Published: 10:33, 04 December 2019
| Updated: 13:54, 04 December 2019
Staplehurst looks set to finally get the Sainsbury's supermarket that it has been waiting for more than eight years.
A meeting was held on Tuesday between Sainsbury's executives and members of the parish council, ward borough councillor Louise Brice and KCC officers.
Parish council chairman Paddy Riordan said afterwards: "It's all very positive. Sainsbury's is planning four new stores next year, and Staplehurst is Number 1 on the list."
Villagers were told that work to demolish the existing buildings on the dedicated site off Station Approach would start in the New Year.
Plans to proceed with the store still had to be signed off by the company's directors at a board meeting later this month, but the village was assured this was a formality.
The store already has planning permission which was granted in March 2013. The company first submitted its planning application in November 2011.
Cllr Riordan said: "It seems they will want to make some amendment to the plans now, but they are minor changes and the expectation is that by Christmas 2020 we will have a new store in the village."
The approved plans indicate a store with 18,203 square feet of retail space and a 161-space car park. Access would be via a new mini-roundabout on Station Road.
Sainsbury now also intends to open a branch of Argos within the store.
At present many villagers travel to either Maidstone or Cranbrook if they want to do a large supermarket shop.
Cllr Riordan said: "We feel certain the village will welcome the new store. Not only will it tidy up an area that has become an eyesore, but Staplehurst is a big village with many with new homes and we need more facilities.
"Our residents have been constantly chasing us asking when the store is going to be built.
"It will also a bring a lot more new jobs - jobs that hopefully villagers will be able to walk to."
Cllr Brice (Con) was similarly excited: She said: "I am now more hopeful of the development going ahead than at any stage in the recent past."
A spokesman for Sainsbury's said: "We’re delighted to be moving forward with these fantastic plans for a brand-new supermarket in Staplehurst, which we hope to open towards the end of 2020.
"We would like to thank the local community for their patience over the past few years and look forward to opening the new store – we think it will be worth the wait!
"The new supermarket will generate many new jobs for local people, across a range of roles and levels, whilst substantially improving food and non-food choice for local people. We will keep the local community updated about any job opportunities in the new store."
In June this year, the Kent Messenger Group ran a campaign urging Sainsbury's to 'put up or push off', after concerns that the dilapidated site was discouraging other businesses from entering the area.