Published: 06:00, 03 July 2020
A huge distribution centre could be built on a growing industrial estate – but bosses are keeping the operator’s name close to their chests.
GSE Commercial Estates has submitted plans to Ashford Borough Council (ABC) for a giant warehouse on Waterbrook Park off the A2070 Bad Munstereifel Road.
If approved, the two-storey building would go on an 18.5-acre spot close to the estate’s entrance, opposite the new Barretts car dealership.
In the application, it says an “end user has been identified for the facility and the proposals have, therefore, been designed to meet their operating requirements and business model”.
But bosses are yet to reveal the name of the operator, sparking speculation Amazon could take on the site.
The distribution giant has long been linked with Ashford after a leaked ABC document in 2014 seemed to confirm it was coming to the town.
Information found in confidential papers at the time suggested ABC had included the Amazon warehouse as part of its long-term revenue projections.
It was thought to be going on the yet-to-be-built Stour Park estate next to Junction 10a, which was rebranded as MOJO last year.
In the document, Amazon’s name sat alongside other developments in the town such as John Lewis, the Designer Outlet expansion, the Commercial Quarter and Elwick Place – all of which have since been built.
ABC later said the addition of Amazon on the document, which was viewed by councillors at an overview and scrutiny task group meeting, was a mistake.
This week, the major online retailer told KentOnline it does not comment on rumour or speculation, while an ABC spokesman said “there’s nothing to say at this stage”.
Amazon has seen a spike in demand for services during the Covid-19 pandemic as all but essential retail was closed down for three months.
Cllr Paul Bartlett (Con) – ABC’s deputy leader – lives close to the Waterbrook site in Sevington and says he has an “inkling” the e-commerce Goliath could take on the warehouse, which is set to provide 10,977 sq m of floorspace.
“You can see the benefits of them moving there because of its strong transport links,” he said.
“They did express an interest in the nearby MOJO site before, but then there is a big risk that you are putting two and two together and getting five.”
Rick Martin, chairman of Sevington with Finberry Parish Council, raised concerns over the development’s impact on traffic.
Bosses are proposing 148 parking spaces on the site, as well as room for 12 HGVs to enter, turn and park on the land.
There will also be overnight van storage areas in the development, which was given outline permission by ABC last year but developers are now hoping their detailed ‘reserved matters’ application will get the nod.
Six access points are proposed to the site, all of which will be via Arrowhead Road or Clover Road.
Sharing his concerns over congestion, Mr Martin said: “Whoever takes on the distribution centre should it be green-lit, it will undoubtedly bring with it a significant increase in round-the-clock traffic, along with light and noise pollution.
“The new Junction 10a was designed to alleviate existing traffic issues, not additional traffic.
“Should the distribution centre get the go-ahead it will be important that the long-mooted plans to improve the Orbital Park ‘McDonald’s’ Roundabout, including allowing traffic from the expanding Finberry estate to turn right, are prioritised by Kent County Council.
“This will need a joined-up approach from all stakeholders, especially as 400 houses are planned for Waterbrook and there are other developments in the town which will undoubtedly impact traffic on the A2070 – for example the proposed media studios in nearby Newtown.
“We will be watching the progress of the planning applications with interest.”
In a statement submitted with the planning application, SMR Architects says the proposal “fulfils all necessary criteria in creating a viable distribution centre”.
It says: “The proposal aims to develop the site as a 'last mile' distribution facility within the wider business park, providing employment space while contributing to the realisation of the long-standing aspirations for the wider site.
"The scheme will provide a brand-new facility and use, reflecting the desired context of the area.”
To view the application, search for reference number 20/00591/AS on ABC’s planning portal at www.ashford.gov.uk
More by this authorDan Wright
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