Published: 06:00, 08 February 2020
A £40 million housing estate will breathe new life into a suburb and combat traffic woes, developers claim.
Pentland Homes is currently building the first phase of an ambitious project to deliver 750 properties on farmland behind Cockering Road, in Thanington near Canterbury.
The development - named Saxon Fields - will include a new primary school, restaurants and sports pitches, as well as a bespoke base for the relocation of the city’s Pilgrims Hospice.
Also part of the deal will be a long-awaited A2 off-slip at Wincheap, with Pentland picking up the £8.8 million price.
But the new coastbound slip-road - envisaged to alleviate constant traffic problems on the A28 - does not legally need to be completed until the 450th house at Saxon Fields is occupied.
The entire project, which is Pentland’s biggest to date, is set to be finished within the next eight years. All of the homes - of which a handful are almost complete - will have an art deco design and boast underfloor heating systems.
The first phase of development, which includes 27 properties, is due to be finished by December, with seven of the homes already sold.
Buyers will be moving in throughout the year as each house is completed.
Martin Hart, managing director at Pentland, is pleased with how the development is taking shape.
“There’s a real focus for a big regeneration of Wincheap - it’s the next big thing for Canterbury,” he said.
“And with this development we’re kickstarting that change.
“We could have built 1,000 homes on this land but we didn’t want to cram them in. Instead, each house has a lot of space and we have large areas of greenery and sports facilities.
“With other companies you’ll see the same brick being used for homes in Scotland and in Kent, with little thought going into the specific area.
“But everything we do is different. It’s probably not the best approach economically as our team are always working on new designs, but we care about the quality.”
Prices of the homes will range from £350,000 to £540,000 - with the government’s Help to Buy scheme for first-time buyers available, and 30% of the stock being affordable homes.
The undulating farmland land was snapped up by the Folkestone-based firm in the 1970s and plans were originally drawn up for a golf course - before focus shifted to opening a club in Boughton.
A vision to build a new housing complex was then hatched in 2005, before Canterbury City Council - which earmarked the 111-acre site in its Local Plan - approved the 750-home scheme in 2016.
New parkland, meadows and wetlands will be created along with a cricket pitch and pavilion, with talks ongoing with Sturry Cricket Club about taking on the facilities.
Karrina Oki, sales and marketing director at Pentland, said: “We are delivering all the elements needed to support a new community, from new homes to support services such as a doctor’s surgery, primary school, shops and plenty of open space for families to enjoy.
“There is something for everyone, from first-time buyers, professionals, growing families up to empty-nesters and downsizers.”
As well as funding a new coastbound off-slip, Pentland will also be paying for extension works on the current London-bound off-slip at Wincheap. The year-long work is due to be complete before the 74th house at Saxon Fields is occupied.
“This scheme will really help with Canterbury’s traffic problems,” Mr Hart said.
“The ring-road is heavily clogged up and is largely down to issues at Wincheap. The traffic lights are out of sync and our work will get them into line.
“We’ll keep the traffic moving. We’re invested into helping ease congestion - it won’t be made worse.”
A £7 million Pilgrims Hospice building will be built on site - replacing the current palliative care centre in London Road.
It will be paid for by Pentland, the Tory Foundation and Quinn Estates.
Mr Hart said: “The new hospice is going to be in a fantastic location and will open in the next five years.
“The current one sucks out a load of money, so to have a hospice fit for purpose is going to be excellent.
“Like the houses, it will have great views across to the city and Cathedral.
“We’ll also have a new employment centre that can be seen direct from the A2 - a great place to showcase a business. And there will be an improved bus service that can serve everyone in Thanington.
“I love the whole feel of the project, and art deco design is something I wanted to do. I knew it needed to have a historic feel as it’s Canterbury, but it also needs to have quite a contemporary look.
“It certainly isn’t a bog-standard design. We don’t have a standard house type at Pentland.”
The project acts as two-thirds of a major development in Thanington which will see 1,150 homes built.
Quinn Estates has gained permission for a separate £9.5 million 400-home scheme to the west of Saxon Fields, stretching down to Milton Manor Roundabout.
With Pentland forking out for the new A2 off-slip, Quinn Estates is set to fund the connecting relief road which then runs through the Wincheap Industrial Estate.
But the works are dependent on the city council’s highly-divisive plan to expand Wincheap park and ride onto water meadows.
If the council struggles to secure the green light for its expansion plans, then the slip-road construction will inevitably be stalled.
All of the projects are therefore entwined and rely on each other to be fulfilled.