Published: 15:07, 11 October 2017
Maidstone is to get a new Marks & Spencer superstore.
It will be at Eclipse Park and substitute for the planned Waitrose store there after the grocer pulled out.
The two-storey building will have 60,000 sq ft of sales space, and be one of just 10 new “inspiration” stores that the company is planning across the country.
It will sell homeware, clothes, have a food store and be supported by 300 car parking spaces.
It is expected to create 200 full-time equivalent jobs and the project represents an investment of £25m.
Nick Yandle, managing director of Gallaghers Ltd, which owns the site, said: “This is tremendous news for Maidstone, especially after Waitrose dropped out, which was a big disappointment to everyone.”
Marks & Spencer is also planning to upgrade its men’s store in Week Street, but it is likely that the women’s branch a few doors away will close when the company’s lease on the building runs out in 2022.
The 40 staff who work there will be offered a place at either the improved Week Street branch or the new superstore.
The company has already entered into pre-application discussions with Maidstone council and expects to submit a full planning application by Christmas.
The timetable would see construction begin in autumn next year, with the new store opening in autumn 2019.
Mr Yandle said: “The town would lose 10,000 sq ft of retail space from Week Street, but gain 60,000 sq ft at Eclipse Park.
“Marks and Spencer has chosen Maidstone over other towns in Kent, which is very exciting for Maidstone.”
The new building will be on the same footprint as the previously proposed Waitrose store which had already gained full planning permission in May of this year.
Cllr Dave Naghi (Lib Dem) who represents East Ward which contains Eclipse Park said: “This is wonderful news for Maidstone.”