Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Maidstone’s link between jobs and houses overlooked

The link between the need for housing and the need for jobs appears to have been overlooked by Maidstone Borough Council after it refused permission to help retain two award-winning employers in the area.

At the same time as acknowledging it has to build 19,600 new homes by 2031 within its Local Plan, Maidstone Borough Council’s Planning Committee has turned down proposals that would have kept 500 jobs in the borough, not forgetting the prospects of creating hundreds more to employ those extra residents.

Plans to develop Waterside Park and create manufacturing facilities, warehousing and logistics centres, and high quality international headquarters, on the 42-acre site near Junction 8 of the M20, have been rejected.

Two local firms, each with overseas parent companies, Automotive Distributors Ltd (ADL) and Scarab Sweepers, operating out of Marden, joined forces with Gallagher Properties, and submitted a planning application in September last year.

ADL, which exports its products to 100 countries around the world, is currently spread across seven buildings, making it in need of more suitable premises to consolidate and grow. With more than 75 per cent of ADL’s staff living in the Maidstone borough, Waterside Park had been seen as the ideal location to minimise disruption to local employees.

Scarab Sweepers, another local employer, would also be looking to increase its workforce by more than 20 per cent upon relocating to the new site.

The companies are considering their next steps, but all three currently remain committed to Waterside Park. 

Worryingly for the Maidstone economy, ADL and Scarab Sweepers will at some point need to start the search for other possible sites. With no alternatives identified in the borough, taking the jobs elsewhere might be the only option, unless an appeal or further application for Waterside Park is successfully undertaken.

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