Published: 12:59, 27 November 2020
| Updated: 14:03, 27 November 2020
By Sean Delaney and Katie May Nelson
A car bootfair boss hopes to build on the success of outdoor events this summer and has submitted a planning bid to expand into open air cinemas and weddings.
The relaunched Rainham Bootfair opened for trade in South Bush Lane in July with social distance measures in place for hundreds of visitors.
“In the first year it has been extremely successful,” says site manager Declan Jewell, who is now eyeing up expansion into further year-round Covid-19 secure events.
It comes on the strength of a three week “Nightflix” drive-in cinema stint held on site in September, set to return next month due to popular demand.
A planning bid has been submitted to Medway Council for a “change of use from agricultural land to a mixed use of agriculture and leisure activities”.
This will include an extended 20 week car boot sale season and 331 days available for drive-in cinemas, open air theatre productions, wedding receptions, motoring shows and other open air activities.
Use of the 17 acre field is currently available under temporary permitted development rights, introduced by the government in June to support small enterprises such as pop-up car boot sales and outdoor markets.
But bootfair boss Declan Jewell, from Rainham, wants to extend its tenure with an expanded offering capable of attracting anywhere between 1000 and 3000 visitors.
The 30-year-old site manager said: “The reason behind the expansion is we wanted to build on the successful start from this year.
“Each event that has been held on the site has been successful and regular positive feedback is received through various channels. They all wish to return next year for a longer period of time.”
To assist with the smooth operation of the bootfairs and to maintain its “countryside character” there are 7 marshalls on site each week.
All litter is picked and removed and the portaloo toilets are emptied and cleaned each week at the rural location which is currently used for hay farming and will be reserved for these purposes during Spring downtime.
Mr Jewell is also seeking a premises licence to allow the site in South Bush Lane to host events and sell alcohol.
The fresh plans were considered during a virtual meeting of Medway Council's Licencing Panel on Tuesday.
But concerns were raised by some residents and local councillors over the perceived “intensification” of the site and ill-equipped road access.
The council's environmental health department and Hartlip Residents' Action Group both objected to the plans over concerns events would create noise and light pollution and the volume of traffic from events could create access issues.
Comments have also been made to the separate planning bid by MPs Rehman Chisti and Gordon Henderson.
Mr Henderson raised concerns about the single track lane entry to the field and anti-social behaviour.
Cllr Howard Doe, Medway Council’s deputy leader and portfolio holder for housing and community services, has also outlined his objections on the council planning portal.
In his submission the Rainham South Cllr said: “The local residents are already greatly inconvenienced and if this is to be happening much more regularly and potentially after dark, it will completely change the character of what is a pleasant rural location and ruin their quality of life.”
Mr Jewell responded to say he was not aware of any reported major incidents of traffic congestion linked to the site but would continue to monitor this and encourages feedback from residents.
He says he has been supported by atleast two Medway councillors who commented on its safe organisation and the benefits it had brought to the area.
“I’m not one to hide away – I have read the rejections that were made,” he said.
“Yes I want to produce a site everyone can enjoy but we have to take into consideration the local area. Hopefully there can be some mitigation there to address these concerns.”
Mr Jewell went on to add: “I believe some of the benefits of using the site are being overlooked.”
'I believe some of the benefits of using the site are being overlooked...'
The bootfair boss says he wants to work with local people to put on events everyone can enjoy, adding he felt after a year of Covid-19 a return of “some enjoyment to people’s lives” was much need, as well as a boost to the local economy and jobs.
“Looking to the future we do need places in the countryside where people can enjoy,” he said.
“My site is a nice open site. Yes there are restrictions but I think we need to look at the bigger picture.”
The car boot sale replaces the popular Westmoor Farm Bootfair which is no longer going ahead due to the new secondary school being built on the site, set to open in September 2021.
The planning application can be viewed on the Medway Council planning portal by searching MC/20/2358. The deadline for comments is today.