Published: 12:36, 21 June 2022
| Updated: 12:38, 21 June 2022
A bid to transform an old woodyard is expected to give a town dubbed the smallest in the UK a much-needed jobs boost.
The plot in Moat Lane, Fordwich, near Canterbury, has been left to rack and ruin since 1st Choice Sheds and Fencing moved from the site three years ago.
But plans to redevelop the eyesore into 17 employment units – consisting of nine offices and eight light industrial buildings – were given the green light earlier this year.
And now a £1.5 million price tag has been slapped on the land by estate agency Caxtons, sparking hopes the scheme could begin imminently.
Ward councillor Louise Harvey-Quirke (Con) told KentOnline: “It’s vital to the growth of the town.
“The people of Fordwich wanted the land to be used for something beneficial, and I think something like this will bring jobs to the area.
“It’d be a shame to keep it as wasteland, when it could be so beneficial to the community.”
Caxtons describes the prospect of snapping up the project as a “rare and exciting opportunity”, as the buildings will be able to house firms ranging from “start-ups to small and medium enterprises”.
Papers submitted to Canterbury City Council say 1st Choice Sheds and Fencing had long been based on the site, but ceased trading in 2019 amid a downturn in trade after 27 years in operation.
The developers also claimed the promised influx of jobs will “enhance and maintain the vitality” of Fordwich, which has the smallest population of any community with a town council in the country, with 381 residents.
However, the proposals faced opposition from councillors concerned anyone journeying to the site by foot would face the “suicidal” task of walking up Moat Lane.
Wincheap’s Nick Eden-Green told the authority’s planning committee: “This is an awkward entrance to the site at the best of times – it’s on a hill and on a series of bends.
“There are no pavements and walking along that main road is suicidal – it’s narrow, twisting, on a hill and you can’t be seen.
“Because a site needs tidying up it doesn’t mean you build all over it – we need to put sites and jobs in appropriate places.”
Drawings show 49 parking spaces are earmarked for the plot, with developers expecting vehicles to journey to and from the site more than 60 times each day.
Before this scheme was drawn up, plans to build six detached homes on the site had been given the go-ahead by the local authority.
Speaking during the same meeting earlier this year, Labour councillor Alan Baldock said: “Although every part of me says this is bonkers, how can we allow six houses and not this?
“If we hadn’t allowed that we would never have been able to give this site any kind of permission.”
Despite these concerns, eight councillors threw their weight behind the planned development, while three voted for it to be refused.