Published: 10:05, 22 October 2020
| Updated: 10:06, 22 October 2020
Controversial plans for a huge warehouse which could be filled by distribution giant Amazon have been sent back to the drawing board.
Council officers had recommended GSE Commercial Estates’ development on Ashford's Waterbrook Park estate was rejected, citing various concerns including the size of the site.
But at a meeting of Ashford Borough Council’s planning committee last week, members unanimously voted to defer a decision so the developers can work with the authority’s planning team to iron out the issues.
Although bosses are yet to reveal the name of the operator, Amazon has been rumoured and has long been linked with Ashford after a leaked ABC document in 2014 seemed to confirm it was coming to the town.
Ward member Cllr Paul Bartlett (Con), who missed the debate due to a clashing parish council engagement, submitted his thoughts via a letter which was read out during the meeting.
He highlighted the potential employment boost if the scheme is approved, adding: “We are living through uncertain times and we must do what we can in Ashford to support green roots of recovery.
“Last week’s unemployment numbers make grim reading and indicate that the 400 jobs created by this development would be gratefully received by the community.
“I am aware of the view held by many of the prospective occupier.
“I shared these when they last mooted a move to Ashford, but the situation has developed and I am confident the occupier has made attempts to become a better, corporate citizen.”
But during the debate, councillors raised concerns over the look of the warehouse – which is in a prime position just off the A2070 Bad Munstereifel Road.
Members shared fears over the impact the development could have on hundreds of homes planned for another part of the Waterbrook estate.
Cllr Linda Harman (Ashford Independent) also had worries over lighting, adding: “I feel very strongly that this is not the best we could expect for this very important location.
“While jobs are important, the scale is too big, it has too much impact and I am speechless about the lack of landscaping.
“I think the impact on the proposed new homes and existing homes in the area is appalling.
“I am very much in support of deferral so the applicant can come back with a much better proposal.”
Following the meeting, GSE chairman Darrell Healey says he is hopeful progress can be made on the application, which was given outline permission by ABC last year.
“There is a meeting arranged tomorrow [Friday] with Ashford Borough Council planning officers to discuss the concerns raised over the building elevations and landscaping in general,” he said.
“I am pleased the council has committed to an early engagement with us, and I hope we will be able to agree a way forward so this development and the jobs it will bring can be secured for Ashford."