Southern Grove takes control of former Maidstone library site for fully-affordable housing scheme

Developer Southern Grove has secured a site in London commuter hotspot Maidstone for a significant fully affordable and design-led housing scheme.

All 175 units that will be built on the site of the Old Springfield Library will be available through Shared Ownership or at Affordable Rent. This is a continuation of Southern Grove’s mission to provide affordable housing close to key transport links across London and the Home Counties.

The land deal flies in the face of the economic uncertainty being forged by the coronavirus pandemic but Southern Grove continues to believe in the long-term investment strength of residential schemes in commuter hotspots.

Local architects, On Architecture in Canterbury, will be designing the scheme with the surrounding area in mind. Sight lines will be provided to retain views from the highway of the attractive Grade II listed Springfield House and it will be a landmark in its own right, steered by a desire to create a building that raises the bar for new residential architecture locally. The scheme will be delivered in conjunction with a housing association and discussions with potential partners are currently ongoing.

The site of the former Kent County Council reference library sits in an area undergoing intensive development, thanks to the town’s rail links to London.

The Chatham Road site is just a 10-minute walk from Maidstone East station, which connects commuters to London King’s Cross in as little as an hour and five minutes. Neighbouring the site is another development of 502 homes that is already well underway and incorporates a 17-storey tower.

Southern Grove’s scheme will be much lower than this and designed to be sympathetic to its surroundings, including the neighbouring Grade II listed Springfield House. The attractive, late 19th century, Gothic-inspired manor house is currently used as office space.

Southern Grove was assisted by Maidstone-based planning consultants DHA Planning and the site was identified with the help of land agent Chris McGale of Tyrone Capital Partners.

The Old Springfield Library site has already been the subject of a failed planning application. Previous proposals for a 16-storey tower were rejected in November on the grounds that it was too high and imposing.

That applicant, Peker Holdings, has now handed control of the site to Southern Grove as part of a subject-to-planning agreement that will create a viable scheme that is lower in height.

Tom Slingsby, CEO of developer Southern Grove, commented: “Local authorities have never been under more pressure to provide affordable housing but are also big supporters of inspirational and sympathetic design.

“We aim to meet the expectations of everyone locally with a design-led scheme that is very pleasing on the eye and offers minimal visual impact on the surrounding area.

“We are also going to be getting creative too, so that the new development makes the most of Springfield House, a historic property that we want passers by to be able to appreciate as they skirt the new development.

“We’re pressing ahead with the scheme despite the economic fallout from coronavirus still being unclear because we can see Maidstone offers a strong foothold in the London commuter belt, with many young professionals choosing to put down roots and start a family there. It’s a good long-term investment.”