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Costa Coffee drive-thru near M&S in Maidstone delayed

Coffee lovers will have to wait a little longer before they can call in at a new drive-thru.

Gallagher Properties Limited submitted plans for a Costa at the Eclipse Park estate, near M&S in Maidstone.

How the new drive-thru might look
How the new drive-thru might look

But although the application was recommended for approval by Maidstone council officers, planning committee members were unhappy and on Thursday they deferred a decision to seek improved conditions.

The proposed drive-thru would be just 65m away from a residential care home and also close to new housing.

There were concerns over it being a “bad neighbour” with noise, pollution and litter, although officers said the shop would be allowed to serve customers only between 6am and 10pm.

Cllr Tony Harwood (Lib Dem) said: “When the idea of allocating Eclipse Park, which is in the setting of an AONB, for development was first sold to members, it was with the promise that it would be for high-tech and high-value employment opportunities - I don’t think a coffee shop counts as that.”

But chief planner Rob Jarman pointed out the council had softened its policy on Eclipse Park in its recently upgraded Local Plan to allow almost any type of development there.

Cllr Harwood alleged the drive-thru would result in “a pool of pollution from idling engines” and the noise would disturb care home residents.

Planning committee members went against the advice of their officers and decided to defer the application
Planning committee members went against the advice of their officers and decided to defer the application

He added: “It is also absolutely inevitable that we are going to get a huge littering problem.”

Planning officers were suggesting imposing a condition that required the new business to monitor and collect litter from Sittingbourne Road, from its junction with the Chiltern Hundreds roundabout to its junction with the A249; and on the A249 from its junction with the Chiltern Hundreds to its junction with Bearsted Road/M20 slip road roundabout.

But Cllr Patrik Garten (Con) said: “This site is so close to the motorway, it is going to become an unofficial motorway service station.”

He said the resulting litter would be spread far and wide.

Cllr Harwood suggested a condition to require the coffee shop to stamp cups with the registration of the purchasing vehicles using ANPR technology, so the council’s enforcement team could identify litter-droppers.

A Costa drive-thru is proposed for the Eclipse Park
A Costa drive-thru is proposed for the Eclipse Park

Cllr Garten agreed, saying: “That’s the best idea I’ve heard in a long time.”

Again, Mr Jarman warned councillors they could not do that. Conditions had to be “reasonable” or they would not be upheld at appeal.

He pointed out that the council had no policy regarding littering in its new Local Plan. He said: “If you wanted one, you should have included it. You’ve missed your chance.”

Nevertheless, the decision was deferred for further discussions with the applicant about littering, about biodiversity improvements and about lighting levels.

Details of the plan can be found on the council’s website under application number 23/503788.

To see more planning applications and other public notices for your area, visit the public notice portal.

There are already two coffee shops nearby, one in the M&S and a Costa in the Next.

Afterwards, at Cllr Garten’s suggestion, the committee voted to ask the planning cabinet member, Cllr Paul Cooper, to develop a new planning policy to control litter.

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