Council says it might reject Dobbies scheme in Ashford

Bybrook Barn Garden Centre's battle to keep Dobbies from building a £10m garden centre 500 yards away in Ashford, Kent, has been boosted by Ashford Borough Council's planning committee saying it might refuse the development.

In addition, Bybrook Barn owner Terry Burch said publicity surrounding the David versus Goliath battle had brought more customers into his garden centre. "A lot of people have come in who have not been in before because they have heard about us because of Dobbies," he explained.

The council deferred but said the site was allocated for B1 leisure and office use, according to its development plan. It also cited traffic congestion as a potential issue. The committee said there was "no over-riding reason" why a garden centre should be built on the site.

If the committee's report is upheld at a meeting on 26 May, the application will be rejected. But Burch said he anticipates an appeal and to eventually lose.

"I expect they will get it in the end - they are so powerful," he said. "But we'd like them to move to the other side of Ashford. There's bags of room there. A site next door is not on. Tesco would be upset if Sainsbury's moved in next door."

Burch said he had forwarded 2,000 letters and emails protesting about Dobbies to the borough council. Dobbies' proposal is for a 3.5ha site in Eureka Leisure Park. It would include a farm shop, restaurant and demonstration gardens.

Dobbies property director Stuart Wright said: "The planning committee considering the Dobbies Ashford application has been deferred to the 26 May so the original committee can consider the application in more detail."

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