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Ashford International Sports and Social Club redevelopment plan rejected

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A more than 100-year-old social club has been denied a bid to redevelop the site amid claims it could win an Olympic gold medal for its “boring architecture.”

Ashford International Sports and Social Club on Beaver Road would like to demolish the current clubhouse and build a new clubhouse elsewhere on the property.

What the proposed flat on Beaver Road, on the grounds of the Ashford International Sports and Social Club, looks like Photo: About the architecture

Club bosses say developments including 31 flats are needed to secure the long-term future of the club with 300 to 400 members, but the Covid pandemic hit It’s been closed ever since.

However, the proposal was rejected by Ashford Borough Council’s Planning Commission, with Secretary Jenny Webb (Con) calling it “excessive and unacceptable”.

Representatives of the Norman Ward objected to the application on the grounds that one of the three-story and the other five-story apartment buildings did not match the character of the area and the overdevelopment of the site.

“The club in its current form has not been a viable business for quite some time. [I fear] A proposal to build a new clubhouse on the property has been abandoned and further flats will be proposed,” she added.

Meanwhile, Cllr Diccon Spain (Lab) added on the design:

But at a meeting earlier this week, DHA Planning’s planning agent, Emma Hawkes, spoke in support of the plan.

Ashford International Sports and Social Club has been in operation for over 100 years
Ashford International Sports and Social Club has been in operation for over 100 years

“In recent years, membership clubs have been in a downward financial spiral because of building size and site costs,” she said.

“The Club Committee believes that a new, significantly reduced club facility is the best solution for long-term viability and that the site continues to provide a viable, well-managed social space. I am confident we can do it, and it will benefit the community.”

According to Hawks, the redevelopment of the site with the goal of saving the club is “the culmination of more than two and a half years of work.”

However, Cllr William Howard (Con) expressed concern about the height of the flat.

“My first gut reaction was to give you more power to make sure the club lasts another 100 years,” he said.

However, he voted to dismiss the application with “a heavy heart” because he believes “a five-story building is not appropriate here”.

Cllr Diccon Spain was one of those who criticized the design of the development.
Cllr Diccon Spain was one of those who criticized the design of the development.

He added that, in principle, “There will be things to do on this site, but I’m not going to give up anything to make it happen.”

Cllr Matthew Forest (Con) agrees, stating, “We are willing to support development here, but not this.”

Other councilors similarly criticized their views on development.

Cllr Noel Ovenden (Ashford Independents) said it was “easy” to reject the “massive, boring, square, big box” plan.

Linda Harman Cllr (Ashford Independents) fears that the town’s character is “eroded and lost by applications like this.”

After the meeting, however, Aaron Thomsett, project manager for the Cost Plans group involved in the application, said the council’s rejection of the plan was “gritting its teeth.”

Rejected Proposed Development CGI Photo: On Architecture
Rejected Proposed Development CGI Photo: On Architecture

Formerly known as the Ashford Working Men’s Club, the social club has owned the current location since the 1920s.

Tomsett said he and members of the club were surprised by the proposal’s refusal.

Clubs may reapply at no reapplication fee or appeal the Planning Commission’s decision.

But Tomsett worries about additional costs if the club and developers need to make major changes to their plans before submitting them to the council again.

Such costs are in addition to the business rate that the Club will continue to pay for vacancies.

Tomsett also stressed that the club and developers have made plans for the viability of the business after the building’s redevelopment.

“We have a strategy built to help the committee actually implement it and make a profit so we can reinvest the profits,” he said.

“But before we get to that stage, we have to overcome this first hurdle.”