Published: 19:42, 01 May 2018
| Updated: 19:54, 01 May 2018
The redevelopment of one of Canterbury's prime sites with a multiplex cinema, shops, restaurants and almost 500 students flats has been given the green light tonight.
The scheme for the former council depot in Kingsmead was approved by nine votes to two by the council's planning committee.
It was originally anticipated to be leisure focused but now student flats and residential homes make up much of the Canterbury Riverside project.
As well as the student accommodation, there will be 173 private flats and 16 four-bed family homes.
But also agreed is a six-screen cinema complex with up to 900 seats, eight cafe/restaurant bars, four small shops and 221 parking spaces, as well as a further 189 spaces for the residential properties..
The scheme was approved by the city council's planning committee despite dozens of objections, including about the scale of the five -storey buildings and their impact on historic views and the ability of surrounding road network to cope with the extra traffic.
Numerous speakers raised concerns about the "ugly overbearing" design of the development and traffic and air quality issues.
Many said the city is already "saturated" with student accommodation and there was oversupply.
Clive Bowley, of the Canterbury Heritage Design Forum, called it "simply dreadful..like the nastier parts of Croydon".
But the scheme also encourages walking and cycling with new routes into the development.
It also includes a new riverside amenity area for picnics, exercise equipment and a canoe/kayak launch.
The developer is also paying £116,000 to enhance the Kingsmead Field and riverside path.
In recommending councillors grant permission, planning officers said the impact of the development on the heritage assets of the city is "less than significant" and was outweighed by the "substantial public benefits" the development will bring.
Speaking after the vote, council spokesman Rob Davies said: "Tonight's decision is the culmination of many years of hard work and we are delighted this exciting project for Canterbury has overcome this important hurdle.
"It is the city's last big regeneration site and this scheme will transform a tired, run-down corner of Canterbury into a vibrant leisure and residential hub.
"It's generally the case that at planning committee, the majority of public speakers are against what's proposed, but we know from previous consultations, public feedback and social media that there is a lot of support from local residents and we look forward to the project taking shape in the months ahead."