A CONTROVERSIAL application to turn the former Tollgate hotel in Gravesend into a garage and a McDonald’s has been grudgingly approved despite a councillor warning "there will be accidents".

Dozens of campaigners wearing special T-shirts with ‘Act Now, Wrote Now, Say No’ slogans flooded the public gallery.

The regulatory board met at the Civic Centre in Windmill Street yesterday (JAN 15) to discuss the proposal to knock down the hotel, based in green belt land, and replace it with a BP garage and McDonald’s drive-through.

The 59-bedroom building in Watling Street has been vacant since 2009 and is now owned by the Highways Agency.

The committee received including 38 individual objections to the proposal as well as 363 objections in a circular letter and a petition signed by 1,784 people.

Planning officer Peter Price said: "Demand for hotels has reduced in the last five years. Meanwhile we have lost nearby petrol stations."

Some committee members were concerned about how the highways changes would affect traffic and were sceptical about the assessment by Waterman Transport and Development on how the junction should be changed.

Councillor Brian Sangha said: "I’m flabbergasted.

"We’ve been told this will improve the capacity of the junction but I’m not convinced."

Simon Privett, who owns a petrol station opposite the hotel, told the committee why he opposed the application.

He said: "I can’t understand why cooperations are more important than residents who are living here.

"This is big organisations bullying small companies and residents."

Mr Privett also thanked 94-year-old campaigner George Letchford for "missing his evening cocoa" to support him.

Councillor Lee Croxton told the committee:  "If I could find a lawful reason to turn this down I would.

"It will be chaotic and there will be accidents. But we still have to determine this according to the law."

Trevor Gunning, 55, of White Hill Road, was one of those who opposed the development.

He told News Shopper: "The big boys have won again and there will be accidents because of it.

"They are suggesting drivers enter and exit the garage the same way which will cause a lot traffic and confusion."