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Sainsbury's decision on Staplehurst site due 'by December' as Maidstone Borough Council boss voices frustration

By Luke May

Sainsbury's is set to decide whether it will put up or push off from a site it's let stay empty for years.

The supermarket giant first put in a detailed planning application to build in Staplehurst in 2011. In 2013 plans were approved.

Six years on hoardings still line the site on Station Approach and there's no sign of construction starting.

The proposed site for Sainsbury's in Staplehurst identified in 2011
The proposed site for Sainsbury's in Staplehurst identified in 2011

John Foster is head of Maidstone Borough Council's regeneration and economic development.

He said: "Working with Cllr Louise Brice and the parish council we've been in conversation with Sainsbury's.

"They're meant to make a decision in December but they keep on saying that and it keeps on getting punted into the long grass.

"I've written a letter to the chairman of Sainsbury's asking him to intervene but it's going to be very difficult for the local authority to do anything."

Left to right we have Staplehurst parish councillor Sue Forward, chair of Staplehurst parish council Paddy Riordan and Maidstone borough councillor Louise Brice
Left to right we have Staplehurst parish councillor Sue Forward, chair of Staplehurst parish council Paddy Riordan and Maidstone borough councillor Louise Brice

Mr Foster said the council was exploring what powers it had to hurry Sainsbury's decision over the site.

Staplehurst's eight year wait for a decision has been likened to Lowfield Street in Dartford.

Tesco's spent 11 years fighting for planning permission to build in the town centre, which it finally got in 2013.

Then in 2015 the supermarket pulled out of its own plans and sold the site a year later.

Phil Wellbrook spoke to Cllr John Perry last month about the problem

Mr Foster added: "It's very frustrating for Staplehurst, this is a site that needs redevelopment and all the while it's there other food stores are reluctant to invest in the town.

"Aldi showed lukewarm interest in the town but all the time Sainsbury's have planning consent there it can be seen as too much of a risk for another retailer."

Right now villagers face a trip to Cranbrook or Maidstone to do their weekly shop.

Will Sainsbury's put up or push off?
Will Sainsbury's put up or push off?

Kent Messenger launched its Put Up or Push Off campaign earlier in the summer to try and get the supermarket giant to either build its store and petrols station or sell the land.

A Sainsbury's spokeswoman said: "The Staplehurst site is one of a number of projects we’re currently reviewing.

"We appreciate there is a lot of support for a new store and we will update the community on this specific development as soon as we’re able to do so."

Read more: All the latest news from Weald.

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