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Thousands of homes to be built around Canterbury

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Canterbury City Council leader Cllr John Gilbey
Canterbury City Council leader Cllr John Gilbey

by Gerry Warren

The city council says it is 'inevitable’ that thousands of homes with be built on greenfield land around Canterbury.

But it wants them to be high quality 'city garden’ style developments with good access roads, local services and facilities.

The authority claims it has little choice but to earmark farmland for housing because all the brownfield sites around the city have been used up.

Council leader John Gilbey insists that no specific sites or house numbers have yet been decided but some estimates put the figure at 4,500 new homes above those already allocated in the 2006 Local Plan.

Most could go on land between Canterbury and Bridge but Hersden, Hillborough at Herne Bay and land near Duncan Down at Whitstable are among the other locations being examined.

At a meeting on Monday Mr Gilbey said: “There is a direct link between the economy and the number of houses that we have to have for workers.
“We have eliminated virtually all the brown field sites and are having to look at greenfield development to keep our economy going.
“We have got two studies, one of which is an opinion poll which generally supports economic development and accepts there has to be new housing to go with it.
“The second looks at the numbers involved and it is quite clear that there are direct links between the two and we are looking at the various numbers and ultimately later this year where these houses could possibly go.”

Chief executive Colin Carmichael said: “The numbers of homes are down to us but the Government’s policy framework clearly expects growth.
“Wincheap is really on the backburner because of the very high cost of the developing it with issues around leases and the infrastructure needed to accommodate the extra traffic.
“Although Hersden is also in the Strategic Housing Land Allocation Assessment, there would also the extra traffic generated on the A28 to take into account.
“Any development south of Canterbury would also need the re-building of the Bridge junction off the A2.”

Canterbury City Council chief executive Colin Carmichael has hit back at claims
Canterbury City Council chief executive Colin Carmichael has hit back at claims

But Mr Carmichael said the authority could not simply opt out of allocating sufficent housing land and it was inevitable that greenfield sites would be needed.

A failure to identify adequate sites, he said, would be challenged by an inspector at the public inquiry and subsequently by developers, costing the council thousands.

Consultants working for the city council suggest that building between 650 and 800 new homes a year would meet future needs and support a 'more ambitious’ economic vision for the district.

Mr Carmichael said: “We know there is unhappiness about developing greenfield sites but they would not be sprawling suburbs but more in line with garden cities.”

Around nine 'serious’ developers are said to have proposals for land allocation and some have already been in discussions with land owners.

The council is now preparing a Draft Plan for consultation which it expects to publish in November at which time the exact locations and numbers of homes proposed will be revealed.

It will then be considered by a Government planning inspector at an inquiry who will consider whether the evidence used to reach the proposals is reasonable.

It is expected that the new Local Plan will be adopted in 2014, prompting a raft of planning applications.

The opinion poll and full report by council consultants which identifies future development requirements for the district have been published in the city council website at www.canterbury.gov.uk.

See this week's Gazette for full report.

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