SAGA – Abandoning Sandgate?

Sandgate residents living close to Enbrook Park, the home of SAGA, have received planning notice about the potential change of use to residential for the conversion of the main SAGA building into 31 x1 bed flats and 31 x2 bed flats. Local people were initially confused about what was happening because a similar planning notice has been published about change of use to residential for the SAGA building in Middleburg Square to allow for conversion into 53 x2 bed and 33 x1 bed flats – however the confusion was cleared up when it became clear that both SAGA buildings are subject to planning notices.

As with many places of employment throughout the Covid months – the SAGA building in Enbrook Park has been almost empty for months. Alarmed at what this could mean local people took to social media to raise concerns – asking the question “is SAGA leaving the centre of Sandgate – and what does this mean for the future of the lovely Enbrook park and the community garden?”.

The Sandgate Society – a local amenity group, responding to members concerns about the future of Enbrook park, were on to this news very quickly and contacted SAGA to find out what was happening, especially given signs of work already taking place to the main building. The following response from Euan Sutherland, the CEO of Saga, was promptly received and circulated to society members:

“Due to legislative changes which took effect on 1st August, any commercial property applications to residential would lose their automatic approval. To protect their asset in Sandgate they have applied for residential use now, although they have no plans at the moment to move from Enbrook”.

In line with many other businesses, SAGA have delayed return to the office for many employees until the end of August due to the increased number of workers affected by the ‘pingdemic’.

Meanwhile, work is already being undertaken to refurbish the offices with the removal of two old air conditioning units to allow for two new air conditioning units as part of the refurbishment. Some floors have already been stripped out to allow for this work, with expected completion by November.

The other question being raised is about parking restrictions in and around Enbrook park. CPZ restrictions were implemented on many roads in the vicinity of Enbrook park to mitigate potential over-parking by SAGA employees. With a future where many employees will be working from home at least part of the working week, it is assumed the number of employees actually based in Enbrook Park at any one time will be significantly reduced. Local people think this gives an ideal opportunity for the CPZ restrictions to be reviewed, with some perhaps being removed.

Some residents pointed out that they have resented paying the annual fee and see no benefit in keeping the CPZ outside their properties. With others stating that they have found the CPZ restrictions beneficial because it means they can park closer to where they live during summer months when it is almost impossible to park anywhere close by – and they feel it is worth paying the annual fee to keep the parking restrictions in place. In coming months the CPZ review is likely to be taken up by the parish council, working with FHDC and Kent Council.

As Sandgate Society chair Sal Kenwood commented “… I hope we are all reassured that SAGA have no immediate plans to leave Sandgate, and their application is intended at present to safeguard their options for the future”.

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