Newnham Court plans 'threaten Maidstone town centre'
Plans to expand an out-of-town shopping village in Kent will "rip the heart out of Maidstone", town centre manager Bill Moss has said.
The redevelopment of Newnham Court, near junction seven of the M20, would cost £85m and create over 1,500 jobs.
Land Securities development director Chris Ward said the intention was not to take trade away from the town centre, but rather to complement it.
Mr Moss said the plans would harm businesses and cause traffic problems.
"We only have to look in the immediate area to see where that has happened," he said.
"Look at Bluewater and contrast it with what has happened to Dartford and Gravesend."
Mr Moss believes there are alternative sites in the town centre that would have been more suitable for development.
Objections have also been raised by Boxley Parish Council, which said it "strongly objected" to the inclusion and design of smaller retail units whose "monotonous dark grey metal cladding" would make it look more like a "prison".
The 20-acre site is home to about 70 companies.
The project, which includes new Debenhams and Waitrose stores and an enlarged Notcutts garden centre, has been hailed as a vote of confidence in the future economic prospects of the county town.
Jo James, chief executive of the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, said the investment was more evidence that Kent was emerging from recession.
The project also includes major investment in the road network which would help to create "an impressive gateway to Maidstone", according to the developers.
Mr Ward said there was proven demand for the redevelopment from retailers who wanted to come into the area.
"They'll be new to Maidstone - or they'll be second stores, and that's a very important point because Maidstone town centre needs to thrive," he said, adding: "We want to keep the spend in Maidstone."
Mr Ward said the developers had listened to the concerns raised and where possible had made changes to the plans.
Maidstone Borough Council is expected to make a decision on the planning application within the next two months.