This is a lower ratio than the one per apartment outlined in the Local Plan, but is called an exception in the report due to nearby parking and the proximity of the railway station.

The late-19th century Swanton House served as an auxiliary military hospital in the First World War, later housing Kent Social Service facilities.

Having seen the redesign, some still feel the plans are not fit for the conservation area.

How the development could look from the Memorial Gardens
How the development could look from the Memorial Gardens
The previous design which has been scrapped
The previous design which has been scrapped

In a statement, the Central Ashford Community Forum said: “We see the buildings have been altered. We are unconvinced.

“The metal cladding for the gables is an eccentric addition, as if the architects do not agree with the guidance from the officers and members.”

Despite the criticism, the scheme has been recommended for approval ahead of this evening's planning committee meeting.

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