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Members of Gillingham Town’s Council have unanimously voted to oppose plans to turn a disused shop on the High Street into three new homes.

Councillors pointed out that not only is the site at 7-9 High Street in a flood plain, the plan to turn to what was previously partly commercial premises into a wholly residential development was against the town’s Neighbourhood Plan.

Speaking against the application, mayor Barry Von Clemens described as an ‘utter disgrace’ the applicant’s suggestion in a letter accompanying the application that the Neighbourhood Plan should not be followed because a nearby property – which is not in the flood plain – had been allowed to have residential development.

Councillor Von Clemens said the area had been allocated for the town’s ‘night-time economy’.

And he also tackled claims by the applicants that they had found it difficult to let the premises as a commercial site. ‘Perhaps if the applicants had kept the downstairs unit in a decent state of repair they may have found it easier to find tenants,’ he told fellow councillors on Monday 2 December.

Councillor Mike Gould described the existing building as an ‘eyesore’.

He said: ‘It’s letting the High Street down in a serious manner in an area which is a delightful area of the town, and I’m distressed by it every time I walk by it.’

Councillor Gould said he felt the proposed development of three buildings was ‘not right’ for the site, but said the council should be ‘flexible’ if the owners came back with a revised plan that contained a commercial element.

‘I feel some development is absolutely essential,’ he said.

The members of the planning commit voted unanimously to oppose the application on the grounds that the site was in a flood plain, and the the plans were contrary to the Neighbourhood Plan.

In their objections the councillors added: ‘The applicant states that there has been no substantive interest shown in the property, however, it is considered that this is due to inadequate marketing of the premises and poor maintenance of the building … a change of use from commercial to residential poses a risk to the economic re-growth of the High Street.’

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