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Herne Bay development on Scruffy Ducks site 'under threat'

The owner of the former Scruffy Ducks pub has branded Canterbury City Council incompetent for dragging its heels over plans to convert the site into 20 flats.

The proposals to develop the William Street site, which is now a car park, were submitted to the local authority in April.

It had been hoped that, if accepted, it would bring to a close 14 years of speculation surrounding the long-term future of the prominent plot.

Plans for the Scruffy Duck site in William Street. Pic: Clague Architects (6065629)
Plans for the Scruffy Duck site in William Street. Pic: Clague Architects (6065629)

But the council is yet to decide whether to grant planning permission for the development, despite listing the application as “awaiting decision” for several months.

The owner of the land, Mike Thompson, says the scheme is now under threat as his contract with the developer, Bhajan Singh, is set to come to an end on February 21.

“If it’s not dealt with by January, he won’t be able to get it through on time,” he said. “But the council is sitting on the application without actually making a decision.

“Bhajan has spent between £60,000 and £100,000. He has been dealt an appalling blow by this useless council.

“The whole development is under threat because of the incompetence of the council.”

However, the local authority says the delays have been caused by discrepancies over the amount of affordable housing proposed by the developer.

Council spokesman Rob Davies said: “We’ve been in discussions with the developer of the site regarding its affordable housing contribution, which has taken some time to resolve.

“This has now been sorted and we are in the process of finalising the Section 106 legal agreement.

Mike Thompson
Mike Thompson

“A final decision on the application is expected in January.”

The developer proposes to build two four-storey blocks of flats – one facing the seafront – with parking and space for four shops in William Street.

Mr Singh expected the majority of the 20 two-bedroom flats to be put up for sale for prices ranging from £250,000 to £300,000.

He also previously said he would prefer to have a big-name brand move into the retail space.

“Bhajan’s done a hell of a lot of work, along with me and the architects,” Mr Thompson added, “and the council sits there laughing at you.

“This is happening when the government’s crying out for housing.”

Mr Singh owns the portion of the land to the rear of the site, while Mr Thompson, who was the Scruffy Ducks’ publican, owns the other half bordering William Street.

Mr Singh submitted an application to the council to convert his part of the site into five one-bed and nine two-bed flats last year, but withdrew it after planning officers requested the entire car park be developed.

A view of the site in William Street. Pic: Clague Architects (6065626)
A view of the site in William Street. Pic: Clague Architects (6065626)

The site has had a turbulent history. Mr Thompson bought the freehold to the pub in 1991, changing its name to Scruffy Ducks.

It closed in June 2004 and soon after became a magnet for squatters and vandals.

The pub was demolished in February 2008 following a fire that destroyed its roof and made the derelict building unsafe.

In 2008, Mr Thompson won planning permission to build a new pub, basement wine bar and 14 flats on the site.

“The council dithered so much deciding it and then the financial crash happened, which meant that the eight banks that were desperate to lend me the money for it all pulled out,” he said.

“It’s been waiting to be developed since 2004. We’re 14 years down the line and we’re still waiting for a decision on this last application – it’s disgusting.

“I wouldn’t dream of dealing in the district again. You talk to any of the developers round here and they just hit brick walls with the council every time.”

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