Plan to turn former Ramsgate Rook’s depot into commercial units

Entrance leading to the former Rook's depot building (google images)

The former Rooks depot in Ramsgate could be converted into commercial units, including a vehicle repair garage, if Thanet council grants planning permission.

The factory site off Cecilia Road, which is in the same commercial area as Jewson builders, was shut down in March last year after J C Rook & Sons went into administration.

The firm had been trading in Kent for well over half a century but owed some £2million when it shut, with some 137 people losing their jobs.

The site was bought by applicant Mr Arif with that sale completing in January.

Planning documents say Mr Arif had been searching since around 2017 for appropriate premises to use for vehicle parking, repair and maintenance purposes in connection with the operation of his Ramsgate based taxi business, which has two office bases, including the main base for the entire business, in Turner Street.

The document from planning consultant John Elvidge adds: “The demand for the facility arose primarily from the need to consolidate such activities from two existing workshop and off-street parking areas based, respectively, in Birchington and Margate, the former of which involves a 16.4 mile round trip for vehicles, and which given the size of the fleet, at around 60 vehicles, comprising saloon and estate cars; and also including a number of 6, 8 and 16 seater vehicles, represents a substantial need.”

The proposed development is the change of use from cold storage depot to three commercial units, plus the creation of a roof extension, alterations to fenestration, external works and associated parking following partial demolition of existing building.

The two storey section of the existing building in corner of the site would be demolished. The remaining building would be split into three units and access ramps erected with new doors and roller doors installed around the building. Sixteen parking spaces and a refuse store are proposed on the site.

The application has been called in to the council’s planning committee because the site is allocated in the Thanet Local Plan for 23 houses.

However, the site is in two separate ownerships with Jewson’s occupying a large proportion of the site by freehold and then the smaller area previously occupied by J C Rook & Son.

No applications have been submitted for housing on the site and indications are that it is not the intention of the landowners to bring it forward for housing.

The council’s planning officer dealing with the application says: “The applicant has indicated that one of the units would be a vehicle repair garage. The specific use for the other two units is currently unknown. The change of use from storage to light industrial has the potential to result in an increase in noise and disturbance to the neighbouring residential properties.”

The council’s Environmental Health department have raised no objection to the development subject to conditions restricting the level of noise from plant and equipment on the site and limiting the proposed opening hours to 7am to 7pm Monday to Saturday and 10am to 4pm on Sundays and Bank Holidays.

The planning documents also note: “This application would result in the re-use of a vacant building and provide economic benefits through the creation of six jobs on the site.

“The reuse of the building is considered to result in environmental benefits through the ongoing use and maintenance of the site and the creation of jobs is considered to result in economic benefits to the district.

“Given the need for housing in the district significant weight should be given to the loss of an allocated housing site that would provide 23 dwellings, however given the circumstances regarding the ownership of the site, the apparent lack of interest in pursuing a housing development on the site, and the benefits of reusing an existing building and providing jobs on the site, this is considered to be a balanced case and could be considered as an acceptable departure from Local Plan Policy.”

Councillors will discuss the application at a meeting on October 18.

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