Maidstone residents could have two Waitrose stores to choose from, and the town could benefit from up to 200 new jobs, as the retailer has joined forces with local firm Gallagher Group to put forward proposals for a new store at Eclipse Park, near junction 7 of the M20.
The retailer, part of the John Lewis Partnership, has traded in the town for nearly half a century. It has committed itself to retaining its existing Allington Park store and 140 employees, known in its business as Partners, alongside the proposed new one at Eclipse Park.
As part of the proposals, Waitrose and Gallagher Group will be consulting the local community and getting their views. A leaflet will be distributed to local residents and www.waitrosemaidstone.co.uk has been developed. As part of the planning application a public exhibition will be held in February.
The proposed new store would have a sales area of 29,000ft2 and offer up to 200 new jobs when it opens. It would also support 200 construction jobs during the 12 month build and landscape programme. If approved the new Waitrose store could open its doors in early 2018.
Jonathan Banham of Waitrose, said: “Waitrose has a long-standing ambition to serve a larger proportion of the Maidstone community and add to our existing branch in Allington Park, which has served customers for more than 45 years.
“The location has been identified as the only one in, or near, Maidstone that would enable us to sustain two stores in the town. Every alternative site in the town centre would pull customers from the Allington Park store, making it unviable.”
“We believe that the proposals brought forward by Gallagher Properties for Eclipse Park offer an exciting opportunity to generate new investment in the town which can deliver more choice and new jobs for local people.
“We look forward to sharing our plans and are keen to gain as many views as possible before an application is submitted.”
Local consultant DHA Transport has undertaken vehicle surveys and prepared a Transport Assessment, the scope of which was agreed with Maidstone Borough Council, Kent County Council and Highways England.
DHA Transport has concluded that, with traffic visiting Waitrose spread throughout the day, vehicles arriving at the new store will already be on surrounding road network, travelling to and from work, or to and from existing retail stores.
The surveying suggests that given the recent decision by Maidstone Borough Council to close the Sittingbourne Road park and ride while retaining its other sites, the proposed store will not significantly effect peak time travel, and there will be minimal impact on the local roads and related junctions.
Discussions have also been undertaken with Arriva and Kent County Council to ensure the store is served by public transport.
The proposed store would be on a 3.7 acre site adjacent to Towergate Insurance’s head office, near to the NEXT Home & Fashion store, as well as the site a hotel which was granted planning permission last year, and nearby offices.
Nick Yandle of Gallagher Properties, said: “The combination of a Waitrose and NEXT at Eclipse Park would enhance Maidstone’s retail offer to residents and people living in nearby towns.
“The arrival of Waitrose will reinforce junction 7’s importance to the borough’s economy, and send out a positive message about the town as a location for business, and we are delighted to be working alongside such a nationally respected company.”
The single storey building incorporating modern materials alongside locally sourced Kentish Ragstone from Gallagher Group’s Hermitage Quarry in nearby Barming. The store has been designed by GDM Architects, a Maidstone-based practice.
Local residents and businesses can view the proposals at a public exhibition on Thursday 4 February between 4pm and 8pm, and on Friday 5 February, from 11am - 4pm, at Gallagher’s construction offices at Eclipse Park.
Head Office address:
Gallagher Group, Leitrim House, Little Preston
Aylesford, Kent ME20 7NS
Gallagher Aggregates Ltd., Hermitage Quarry
Hermitage Lane, Maidstone, Kent ME16 9NT