Planners dismiss concerns over mall expansion's town centre impact

Plans for a major expansion of a retail mall near Ashford International rail station in Kent have been approved despite fears over its impact on the town centre.

Mall expansion: application has been granted full planning permission
Mall expansion: application has been granted full planning permission

Ashford Borough Council has granted full planning permission to developer McArthurGlen for a development intended to include 38 new shops and 725 extra car park spaces at Ashford Designer Outlet.

A report to the council’s planning committee highlighted objections to the scheme on the basis that it could be the "final nail in the coffin" for a "pound shop laden" town centre.

However, planning officers recommended approval.

Their report said that the outlet centre attracted more than 1 million visitors to Ashford every year and that many users of the extension would come from outside the town centre’s catchment area.

It added that a retail impact assessment suggested the scheme was likely to have an overall positive economic effect on Ashford town centre.

Planners added that visual effects arising from the development proposals – including building a car park on pasture - would be limited by a range of measures including high quality design and use of green walls.

The proposals also include plans for six new restaurants and cafes, together with an events space and a children’s play area.

The developer has committed to funding a shuttle bus between the outlet, the town centre and the train station at weekends and during the school holidays, as well as enhancing walking and cycle routes from the station.

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