Published: 21:46, 05 November 2019
| Updated: 21:46, 05 November 2019
Cheers rang out in a council chamber as controversial proposals to turn a shopping centre into a huge tower block were unanimously scrapped.
Dozens of locals packed into Maidstone town hall to hear the borough's Strategic Planning and Infrastructure Committee discuss details of five so-called 'opportunity sites' in the town centre.
Among these were draft designs for a tower block - initially proposed as being 15 storeys high and comprising 281 flats - to replace the Broadway Shopping Centre, which is home to stores such as Lidl and Matalan.
The council had created the design to inform future planning applications from developers.
However, concerns over the proposed scheme have been substantial, and a petition signed by more than 5,400 people was presented to the committee meeting.
Fittingly on Guy Fawkes Night, there were fireworks as people voiced their opposition, with members of the public warned more than once by chairman Cllr David Burton to stop shouting out.
Campaigner Jill Ducker told the meeting: "Any building may see the loss of several businesses, most importantly Lidl, which is the only value supermarket on that side of the river.
"Hundreds of people were shocked that you even thought of getting rid of it - it's a lifeline to so many people."
Though council officers proposed reducing the tower block in size to ten storeys, with 230 flats, many councillors insisted this was still too high and not in keeping with the rest of the town centre.
Cllr Clive English told the meeting an officer had "point-blank refused to listen to members" in previous discussions, as Cllr Burton moved to remove the Broadway scheme, which was part of the 'Maidstone West' opportunity site, from the document altogether.
This was backed unanimously by the committee, to the sound of cheers and applause from those watching on.
Miss Ducker said after the meeting: "This is the voice of the people finally being heard."
More by this authorTom Pyman