UK Leasing

Tonbridge and Malling council reject butchers plans in favor of vets at empty Larkfield store

Villagers’ hopes of getting a butcher have been dashed – despite a petition signed by 1,100 people backing the move.

Sam Spencer, whose family has been in the meat business for three generations, was hoping to open a store in Martin Square, Larkfield, which is owned by Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council (TMBC).

The empty Martin Square unit in Larkfield. Photo: Google Street View

The authority received offers from a number of businesses to move into the unit, including a tanning salon, greengrocers and butchers, but opted for a veterinary practice.

Mr Spencer originally pitched the idea in a Facebook post in November and launched a petition in May after his initial plans were rejected.

In his petition, he wrote: “We are trying to set up a traditional family run butcher shop which would serve the local community fresh and affordable produce in Martin Square, Larkfield.

“We are a local family with children attending the local school, and butchering has been in our family for three generations and we would like to continue this specialist trade.

“We are saddened to have been rejected for this company after working hard behind the scenes and believe this is what our community needs.”

Sam's Petition
Sam’s Petition

But now butchers will have to look elsewhere.

The proposal was presented to TMBC’s cabinet last Tuesday and the decision announced two days later.

After the meeting, Mr Spencer said: “We regret to announce that the council have made their decision and will not be using the Martin Square shop as a family butcher.

“Despite our best efforts, and the signatures of each (1,117 at the time of writing) which unfortunately were not sufficient, we were told the day before the meeting that we needed 1,500 to be considered a formal discussion with a chief of staff.

“We would like to thank everyone for their support, it’s humbling to know that you all support us.

“A butcher would have made Martin Square a place of shopping. I go there very rarely

“The business to be taken over will soon be shown, I’m sure, but we wish them well, whatever that may be.”

Regardless of the decision, Mr Spencer has been inundated with support from people expressing their desire to have a butcher in the area.

Responding to his messages, Emma Archer-Simms said, “The public wants a butcher and we’re not being listened to anymore! Sorry about that, hope you find another local.”

Hilary Stott said: “It’s very sad, it would have been so nice to see some of the small businesses come back. Better to be something worthwhile.”

Yvonne Schuiling said: “I’m so sorry to hear that. A butcher would have made Martin Square a place to shop. I very rarely go there.”

Lib Dem Councilor for Larkfield South, Timothy Bishop
Lib Dem Councilor for Larkfield South, Timothy Bishop

A TMBC spokesperson said: “The Cabinet has agreed in principle to grant the lease of 29 Martin Square to a veterinary practice. As this was a part two report, much of the detail is commercially sensitive and confidential.”

Cllr for Larkfield South, Timothy Bishop (Lib Dem), said: “Council reviewed plans for a 20-year lease on the unit and thought it would be a good opportunity for the area.

“Other businesses were looking to rent the unit, including a butcher, tanning salon, and grocery stores.

“But having veterans who have a good Meopham record, and them wanting to do such a long lease, seemed like a good opportunity.”