GRAVESEND Borough Market traders have given a mixed reaction to the major Heritage Quarter redevelopment plans following a meeting with the developer.
A group of traders spoke out against the proposals by Edinburgh House in News Shopper last month, but the mood was more favourable following a meeting with development manager Richard Hughes at the Old Town Hall on April 10.
Market Café worker Lesley Stedman said she was now more favourable towards the plans when News Shopper spoke to her on April 11.
The 49-year-old said: "Just the prospect of having new shops will hopefully bring new custom into the market.
"I hope they are right about that because nothing we can do is going to stop it."
Mozro Cares Baby Wear owner Maureen Hafner claims to be the oldest surviving trader in the market having been there 45 years.
She said: "In the long run it can only do the market good because we are not doing very well at the moment.
"It’s the worst it’s been in my time here."
"As long as it’s not all mouth and no trousers it’s ok."
The 59-year-old said concerns over parking access were partly allayed by promises to provide lay-bys so traders can drop off stock.
The adjacent Market car park will likely be out of action for around 14 months during the building work before being replaced by underground parking spaces.
The store managers of Gravesend Marks and Spencer and BHS have also written to the council pledging support for the scheme.
How St George's Square would look in the new Heritage Quarter
But the family behind Atwal Fashion are not so impressed.
Eleven-year-old Ramneet Atwal said: "We are still not convinced.
"While the development is going on it is just going to be too much of a mess and our business is not going to work while they are building outside."
Her mother Rajinder, 45, said: "Our concern is they are going to kill our business."
Aspinall’s pet supplies owner Jenny Aspinall, 58, added: "To think I am going to be put out of business by a regeneration plan that is no good anyway."
Nearby Melbourne Quay resident Bob Wright claimed to speak for others in the housing block in rejecting the plans, as residents posed with a banner reading "NO TO SLUM CITY!".
Melbourne Quay residents protest against the Heritage Quarter plans
He said: " This feels very much like a David and Goliath situation where a property developer keeps pushing ahead with little concern for the ordinary people who live here and care about the future of the town.
"Gravesend Heritage Quarter is an attractive and distinctive area and if these plans are ever built it would just look like so many other soulless places in the country.
"The council should be safeguarding and enhancing our Heritage Quarter not allowing it to be blighted with this out-dated scheme."
Edinburgh House published its latest proposals in September to spend £120 million regenerating the Western Quarter, Eastern Quarter and St Andrew’s Gardens while creating 800 jobs, 330 homes and generating £8 million spending every year.
As well as restaurants, cafés, a 50 bedroom hotel and underground parking, the plans include a multi-purpose Market Square, children’s play areas, a community centre and 330 apartments.
A Gravesend Council Regulatory Board meeting on April 30 will determine the outcome of the planning application.