Published: 06:00, 25 June 2021
| Updated: 07:56, 25 June 2021
A popular horse riding facility could be replaced with 40 homes after plans to upgrade the site to international standard failed to progress.
The newly submitted planning application centres on the Blue Barn Equestrian Centre off the A28 in Great Chart, Ashford.
The project will require the demolition of a number of buildings, as well as paddocks and storage facilities.
If approved, the outline scheme will see 40 homes, 40 commercial units and four custom-build plots constructed on the six-acre site.
The centre's owner Kate Morris told KentOnline's sister title the Kentish Express: “Blue Barn was all but derelict until it received much-needed investment eight years ago.
“Last year we were very disappointed that Ashford Borough Council (ABC) was not able to support the proposals in our pre-application for the expansion and international enhancement of the existing equestrian facilities.
“The council was very resistant which was a shame because the plans for an international equestrian centre were amazing – it would have really put Ashford on the map.
“However, we are pleased to have the opportunity to make best use of the site for the much-needed housing that enables working from home.
“We look forward to progressing discussions with the local authority.”
On its website, Blue Barn is described as the “biggest show centre in Kent”, boasting “one of the finest equestrian show and training centres in the UK”.
When asked about the site possibly relocating, Ms Morris said: “All avenues are open for consideration but, being dependent on so many other factors, it’s impossible to say with any certainty at this stage.”
Due to the equestrian centre’s location, the homes would be built opposite the 5,750-home Chilmington Green development, which could work in applicant Southern Counties PP Ltd’s favour.
Another plus for the development is that, according to the application, only two ‘slight’ accidents occurred on nearby roads between 2017 and 2019, which bosses say “does not present a material concern in the context of the proposed development”.
But the site does not form part of ABC's Local Plan – a blueprint mapping out where 16,872 homes could be built across the district up to 2030.
Earlier this week, ward member Cllr Jessamy Blanford (Con) said it is “too early” for her to have formed an opinion on the application but she will be discussing the scheme with Great Chart and Singleton Parish Council.
“All I can say at the moment is that the site is not designated for development in Ashford’s Local Plan,” she said.
“Also, at the early stages of the Chilmington Green development houses were shown on the north side of the A28 but this part of the plan was changed and the houses pulled back to the current outline on the south of the A28 in order to protect the village of Great Chart from overdevelopment.”
In a housing update issued last July, ABC was 295 dwellings short of its five-year land supply requirement, meaning planning applications should be approved except for when they are deemed to be unsustainable.
This week, the authority said it was unable to comment on the application as it is currently going through its system.
But a spokeswoman did provide a statement on the bid for an international-standard centre, saying: "Our officers did liaise with the applicant to provide pre-application advice as the equestrian centre proposal included elements of commercial and residential accommodation which we considered were not in accordance with our adopted Local Plan policies for the area.”