The long-running saga over the future of a plot of farmland next to Aldi has taken a new turn after the owners put it up for sale.
Countryside campaigners fear homes could eventually be built on the Faversham site, which is currently earmarked for offices, but the real estate agent has sought to address these concerns, saying that intention remains.
The 7.5-acre plot off the M2 and A251 is allocated for employment use in Swale Borough Council’s (SBC) Local Plan - its building blueprint - and planning permission was granted in 2019.
However, the land management company for the owners has previously admitted no firms have pitched viable proposals to construct offices.
Following the latest development, campaigners at Faversham Farms, Field and Fresh Air are worried the site could be snapped up for more homes, arguing it should be preserved as a green space.
Group member Carol Goatham says: “Haven’t we got enough new houses in Faversham already?
“Mostly the wrong sort, as we know, when what we need is social housing for rent for local people on Swale’s waiting list.
“As one of our members suggests, we need a philanthropist to come forward to buy it to restore nature or grow crops.”
The land up for sale neighbours the 310-home Perry Court estate, which already has a supermarket, care home and a Premier Inn as part of the development.
BNP Paribas Real Estate Advisory & Property Management, which is marketing the plot, insists the land will not be sold “unconditionally” and finding a buyer to continue its designation for employment remains the aim.
Firm partner partner Gavin Redrupp says: “It’s complex, but we are still working to try and make it work for its original designation.
“We have had several approaches, but for a variety of reasons they have not been viable.”
Lengthy discussions with one firm looking to build 12,000 sq ft of office space on the site were put on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic and eventually fell through.
In 2022, a public consultation was launched by Hallam Land Management asking people what other “beneficial use” the land could be put to, with suggestions including a restaurant, a garage and a day nursery.
In a leaflet put through people’s doors, the company said: “Hallam has not been able to secure a developer or occupier to build the offices which the planning permission would have allowed. This part of the overall site remains undeveloped, with little prospect that it will be developed for those uses.
“Hallam are therefore considering how the Perry Court development can be completed.”
BNP Paribas Real Estate Advisory & Property Management UK describes the site as “a prime development opportunity with allocation for employment uses”.
It is inviting bids for the plot through an informal tendering process with a deadline of May 4.
SBC previously said the owners would have to demonstrate that all efforts had been made to attract employment uses before housing could be considered.
A spokesman said: “Perry Court was allocated for a mixed-use residential/employment site in the adopted local plan in 2017 and the planning application was approved in accordance with this in 2019.
“If the developer was looking to alter the allocation they would need to provide evidence to demonstrate that they have appropriately marketed the site for employment use without success and provide accompanying viability evidence.”