Plans to transform a key site in Canterbury by building a cinema, bars, restaurants and homes took a significant step forward today (Wednesday 13 September).

Developer Linkcity has lodged a planning application which outlines its proposal to regenerate the Canterbury City Council-owned former Serco depot and coach park in Kingsmead, as well as other adjacent pieces of land.

Subject to planning permission, the leisure-led scheme known as Canterbury Riverside will create 80 new full time equivalent jobs and deliver:

  • A five or six-screen cinema
  • Eight commercial units for cafes, bars and restaurants
  • A small convenience store and two smaller shops
  • A public square to host events and cultural activities
  • 189 homes
  • 484 purpose-built student bedrooms
  • A new boat house and pontoon
  • An extension of the riverside pathway and improved access to the river
  • An undercroft car park and parking for bikes across the site

The application will now work its way through the normal planning process.

Chairman of the council's Regeneration and Property Committee, Cllr Ben Fitter-Harding, said: “Kingsmead is the last large development site in Canterbury. Bringing the area back to life is a priority for us, because it has been run down for some time and an eyesore for people living nearby. We want to repay their patience by making it vibrant once again, so it’s great to have reached this important milestone of the planning application being submitted.

“The project stretches back to the original Kingsmead development brief of 2004, and since then we have worked really hard to get to this point. There has been lots of pre-planning public consultation in the last couple of years as the plans have been put together and we know there is plenty of support for the project.

“If this scheme is granted planning permission, it represents a brilliant opportunity for us to attract visitors and shoppers and persuade them to stay in the city for longer. Businesses in Northgate should really benefit too, as footfall between Canterbury Riverside and the city centre is likely to be high.

“It would also mean residents will no longer need to travel to Westwood Cross, Ashford or Maidstone to enjoy a multi-screen cinema experience. At the moment, we only retain 39% of the potential cinema audience.”

Some people have recently questioned the need for more purpose-built student accommodation in the city, but Cllr Fitter-Harding said it is an important way to improve the number of affordable family homes in the district.

He said: “At the moment purpose-built student accommodation is home to 45 per cent of the 30,000 students studying in the city. Because Canterbury is a desirable place to live and the demand caused by the need to house students, buying and renting property is more expensive than in the rest of east Kent.

“Affordability is a keen concern of new and existing residents and this is one of the many ways we can tackle it."

Hoardings will soon be put up around the site as demolition crews get ready to pull down the some of the existing buildings for public safety reasons. This work is required regardless of the outcome of the planning process.