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Progress on five opportunity sites Maidstone town centre

The outcome looks mixed for plans to develop five ‘opportunity sites’ in Maidstone town centre.

Last September, planning guidelines outlined potential for key sites with more than 1,000 homes being a central aim.

Artist impression of what Len House in Maidstone could look like after £30m renovations
Artist impression of what Len House in Maidstone could look like after £30m renovations

These included Len House and Granada House along with Mote Road car park, Maidstone West and Broadway Shopping Centre, and Maidstone Riverside.

Transformation of Len House, the former Rootes Garage, was last month confirmed - with a mix of 159 apartments, public and commercial space.

Maidstone council’s head of regeneration and economic development says this is only the first part of a long-term vision.

John Foster said: “We always said this was going to be a phased change, it’s not all going to happen at the same time. Len House is likely to be the first, Granada House is likely to be the second, I would think Mote Road is likely to come forward after that and Maidstone Riverside may come forward in parts.”

One scheme dropped after considerable objection was Broadway Shopping Centre.

Broadway Shopping Centre
Broadway Shopping Centre

Planning guidance to enable a 15-storey tower block housing more than 280 flats was rejected.

Members of the strategic planning and infrastructure committee dismissed the scheme expressing concerns about traffic congestion and under-pressure services last November.

However guidelines for the area around Maidstone West could still be adopted, including the redevelopment of Barker Road if B&Q ever moved out.

Among development ideas are:

  • A new bingo hall and 70 homes at Granada House
Buzz Bingo, formerly Gala bingo, at the former Granada cinema in Lower Stone Street
Buzz Bingo, formerly Gala bingo, at the former Granada cinema in Lower Stone Street
  • Offices and 80 homes within a 13-storey tower block at Mote Road car park
  • Up to 650 homes along Maidstone Riverside - though this is a much longer-term plan

On the latter, Mr Foster explained: “This is a site where people are employed, they’re working in retail at the moment. There’s Wickes, Asda Living and TK Maxx in St Peters Retail Wharf and that’s all included in the Maidstone Riverside.

“The council isn’t trying to push these people out, we’re not trying to encourage these occupiers to disappear out of town, it’s about identifying the potential should they do so.

“It’s about making sure the owners of the properties along the riverside are aware of planning guidance and what might be achievable should they wish to change use but we are not pressing them. If they wish to continue as retail then that’s exactly what they can do.

“If Maidstone Riverside does come forward, it will be in phases. A number of those retail units are all on different leases. Some expire in the short term and some go on to 2035 so it’s not likely it will come forward for redevelopment any time soon.”

Discussions on Mote Road car park and Granada House are ongoing. Mr Foster hopes plans for both will come forward within a year.

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