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Work on The Range at Drovers Retail Park in Ashford delayed

By Dan Wright

The start of construction for a new retail park featuring The Range has been delayed until the autumn.

Ashford Borough Council gave the go-ahead last year for eight large shops, including a Costa Coffee drive-thru and vets, to be built next to John Lewis at Home.

Work on the scheme - dubbed the Drovers Retail Park - was scheduled to begin in the summer but that has now been pushed back.

Construction work on the retail park next to John Lewis at Home is due to start later this year
Construction work on the retail park next to John Lewis at Home is due to start later this year

Barry Henderson, from developer Castle City Estates, had previously said the site would open next summer, but he now says it is due to open “towards the end of 2020”, with construction starting in late autumn this year.

Developers lodged a series of amendments with the council and are still finalising a section 106 agreement which has delayed the start of construction.

Section 106 agreements are arrangements made between local authorities and developers that can be attached to any planning permission to offset the impact of a development.

In the Drovers Retail Park scheme, it is set to include developers providing £150,000 for town centre improvements, but the agreement is yet to be signed off.

A map of the site
A map of the site

As well as the section 106 arrangement, Mr Henderson says he is also finalising conditions attached to the development, which are put in to mitigate the adverse effects of a scheme.

“It is about agreeing the nitty-gritty wording of the conditions,” he said.

“There were some minor changes and it has taken longer than we would have wanted to agree them.

“It is something we are used to - it is about fleshing them out and making sure both sides are happy.”

"It is about agreeing the nitty-gritty wording of the conditions..." Barry Henderson

Developers had submitted plans for the country’s first purpose-built Bunnings store last March, but replaced the Australian firm with The Range when Bunnings bosses pulled out of the UK market.

The scheme - which was given the green light in December - has been described as a ‘homewares hub’, with chains including Oak Furniture Land and ScS mooted as possible tenants.

Planning conditions mean all of the shops will be within the bulky goods sector, with fashion or jewellery shops not able to move in.

Mr Henderson said: “Potential occupiers really want the certainty of planning consent [before signing up].

Where The Range will go (8663943)
Where The Range will go (8663943)

“It won’t be until the end of May-ish when we can comfortably say we have planning consent 100%.

“This project is on a great site in a great location and it should be very successful once it is open.”

A council spokesman says the authority’s legal team is in talks with the applicant’s lawyers.

She said: “Since the planning application was granted the applicant’s agent approached the council with several proposed amendments.

The Range store in Ashford is expected to open in 2020
The Range store in Ashford is expected to open in 2020

“An amendment to the unit which is to house The Range was agreed under officers’ delegated powers, however the agent’s other proposals were considered as major changes and they therefore would require a separate application.

“Based on the current, agreed application, the council has negotiated and agreed a comprehensive set of planning conditions for the scheme, in order to ensure a high-quality development and we look forward to The Range opening in Ashford in due course.

“All that now remains finalising is the section 106 agreement, which our legal team are currently discussing with the applicant’s lawyers.”

Read more: All the latest news from Ashford

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