Plan to convert former Kemsley Arms into flats likely to be turned down despite community support

Plans to turn a derelict pub into apartments could be turned down by council despite calls for it to be converted.

The old Kemsley Arms in Sittingbourne has been closed for almost 10 years and locals are desperate for the “eye pollution” to be addressed.

The old abandoned Kemsley Arms pub in Sittingbourne. Photo: Megan Carr

The council received a request to transform the former watering hole into a mix of flexible retail space and 20 possible apartments.

Connor Bean and his parents Rachel and Andy live opposite the old pub.

The 24-year-old said: “My mum and dad ran the Kemsley Arms.

“The building being converted into apartments instead of another pub would be better as the pub business is sadly dying.

“It was good then, but it’s just an eyesore now. Better take it down.”

The Kemsley Arms just after closing.  Photo: Andy Payton
The Kemsley Arms just after closing. Photo: Andy Payton

His 52-year-old mother, who served pints at the Kemsley Arms during the 2002 World Cup, felt the same way.

Rachel said: “Apartments would be better to look at.

“But like, with everything, it would depend on what kind of people would move in.

“It’s been bad living next to the pub when it looks like that, though.

“Maybe instead of apartments, a few shops instead of takeaways would be better for the village.”

Where new apartments could be built.  Photo: Swale Borough Council
Where new apartments could be built. Photo: Swale Borough Council

Another mum, Charlotte Fury, also thinks the change would do the building good.

The 26-year-old, from Menin Road, said: “Neighboring houses, including mine, had mouse problems because of this abandoned building.

“The plans will be good for the community, especially since there have been rumors that take-out units will be included.”

A woman, who did not wish to be named, agreed.

She said: “I don’t object to the plans.

The former Kemsley Arms pub could be turned into apartments.  Photo: Megan Carr
The former Kemsley Arms pub could be turned into apartments. Photo: Megan Carr

“Apartments would definitely be better than the abandoned building we looked at.

“I do think, however, that the possible takeaway plans would be better with more apartments.

“However, parking can be a challenge.

“I’ve lived in the area for 20 years and still think apartments would be better than a pub.

“That would help with the cost of living crisis.”

The Bleans ran the Kemsley Arms pub in 2002. Photo: Megan Carr
The Bleans ran the Kemsley Arms pub in 2002. Photo: Megan Carr

Although the proposals appear to have been well received by the community, the planning officers recommended that the councilors reject them.

A report to the committee says: “The proposal does not provide developer input to specifically identified local infrastructure.

“These include health care, primary education, secondary education and land, community learning, libraries, youth services, social services, community management services waste, the supply of waste bins and highways.

“It would cause unacceptable harm that would outweigh the benefits of the proposal.

“The proposal would not represent sustainable development and granting planning permission would set a precedent.”

For more information, click here.

The planning committee is due to meet at 7 p.m. tonight (Thursday).

Martin E. Berry