Published: 06:00, 01 December 2020
| Updated: 10:47, 01 December 2020
A block of 14 two-bed flats near a town centre is nearing completion - but a disappointed councillor has described its appearance as "positively ominous".
The derelict Prince Albert pub in New Street, Ashford, had to be demolished to make way for the new building, which was approved in November 2017.
Construction crews have been working on the five-storey block since the following year and it is now almost finished.
However, Cllr Bernard Heyes (Con), who at the original planning committee meeting said "this is nothing more than a hideous monstrosity", does not appreciate the look of the building.
The Repton ward representative said: "These new flats in Barrow Hill have turned out to be even more hideous than I envisaged when I spoke about them at the planning committee.
"They look positively ominous and possess very little aesthetic or architectural merit.
"As I’ve said before with their limited off-road parking they’re going to exacerbate the chronic parking problem that exists in the area already.
"With them being located at this prime site which is a major gateway to Ashford it doesn't leave a very good initial impression of the town."
He also questioned the number of flats in the town, saying: "I’m very concerned about the excessive amount of flatted development taking place in Ashford generally which in my view is neither desirable or sustainable in the long term.
"Also, when hopefully the Covid-19 pandemic ends it is quite possible that the need for office space will diminish substantially.
"This in turn could encourage developers to convert office space into flats which they can do without planning permission, consequently making the whole situation even worse.”
The pub had been empty since it closed in 2008 and became an eyesore at the entrance to the town centre after being ravaged by fire in 2014.
Despite the criticism over the apartment block design, Cllr Paul Clokie (Con, Tenterden North) said during the 2017 meeting that Ashford was moving forward and the council had to strike a balance between the old and the new.
He said the building contained “substantial architectural merit”, but said he would like to see if a lighter colour could be used for the building’s cladding.
Council leader Cllr Gerry Clarkson said the Prince Albert had been a “derelict scar” in Ashford for too long and that the building was de-listed by Historic England in 2016 because it had little merit left as a historic site, as many features had been lost because of the fire or been damaged.
The controversial scheme - which also includes some ground-floor retail space - was approved by 12 votes to two, with a planning officer describing the project as "well designed and would result in a high quality development on a very small brownfield site".
The plans – which Cllr Heyes voted against – include 14 parking spaces for residents.
This week, the planning agent behind the 14 flats, Invent Architecture, did not respond to requests for comment.