Published: 06:00, 20 February 2021
A bid to transform a former children's play area into a warehouse and health clinic has been given the green light.
London-based developer Prash Patel revealed proposals to convert Playzone's former base in Eddington Lane, Herne Bay, into the units in November - six months after the centre closed for good.
And this month, Canterbury City Council planners sanctioned the project, believing it will improve Eddington Business Park.
Their report reads: "The proposed development would return the unit into business use with internal alterations that would increase the floor space.
"The proposal would result in almost 1,800 m sq of business floor space, and thus would enhance the offer of the existing business park.
"The proposal also sees a portion of the building used as a health clinic. This would be 266 m sq and located to the front of the building, at ground and first-floor level.
"Given the benefits of the scheme in returning the majority of the unit to business use, officers have no objections to the limited amount of floor space being used as a health clinic."
The plans show that Mr Patel, who runs Harrow firm Avana Ltd, wants to turn the majority of the building into a storage or distribution centre.
Before Playzone moved into the premises, the building had been home to the town’s sorting office until 2012, when the operation moved to Canterbury.
The council officers' report continues: "Neighbouring occupiers adjoining the site were notified in writing and a site notice was posted, to which no letters were received.
"Given the commercial uses characterising the site, together with the nature of the proposed use and a small floorspace of health clinic, the proposed development would not harmfully affect the viability and vibrancy of town centres."
The soft play centre had been put on the market for £650,000 towards the end of 2019.
“The owners were just as upset as we were when they told us it was going to shut. It was sad."
Advertising material revealed that Playzone generated an income of about £45,000 a year before the pandemic.
Its demise leaves The Hippodrome in King’s Road as the town’s last-remaining children’s centre and one of the few still operating in Kent.
A former Playzone employee said: “The owners were just as upset as we were when they told us it was going to shut. It was sad.
“It will leave a massive hole for parents and children. The children who came regularly had autism and disabilities, and it just became part of their day-to-day routines.
“It was a place where kids would spend quality time with their parents. It was a day out for them.”
The staff member, who worked at the site for three years, says Playzone’s closure resulted in the loss of eight jobs.
The business was at the centre of controversy almost two years ago, after police were called to the building when some bags of suspected drugs were discovered by two young children.
Mystery surrounds cryptic messages on Playzone's Facebook page and website that simply say "coming soon".
KentOnline's sister title, the Kentish Gazette, made efforts to contact the owners, but received no response.