Published: 12:01, 21 September 2018
Plans for an upmarket steakhouse on the site of a former social club could be scuppered by protected dormice and slow worms.
Bosses at the Mitchells and Butlers company, which runs Harvester and Toby Carvery restaurants across the country, want to build a Miller & Carter Steakhouse in Canterbury Road in Kennington, Ashford.
But protected species have been found on the former Houchin sports and social club site between the Holiday Inn hotel and M20, where developers want to build the restaurant.
Property developer Richard Gillam, who bought the scrubland four years ago and applied for planning permission in February, says it means the development may not happen.
“If I can’t find a suitable habitat to move them to, we can’t have planning permission,” he said.
“It would mean a £4m development falls out of bed because of some slow worms.
“It beggars belief they could give up 60 jobs for slow worms.
“It is just ridiculous that months on it is not decided.”
Mr Gillam, who lives in Shoreham-by-Sea, had explored various ideas for the site, including plans to build an international beach volleyball stadium.
If approved, the restaurant would feature a 66-space car park, a bar, and seating for 172 diners.
It would be open seven days a week between 8am and 12.30am, employing between 50 and 60 staff.
A new entrance would be installed off the A28 for drivers to access the restaurant.
Mr Gillam, 72, says he has been in talks with various businesses about taking over the free land between the proposed steakhouse and the Holiday Inn.
He had previously spoken to Starbucks about opening a drive-through coffee shop next to the steakhouse, but is now speaking to bosses at Greggs, who want to open a bakery on the spot.
Mr Gillam, who does not own the former social club playing field behind the site, added: “Until we have got the steakhouse over the line, I will wait on the other bits.
“We have been working in the background and doing other things, but until you can get planning, you can’t do anything.
“I just want to get it done and dusted.
“The mice and worms could be the cause of it falling apart.
“If they are not moved before the end of September, a decision on the development could be delayed until April next year because the wildlife will be hibernating.
“We were going to try to put them on the playing field behind, but we can’t.
“Then we did talk to the rugby club about having them, but they were not keen in the end because whoever takes them on has to sign a document not to develop the land in the future, so it sterilises the site.”
Mr Gillam - who previously had a development at another site halted because a bat colony was found - doubts he will be able to rehome the wildlife before the end of the month.
“It would mean a £4m development falls out of bed because of some slow worms" Richard Gillam
Dormice are a protected species in Britain and regarded by government as a conservation priority.
Slow worms are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.
To view the Miller & Carter Steakhouse plans, visit www.ashford.gov.uk and search for the 18/00161/AS application reference.