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The Brenchley and Bierkeller raise fears over housing plan for empty car showroom Len House, Mill Lane, Maidstone

Two town centre night spots are worried converting a huge car showroom in Maidstone into 159 apartments could spell trouble for their businesses.

A planning application has been submitted to Maidstone Borough Council concerning the redevelopment of Len House, known as the Rootes building, in Mill Lane, which used to home Robin and Day, the Peugeot dealers.

Plans have been submitted to turn Len House, a former Peugeot dealership, into housing, with some commercial use as well
Plans have been submitted to turn Len House, a former Peugeot dealership, into housing, with some commercial use as well

The scheme has prompted fears from nearby venues that future residents will complain about the noise, which could lead to business restrictions.

It is set to be debated at a planning committee meeting this evening.

Len House (Maidstone) Ltd, a subsidiary of the Classicus Estates, wants to retain the large windows and high interior spaces of the existing building, built in the 1930s, with a commercial use, such as a restaurant, on the ground floor.

The company also wants to add a two-storey extension on the roof of the building, taking it to five storeys in all.

The firm plans to erect three new buildings on the current car park behind Len House, with one made to look like an "extension" of former showroom.

A schematic of the proposals for Len House: the blue building is the existing Len house (with a story-story extension on the roof), the pink building is the 'extension', and the green buildings are also proposed
A schematic of the proposals for Len House: the blue building is the existing Len house (with a story-story extension on the roof), the pink building is the 'extension', and the green buildings are also proposed

There could also be a u-shaped block, with 50 units and another three storey block to house six units.

Parking for customers using commercial units would be in front of the Len House 'extension' with 24 spaces.

There will also be car parking for residents and a garden square.

The apartments would be a mixture of one, two and three bedroom flats.

Council officers have recommended that members approve the scheme, arguing it involves the redevelopment of under-utilised land within a prominent town centre location.

An artist's impression of how Len House could look after redevelopment
An artist's impression of how Len House could look after redevelopment

The building was among five sites in the town identified as an 'opportunity site' by the council in September.

A report by officers prepared for the planning committee, says: "This is considered to be a highly sustainable town centre location and, subject to detailed tests, an appropriate location for mixed-use development.

"The proposed refurbishment works to the listed building are sensitive to its history and fabric and the proposed alterations and new build elements are of a high quality."

Jack Wilson, the owner of The Brenchley pub on High Street, said the beer garden would only be metres away from some of the proposed homes.

In a letter, he wrote: "We have deep concerns that without sufficiently sound proofed accommodation we will receive complaints from the residents of these dwellings, which we fear could have an impact on our ability trade within the confines of our approved license."

Len House in years gone by
Len House in years gone by

Agents acting for the Stonegate Pub Company, which owns the Bierkeller in Bank Street, raised similar concerns. Its property at the rear extends down to Len House.

Residential development was inappropriate in what was essentially a comercial part of town, the company argued.

Banks Bar & Nightclub, in Bank Street, echoed worries about the redevelopment's impact.

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