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Plans for Gravesend Eastern Quarter passed

PUBLISHED: 09:36 01 May 2013 | UPDATED: 14:24 02 May 2013

An artist's impression of what Market Square will look like in Gravesend's Heritage Quarter

An artist's impression of what Market Square will look like in Gravesend's Heritage Quarter

Archant

Plans for the controversial £120million Heritage Quarter development in Gravesend were passed at a heated Gravesham Council meeting last night.

The chair of the regulatory board Jane Cribbon had the casting vote after three members voted for, three voted against and another three abstained.

At an often tetchy meeting the chairman of Urban Gravesham Jonathan Clay was ejected before the vote when he made an unscheduled objection to the council’s legal representative’s claim that there were not valid grounds to vote against the plans.

The meeting approved a detail planning application for the Eastern Quarter and an outline plan for the Western Quarter and most members of the public stormed out of the chamber when Cllr Cribbon cast her vote.

Gravesham MP Adam Holloway said afterwards: “It’s outrageous. You can’t call this democracy.”

Bob Wright, who lives in West Street, added: “It’s an absolute farce. I’m disgusted with the result. It will be completely out of character with the heritage of the town.

“It’s a tragedy for those who have opposed it and we feel betrayed. The battle is lost but the war isn’t.”

The majority of the members of the public were below the council chamber in the Woodville theatre hall watching the meeting via a video link, which cut out twice during the course of the evening,

Developers Edinburgh House claim the scheme will create 1,000 jobs in the construction phase, 800 after building has been completed, along with generating £8million spending every year, 328-flats and a 50-room hotel.

Mr Clay said it was the first time in a long time he has been ejected from a council meeting, and added: “This was an unlawful decision which will be challenged. This wasn’t a fair democratic process.”

Cllr Cribbon was given the casting vote because Cllrs Harold Craske, Mike Wenban and Peter Rayner voted against it, Lee Croxton, John Burden and David Turner voted for it Valerie Ashenden, Richard Smith and Robin Theobald abstained. Doubts were raised over the legality of rejecting the development purely on planning grounds.

Not all members of the public were against the development though. Julia Lomax, a florist in the St George’s Centre in Gravesend.

She said: “There’s a lot of talk about empty shops in parts of St George’s and the reason for that is that people are not coming to the town because there’s nothing there to offer them.

“Gravesend is desperate for change and I speak to lots of people and there is a feeling that if something isn’t done, retailers will fall under. Gravesend needs regeneration.”

In total the council have received 737 letters against the application, 212 for and five neutral.

Tony Quayle, managing director of Edinburgh House, said: “This was the right decision and we can’t wait to get the ball rolling.

“We have been confident that we have got the plans right for Gravesend for a long time and we are looking forward to the future and the opportunities the development holds for the whole town.”

The council rejected a proposal by Edinburgh House in 2010.

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