Published: 19:29, 03 May 2021
| Updated: 19:30, 03 May 2021
The derelict site of a former Catholic chaplaincy gutted by a massive fire seven years ago is set to go under the hammer.
Auctioneer Clive Emson has slapped a £750,000 guide price on the plot of the now-demolished St John Stone Chapel in Canterbury before bidding begins next month.
The building was home to the University of Kent’s chaplains until the blaze destroyed the premises in St Thomas Hill in 2014.
A project to demolish the fire-damaged structure to make way for a similarly sized chaplaincy was abandoned mid-construction in 2017 when the building contractor encountered financial difficulties.
Since then, the Archdioceses of Southwark sold the site to Burgate firm Greenlight Ltd – and the partially constructed replacement has remained on the plot, untouched.
Clive Emson describes the site as a “rare” opportunity for potential developers.
“Situated on Whitstable Road in an area known as St Thomas Hill, this property occupies a prominent site of approximately 0.2 acres,” an advert on the auctioneer’s website reads.
“The site is offered with planning permission for eight two-bedroom flats.”
Greenlight was given the go-ahead by Canterbury City Council in 2019 to flatten the half-built structure and replace it with a three-storey apartment block.
The firm said at the time that its project - permission for which has not yet expired - would represent a “long overdue improvement” and create “high-quality” homes.
Planning papers submitted to the local authority noted: “Following the fire, it was established that the building remains could not be economically restored and the site owner, the Catholic Archdioceses of Southwark, sought a replacement building of a similar scale and footprint.
“This scheme included a family residence for the chaplain, along with a chapel, a meeting room and six bedrooms intended to serve visiting students.
“The construction of that building commenced, but it is understood the building contractor experienced financial difficulties.
“This meant the work was suddenly stopped in 2017, when the project was approximately 60% complete. The Archdiocese decided to abandon their stalled project.
“Since then, the partially built timber-framed structure has been a curious feature on Whitstable Road.”
Kent Fire and Rescue investigators concluded the blaze started accidentally in a first-floor kitchen, but were unable to establish its exact cause.
They were called to the scene after police on patrol nearby had initially raised the alarm and led two women to safety.
Bidding for the plot will start on May 5.