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Maidstone: Waitrose pulls out of Eclipse Park at J7 of the M20

By David Gazet

Plans to build a new Waitrose, the biggest in Kent, have been scrapped.

The luxury supermarket chain was due to join the likes of Next and Hilton at Eclipse Park in Maidstone, near junction 7 of the M20.

However, the company has decided not go ahead with the £14m scheme and instead concentrate on building up business at existing stores.

Images of Waitrose which is planned for Eclipse Park
Images of Waitrose which is planned for Eclipse Park

The supermarket was due to occupy the site of the former 550-space Sittingbourne Road Park and Ride, which closed in February 2016. Planning permission was granted in November.

It would have created more than 200 jobs at the retail park, which is owned by Gallagher Properties. The plans were for a one-storey supermarket and 300-bay car park and an opening date of Spring 2018 had been given.

It is believed the decision was made after Waitrose decided to change its business strategy in response to tougher conditions in the market.

In an interview with Property Week earlier this month Nigel Keen, Waitrose's property director said: "We made a very positive decision not to build new stores and invest in our existing estate.

"That will start to play at the end of this year and into next year when consumers see the investment we made and respond accordingly."

The Sittingbourne Road Park and Ride site which closed in February 2016 and was to have housed the new Waitrose.
The Sittingbourne Road Park and Ride site which closed in February 2016 and was to have housed the new Waitrose.

Ian Chittenden, Lib Dem Kent County councillor for Maidstone north east ward, said: “The cancellation of Waitrose is a great pity. The proposal to build it on Eclipse Park led to the closure of the Sittingbourne Park and Ride site.

“The majority of larger applications locally normally raise many objections over concern over traffic, congestion and air quality. However, the Waitrose application, which would have created more than 200 jobs, was extremely popular and well-supported by local councillors and especially by residents who will be very disappointed.”

The Waitrose at Castle Road, Allington is in no danger of closure, he added as it has 20 years remaining on its lease.

Nick Yandle, chief executive at the Aylesford-based Gallagher Group, said the company received notification of the change several weeks ago. He said: "We can see that the retail sector is changing very fast and different companies are dealing with it in different ways.

"It is not the biggest surprise for us and we have had four different enquiries from different retail companies in the last month about the site."

A Waitrose spokesman said: "Waitrose has recently reviewed all their development opportunities and it is with disappointment that we are unable to proceed with the site at Eclipse Park."

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