Published: 15:13, 17 June 2020
| Updated: 15:44, 17 June 2020
An abandoned town centre building could be demolished to make way for flats, new plans reveal.
Ashford Borough Council's property company has unveiled a proposal to knock down Swanton House in Elwick Road, replacing it with 34 apartments across two blocks up to four storeys high.
Neighbouring the Ashford College, the pre-1920s structure housed Kent Social Service facilities until 2008, when a fire safety regulation breach forced its closure.
Before that, during the First World War, Swanton House served as a military hospital for war pensioners.
The 30-room building went up for auction last February with a guide price of £600,000 but was snapped up prior to the sale.
KentOnline later revealed that the council's property company - A Better Choice for Property Ltd - was the new owner.
The proposal submitted earlier this month will see the building demolished if approved, with modern brick and glass-fronted buildings replacing it.
Bosses also snapped up the neighbouring Conyers building last year and there were plans to demolish that site to make room for more parking, but it will now be retained.
KentOnline understands A Better Choice for Property spent £875,000 on the Conyers and Swanton House buildings.
Under the new plan, one of the two proposed apartment blocks will face Elwick Road, with the other looking out over the Memorial Gardens at the back of the site.
In the attached planning statement, the applicant writes: "The changing development context to Elwick Road and the presence of the Commercial Quarter at Dover Place is one where a modern architectural style is to be expected.
"Materials, strong detailing, decoration and colour will be crucial to ensure a modern replacement building which preserves the character of the conservation area."
When considering whether the current structure contributes to the character or appearance of the area, the site's heritage assessment states: "Yes. It is a similar age to the surrounding properties and has some historic interest as an auxiliary hospital for war pensioners.
"However as noted within the conservation area appraisal due to its current dilapidated state it now detracts from the otherwise good character of the conservation area."
The submitted proposal contains 27 car parking spaces for residents of the one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments.
This is a lower ratio than the one per apartment outlined in the Ashford Local Plan, but is called an exception in the report due to nearby public parking and the proximity of Ashford International Station.
Bosses say each flat will feature a cycle store, with the site due to be accessed from Church Road.
Ashford Borough Council set up the A Better Choice for Property Ltd company in 2014 to buy buildings it could then let out.
Chiefs say the company helps to generate new income to pay for council services.
Tonight, plans to build a 16-storey tower block dubbed the 'Ashford Shard' will be discussed by the authority's planning committee.
If approved, the building will be constructed on the site of the former HomePlus Furniture store in Beaver Road, which is facing demolition.
A Better Choice for Property Ltd is behind the 'Ashford Shard' scheme, which is part of the 'Victoria Point' developments next to Ashford International Station.
HomePlus has moved to the former Argos unit in New Rents, which opened on Monday.
Consultation regarding the Swanton House scheme will continue until July 9, with a decision expected by September 8.
To view or comment on the application, search 20/00711/AS in the Ashford Borough Council planning portal.
More by this authorCharlie Harman
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