Maidstone Borough Council’s Planning Committee’s decision to reject plans to develop Waterside Park, near Junction 8 of the M20, has put nearly 500 local jobs at risk of leaving the area, according to one of the companies hoping to relocate there.
Specialist car parts company Automotive Distributors Ltd (ADL), together with its Marden neighbours Scarab Sweepers, and Gallagher Properties, submitted a planning application to Maidstone Borough Council in September, which was rejected on Thursday 27 February.
Derek Edwards, Regional Logistics Director at ADL, who has worked for the company for nearly 15 years, said: “It is our belief that the case for Waterside Park was a compelling one and we are now considering all our options, one of which is to appeal.
“Rather than protect jobs, and create the right conditions for a thriving Maidstone economy, Councillors have been swayed by a vocal minority and a quite frankly unbalanced debate.”
The Waterside Park proposals included the development of manufacturing facilities, warehousing and logistics centres, alongside high quality international headquarters for the two successful Maidstone companies, with the prospect of it being home to more than 1,000 jobs in the future.
He added: “How can the Borough consult on its need to build 19,600 new homes by 2031, and yet reject our plans to provide the jobs for the people that actually live in the town and surrounding villages today? For Councillors to suggest that Maidstone is open for business flies in the face of our recent experience.”
After an exhaustive search, ADL identified Waterside Park, with its close links to the M20, as the most competitive site to continue to grow its business from its headquarters in Kent. No other alternative sites were identified locally despite working with Maidstone Borough Council for more than a year.
ADL’s current site in Marden is no longer large enough and efficient for the company which exports its products to 100 countries around the world. As a result it planned to invest £20m at Waterside Park, as its lease is up in 2017.
Derek Edwards added: “It is important that every one of the two companies 450 employees and their families knows that we are fighting for them, and despite the decision of the local authority we remain committed to Maidstone.
“More than 75 per cent of ADL’s 230 employees are Maidstone residents. We have an annual wage bill of more than £9m, much of which is spent in the local economy. Rejecting our plans means that we will now have to consider locations elsewhere in Kent, the country or even overseas.”
The Council’s decision comes as January saw a further 131 Maidstone residents claim Jobseekers Allowance – the second highest increase in the County, which saw a rise of nearly 1,000 claimants.