Published: 20:16, 18 March 2021
| Updated: 20:35, 18 March 2021
Plans to redevelop the former Aylesford Newsprint site have been approved.
Industrial developer Panattoni secured permission to use the 90-acre brownfield site for industrial, logistics, distribution and manufacturing uses, at a Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council planning meeting this evening.
Panattoni intends to spend £180m on the project on the site of the business which closed in 2015. Some 3,000 jobs will be created as a result.
The plans include two warehouses as well as smaller buildings. A raft of improvements to transport links in the local area, costing £12m, were also signed off, as part of the application.
These include the refurbishment of two railway stations, introducing a new bus service and improving footpaths and cycle routes.
It also plans to create a bike hire scheme at a nearby supermarket.
Speaking at the meeting Tony Watkins, development director for the company, said the site will be the company's "UK flagship development."
He said there were already enquiries for more than 70% of the site, including "world class businesses looking for development in the south east."
Several councillors spoke in support of the scheme.
Cllr Roger Roud said: "We locally have been waiting for this since the closure and the promise of local jobs and of course the inevitable income of business rates for the borough is great."
There was concern from members about the number of HGVs coming in and out of the site as well as increased congestion.
Cllr Trudy Dean asked whether it would be possible for a system to monitor the driving of HGVs. Pannetoni are understood to be considering a tracking system, a council officer said.
Cllr Robert Cannon called the scheme a "hugely exciting prospect," and said the development represented a "high quality regeneration of the site."
Kent County Council (KCC) said the scheme was acceptable in highways terms.
Proposals on improving transport in the area include a new £7 million public link road connecting Station Road and Bellingham Way.
Pannetoni is also funding a pedestrian crossing at Aylesford railway station and improvements to two existing public rights of way along the River Medway.
The new link road will reduce traffic using Junctions 4 and 5 of the M20 and travelling along Leybourne Way.
A weight limit will ensure all HGVs entering and leaving the proposed site will travel along Bellingham Way to Junction 4 via Leybourne Way, avoiding Aylesford village and surrounding roads.
Plans for a bus service, operating between New Hythe, Aylesford and Maidstone will be funded by the firm for five years.
They will include four new bus stops plus improved facilities at the Bricklayers Arms stop.