Published: 11:34, 30 October 2020
| Updated: 11:40, 30 October 2020
Plans to build a £25m car showroom on land earmarked for a long-awaited park and ride scheme in Tunbridge Wells have been rejected.
The Hendy Group 'motor village' that would have created 50 new jobs was set to repurpose a patch of scrubland opposite Tesco car park in Cornford Road, Pembury .
But at a meeting of the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC) planning committee on Wednesday councillors felt the dealership was not suitable for this location and refused it after questioning its sustainability and need in the town.
The land was previously allocated under the 2016 local plan for a 320 space park and ride, an idea councillors and campaigners against the dealership seemed to favour.
They felt the service would be more beneficial in reducing congestion and improving transport links into town which is already gridlocked at peak times.
Despite previously receiving approval in 2012, a park and ride was never implemented.
A spokesperson for TWBC explained it wasn't able to go ahead after a study looked into feasibility.
They added: "The report concluded that although potential park and ride sites in the town have been shown to be technically and operationally viable, none are financially feasible.
"The report also illustrates that the benefits to park and ride users in terms of improved journey times are limited."
While it was never seen through, ward councillors David Reilly and Paul Barrington-King stressed the fact the current adopted policy is still in force and voting for the dealership would compromise the council's ability to carry out its local plan.
The motor village would have seen all of Hendy's existing dealerships across West Kent move to the new location while creating 50 new jobs, and maintaining 130 more.
The move would have freed up the company’s current Mount Ephraim site which has been identified for housing.
The almost three hectare site would have seen a £25m investment with seven showrooms, a service centre, and a repair shop all in one place.
The unpopular application submitted in April 2019 received more than 800 objections from concerned residents who feared the dealership would only add to the already dire situation on Pembury's roads.
They said the already congested A264 and the A21 dual carriageway nearby could not cope with the added traffic the site would bring.
Despite concerns, planning officers said an extensive and robust analysis of the road network was carried out and no objections were put forward by KCC Highways or Highways England.
The concerns heard at the meeting led to Sherwood's labour councillor Hugo Pound putting forward the motion to refuse permission which was voted through with eight votes for, two against, and one abstention.
Responding to the decision, Paul Hendy, Managing Director of Hendy Group, said he is 'confident' he would win an appeal and the company is now reviewing its options.
He added: "We are disappointed that the Planning Committee has failed to listen to the recommendation of its planning officers and rejected our proposals to invest £25m in the borough and play our part in sustaining the local economy.
“At a time when unemployment in the borough has risen by 975 to 3,310 people in the last year and the country faces economic uncertainty it is frankly disappointing to see the councillors reject the creation of 50 new jobs in the town, and strengthen the 130-strong Hendy team.
“We are absolutely committed to preserving the employment of all of our colleagues in the borough and will continue to fight for their futures. We will now consider our options and should we decide to appeal we are confident that we would win.”