Published: 09:50, 21 August 2019
| Updated: 12:02, 21 August 2019
Plans to expand a retail park are moving forward — six months after they were first announced.
The owners of South Aylesford Retail Park have submitted a planning application to Tonbridge and Malling council.
The Crown Estate said it wanted to ‘improve its customer offer’ as well as accessibility to the retail park off London Road.
A key part of the scheme is an offer to give land to Kent County Council so that its highways department can replace the traffic lights at the crossroads with London Road and Hall Road with a large roundabout.
The project also involves creating a new access route from Lake Road.
Although the applicants admit the current junction is often already at capacity, they say the new arrangements will actually ease congestion, despite the expected increase in traffic visiting the proposed new shops.
The Crown Estate wants to create three new units to the south-west adjoining Smyths Toys, each similar in size to the existing Carpetright store, and add a parking area beyond them. The area currently contains a large drainage pond and small wood, and the proposal is to put the car park on a decked level above the pond, which will involve driving piles into the water.
Surveys produced indicate no protected species live there, but that is disputed by neighbours.
Suzanne Handy, who lives behind the development in Holt Wood Avenue, said: "We often have newts and moorhens in our garden from the pond. A neighbour has been visited by a badger and there are bats over the pond all the time."
The application also proposes the creation of a “pod” building to house two small food outlets, such as a cafe and sandwich shop, on land next to Harveys and the London Road.
The second floor of the pod would have space set aside for "community use", though it is unspecified what that might be.
A total of 142 extra car parking spaces will be created and The Crown Estate believes the new units will create around 75 extra jobs, to add to the 317 people already employed at the estate.
The nature of the park has been gradually changing over the years. When first established in 1989, it was all retail units, but today it already houses a Nando's restaurant and Costa Coffee outlet.
Emma Snipp, asset manager at The Crown Estate, said: “We are looking to improve South Aylesford Retail Park in terms of the offer that it provides to visitors.
“Our plans will look to provide our customers with an enhanced retail offer and more parking spaces, it will also provide a number of important benefits for the local area, including creating new jobs."
To view and comment on the application click here.