In June 2014, Maidstone Council granted planning approval to Gallagher Properties to develop a new 150 bedroom hotel at Eclipse Park next to Junction 7 of the M20. According to the plans put forward by Gallagher Properties, the new hotel will comprise of 150 bedrooms, a restaurant and professional conference facilities.
When speaking about the project, Nick Yandle, the Chief Executive of Gallagher Group, commented how;
“We can now enter into serious negotiations with a number of operators who have already expressed interest in developing a hotel of this size in Maidstone…It is clear that the site’s proximity to the recently opened Kent Institute of Medicine and Surgery, make it a very attractive proposition for a hotel operator…The planning officers were particularly impressed with the quality of the proposed design and we look forward to delivering a hotel that supports Maidstone’s business and visitor economy”.
The hotel will be constructed on a 16 acre site within Eclipse Park; a site which currently houses businesses such as ASB Law, DHA Planning, DSH Accountancy Firm, and the Orbit Housing Association.
However, this particular area outside of Maidstone has recently been the subject of another planning permission debate. Councillors recently refused a separate planning application which intended to develop a Waitrose, Debenhams and larger expansion of the pre-existing Nottcutts garden centre at Newnham Court next door.
Council officers recommended that the scheme should be refused on the grounds that the applicants had not adhered to the government’s “sequential test”. This “sequential test” required the developers to consider all available town centre sites before considering the site next to Junction 7 of the M20.
As well as this new 150 bedroom hotel, Gallagher Properties are also in the process of developing a £9 million Next home and fashion outlet near the Hilton Hotel at Eclipse Park. This new outlet store is predicted to open in the Autumn/Winter of 2014. The store is expected to generate approximately 180 jobs, and will provide locals with a selection of fashion, home, DIY and decorating products, as well as a cafe. Nick Gallagher has expressed his enthusiasm about this project; stating how the outlet will;
“increase the attractiveness of Maidstone…Furthermore, we expect that Next’s profile and the new format store will draw trade in from Ashford and the Medway towns, as well as from a large part of central Kent”.
Similarly, Iain Allsop, the Regional Estates Manager at Next, expressed how public feedback surveys suggest that the store will be welcomed by locals. He announced how;
“We were very encouraged by the reaction to our plans as just over 90% of the feedback forms we received from the public exhibition we organised showed support, or support with reservations, for our plans”.
Fundamentally, the plans for a new 150 bedroom hotel and a new Next fashion and home outlet store are both expected to rejuvenate the Eclipse Park site near Maidstone. It is hoped that the development of these facilities will attract more customers and prospective business partners to the area.