New Marks & Spencer store in Sevenoaks to create 150 jobs
FOLLOWING years of complaints from locals, the site of 66 London Road – previously dubbed a "grot spot" – is set to become a site the town can be proud of.
The old social club, now home to The Depot and several other businesses, is to be transformed into a Marks & Spencer department store.
The announcement follows a "pre-let" agreement signed by the company on Thursday.
It will mean 150 new jobs for the town, and the existing M&S food store will be relocated into the brand new buildings in the Bligh's shopping area.
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The land is jointly owned by Sevenoaks District Council and the property development firm Reef Estates.
Stewart Deering, Reef Estates director leading the development, said: "We are very excited about working closely with the community and M&S to deliver this unique mixed-use opportunity.
"Town centre developments of this type, anchored by a department store of M&S's quality, are fundamental to creating a nucleus that will provide for long-term economic stability and prosperity, preventing customer 'leakage' to surrounding centres.
"The development will create a significant number of jobs and the proposed residential accommodation will go some way to satisfy the extensive residential demand within the Sevenoaks catchment."
A planning application is expected in May, preceded by a public exhibition of the project.
It will be attended by representatives of Reef Estates, property agent CBRE, BHD Architects, M&S and Sevenoaks District Council's planning department.
M&S has signed a contract for a 25-year lease, dependent on them securing planning permission on the project.
The store will be around 42,000sq ft and will host general merchandise, including food and clothing.
Agent Peter Arduino, of CBRE, said: "This is a fantastic result for Sevenoaks and successfully concludes almost two years of discussions with Marks & Spencer.
"We are familiar with the benefits that a large M&S store brings to smaller town centres, typically providing a quantum leap in the attraction of the retail centre to both shoppers and other retailers."
The new store is being designed by Jeff Haskins of BHD Architects in Sevenoaks.
Reef's engineering firm MLM is working with Sevenoaks District Council and Kent County Council on how to cope with the additional parking pressures created by the store.
Solutions includes on-site and underground car parking, together with new technology for the town which will direct customers to the nearest available car park.
As well as an M&S and the additional parking, 22 flats and office space are included in the scheme for the site, which includes the Pembroke Road car park and the small parking area in front of the building.
Cllr Peter Fleming, the leader of Sevenoaks District Council, said: "I am extremely pleased for everyone involved that Marks & Spencer has confirmed its interest. This demonstrates its faith in the Sevenoaks retail economy.
"Clearly there is still some way to go, including a public consultation as part of the planning process."