A huge garden town set to be the first of its kind in Kent and one of the “largest in the country” has received financial backing from the government. Otterpool Park is earmarked to fill Folkestone Racecourse and beyond with 10,000 homes.
The scheme will develop some 2,000 acres of land over three decades, and, by 2050 the new settlement will be established between Lympne and Sellindge, bordering M20 junction 11. It will be double the size of neighbouring Hythe and will include new primary schools, secondary schools, medical centres, commercial space and its own high street.
Developers Otterpool Park LLP, who are acting on behalf of the landowners, Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC), describe the scheme as something that will be “respectful of its past and designed for its future.” Historic Westenhanger Castle, bought by FHDC back in August 2019 for just under £3 million will act as its rural centrepiece.
These plans have been years in the working, with consultations, public meetings and even protests set up to air the opinion of residents who are against the mass development. Some homeowners back in 2018 were even shocked to hear their homes may not be safe forever.
If their locations clash with the masterplan, the council would attempt to buy them under a Compulsory Purchase Order, flatten them, and build whatever structure had been given planning permission. This, they said at the time, would be a last resort move.
The scheme itself has been a bitter pill to swallow for many since 2016. But the idea of a garden town is something wholly supported by the government who see these types of development as a sustainable way to deliver more homes in the future. Otterpool Park will be made up of 50 per cent green space, a big selling point used to promote it.
This is why, just last weekend, Housing Minister MP Stuart Andrew awarded Otterpool Park £825,000 worth of capacity and infrastructure funding out of a £15 million pot supporting garden communities across England. Mr Andrew said: “Building beautiful new homes in the places they are most needed lies at the heart of the government’s levelling up mission.
“Garden villages and towns are perfect examples of the vibrant, green communities we want to see right across the country and today’s funding will allow us to work hand-in-hand with local leaders and industry to deliver the high-quality new homes that we need.”
The money has already been allocated to a number of sub-projects within Otterpool, including off-site cycle and pedestrian improvements, a mobility hub and a wastewater treatment works.
The scheme has not yet been given the green light, as an amended outline planning application was submitted to planners just under two months ago on March 31. The latest consultation, held at Westenhanger Castle just last week, saw 130 people attend.
The committee at FHDC will ultimately decide whether or not to approve the outline application later this year, which has indirectly been submitted by the council itself.
The amendments were made in response to the widescale consultations taken place over the years, with changes designed to reflect the mass responses from interested parties, and those who would be affected by it. The first outline application was put forward back in February 2019 – and while its concept largely remains the same – there are some changes people need to be aware of.
The application and its amendments
As with all large developments, Otterpool Park will be rolled out in phases – with the first one delivering the bulk of the 10,000 houses at first. Phase one will look to provide 8,500 homes, community facilities and infrastructure. It’s predicted this phase alone will create 9,000 jobs over a 25 to 30 year period.
The upgrade of Westenhanger Station to include the High Speed service to London is also expected to be a part of the first phase delivery. A new town centre and a new public park will also be constructed, known as Westenhanger Castle park, leading up to Westenhanger Castle.
Out of the 8,500 homes being built, development bosses say these will range between types and tenures. More than 1,870 of these will be sold under the affordable homes bracket, and 400 will be self builds.
The scheme, if approved, will also be made up of 29,000 sqm of retail space, 87,500 sqm of employment space in the name of business hubs, a commercial business park and a light industrial park. A total of 67,000 sqm will be allocated for the likes of nursery, primary and secondary schools along with places of worship, health centres and community centres.
On the smaller scale, there will be 8,000 sqm of hotel floorspace and 8,500 sqm of leisure floorspace – which will incorporate an indoor sports hall and sports pavilion. In practical terms, a new electrical substation will be built, reinforcement of the water network will take place and the provision of fibre-to-home broadband will be instilled.
Charging points for electric vehicles will be among the finer details of the plans, along with bike parking spaces, and parking for cars.
The boundary line and flexibility
The boundary line, also known as the red line around the circumference of the development has been altered to include Westenhanger Castle and additional bits of land for a possible wastewater facility and highway junction at Newingreen.
Logistically, the amendments have also been made to the way in which planning permission is granted as Otterpool Park begins to take shape. This will allow for more consultation on the detailed masterplanning, design and flexibility to “best suit the needs of the local population”.
Speaking of behalf of Otterpool Park LLP, Director of Planning Andy Jarrett said: “Submitting our final proposals marks a significant milestone for the project. Extensive work has gone into amending the outline planning application to incorporate feedback and present a proposal that will address local housing needs, deliver substantial infrastructure improvements and create direct opportunities for the area, as well as being able to respond to changing and growing needs in the future.”
It’s not too late to have a say on the outline planning application. Comments can be submitted to Folkestone & Hythe District Council up until June 24. Press here to see the application in full.
Article Source: Kent Live