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Sainsbury's could open shop at Scruffy Ducks site in Herne Bay

By Jack Dyson

Sainsbury’s is among those who will be approached to launch a convenience store on the site of the former Scruffy Ducks pub.

Plans to convert the town-centre plot, which is now a car park, into 20 flats – spread across two four-storey blocks – parking and retail units were granted by Canterbury City Council this month.

The authority’s decision has brought to a close 14 years of speculation surrounding the long-term future of the prominent site.

Plans to turn the site of the former Scruffy Ducks pub into flats and shops have been sent to Canterbury City Council. Picture: Paul Amos
Plans to turn the site of the former Scruffy Ducks pub into flats and shops have been sent to Canterbury City Council. Picture: Paul Amos

And developer Bhajan Singh already has his sights set on attracting a convenience store to move into the shop space.

“I don’t have anyone interested yet because we’ve just had the application accepted,” he said.

“We have put the feelers out to see who wants to take it and we will be approaching Sainsbury’s Local.

“I want it to either be a convenience or clothes store – but I don’t know if that would work with New Look already gone from the town.

“At the moment the plans are for four units, but that can be turned into two or one.”

Mr Singh added he will also consider any independent stores interested in the space.

He estimates the flats, which will be built above the stores, will have a starting price of about £250,000.

Plans for the Scruffy Duck site in William Street. Pic: Clague Architects (7707348)
Plans for the Scruffy Duck site in William Street. Pic: Clague Architects (7707348)

“They’ll be of a good quality,” he insisted.

“The most expensive will be the penthouses, which are bigger and will have a sea view, and they’ll be for £500,000.”

The developer hopes to begin construction work on the site within six months once a deal is struck with the council to relocate the car park in the next three months.

In December, the owner of the land, Mike Thompson, accused the council of dragging its heels over plans which had been submitted in April.

He also claimed the scheme would be under threat if the council did not approve the plans before his contract with Mr Singh came to an end in February.

However, Mr Thompson says he managed to strike a new deal with Mr Singh.

“Bhajan is working without a contract at the moment because I’ve agreed to keep working with him in good faith,” he said.

Developer Mike Thompson at the site. Picture: Paul Amos
Developer Mike Thompson at the site. Picture: Paul Amos

“I’m happy the application’s been granted, but it’s about time. It’s taken so long. The council said it’d be signed off in January and now it’s mid-March.

“This has cost Bhajan dearly. It’s not fair. I get bloody annoyed over this because you wouldn’t be able to act like this in business.”

The local authority previously blamed the delays on discrepancies over the amount of affordable housing proposed by the developer.

Responding to Mr Thompson’s criticisms, council spokesman Rob Davies said: “The planning process can, on some occasions, be a quite lengthy process, and in this case it was necessary to secure the best possible scheme and benefits for the town. We look forward to seeing the developer making a swift start on site.”

Scruffy Ducks developer Bhajan Singh
Scruffy Ducks developer Bhajan Singh

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.

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.

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