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Shepway District Council publishes Princes Parade report over mystery third party talks

By Matt Leclere

Talks have been held over relocating Hythe and Saltwood Sailing Club to Princes Parade as part of the area's redevelopment, it can be revealed.

A secret session was due at Shepway District Council's cabinet meeting tonight with councillors set to discuss the options for the site in private.

Campaigners had been lobbying for the papers to be released. But the documents were published after sailing club trustees and members were informed of the discussions.

Rumours had been circulating that Shepway council's partner was Hythe Imperial Hotel owners and construction firm GSE - but these have now been confirmed to be untrue.

Shepway had refused to comment on the identity of its partner but council papers have been made public ahead of the meeting tonight after all.

Cllr David Monk, Leader of Shepway District Council, said: “The original decision to hold our discussions in private was because we had been approached by Hythe and Saltwood Sailing Club about the possibility of their relocation to Princes Parade.

"We needed to keep their interest confidential whilst they discussed matters with their trustees and members. They informed us yesterday that we can now make this information public so there is no longer any need to hold discussions in private."

The report cabinet members will discuss at the Civic Centre in Folkestone from 6pm contains three proposals in another planning consultancy report over ways the land could be developed.

London-based firm Tibbalds has provided outline details of how the area could be built on, which Shepway will now consider before submitting a planning application to itself.

Impressions of what the inside of the pool might look like

Figures from a Freedom of Information request made by KentOnline's sister newspaper, the Folkestone & Hythe Express, last November revealed £172,000 had already been spent by the council on consultancy fees relating to providing a new leisure centre for Hythe.

Three options outlined in the latest report include various schemes, all of which would include at least half the land being allocated for housing.

Keeping "a generous" amount of open space has also been included at the western end of the site under the suggestions being put before councillors tonight.

A strategic report has earmarked the site is capable of holding 150 homes.

Aerial view of Princes Parade on Hythe seafront. Picture courtesy of Save Princes Parade

Another alternative would also include space for a leisure centre with a third adding provision for Hythe and Saltwood Sailing to move up the road from its current home in Marine Parade.

The sailing club has applied for permission to extend its current building.

But the report from Tibbalds outlines that "there may be potential to relocate the Sailing Club into a new facility at Princes Parade" and increase its size by around 25%.

The existing Seapoint Canoe Centre, which is located at the eastern end of Princes Parade, has planning permission agreed for a new extension which Tibbalds says could see the two centres "share events and facilities".

A recommendation from Shepway's head of strategic development projects Andy Jarrett proposes that the council proceeds to develop a planning application based on 149 houses, new yacht club, leisure centre and 2.8 hectares of open space.

Campaigners from the Save Princes Parade (SPP) group, which opposes developing the open space, ramped up pressure on the council this week to publish what is being discussed.

Lesley Whybrow, from the Save Princes Parade group, said the papers should be released to be "open and transparent"

The group wants the controversial plans for developing the former landfill site, now open space, to be released in the interests of “openness and transparency”.

Lesley Whybrow, from SPP said: “Openness and transparency is always important in local authority business but especially in such an important and controversial issue as the development of Princes Parade.

“We are told that there is a third party/partner involved but have been given no details as to how this partnership has come about or what form it will take.

“I understand the council’s strong desire to provide Hythe with a new leisure centre but the price of the loss of the open space at Princes Parade is too high."

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