Published: 09:55, 20 March 2019
| Updated: 14:17, 20 March 2019
Campaigners are fighting a plan for 3,750 homes, together with schools, shops, restaurants and a doctors’ surgery - labelling it a “small town”.
Developer Mark Quinn of Quinn Estates is behind the ambitious project to build across fields north of Northbourne, near Deal, and adjacent to Finglesham and Ham.
A new road would link the Betteshanger country park roundabout on the A258 Deal to Sandwich Road to the A256 Eastry bypass.
The project, still in its infancy, has been presented to Dover District Council’s forward planning department.
Finglesham residents say that huge swathes of unspoilt countryside - close to the famous Ham Sandwich road sign pointing to the nearby village and town - would be covered in concrete.
Architect Lynn Davis, who lives in West Street, is one of those opposing the scheme.
She said: “It’s a small town and I believe it would be bigger than Sandwich, which has a population of around 5,000.
“Assuming most houses would have at least two cars, that would mean an extra 7,500 cars on the road.
“There are just tracks and single lanes in this area with no street lighting and it would be very dangerous to have thousands of extra cars on the roads.
“We have dark skies and an abundance of wildlife, with badgers and skylarks.
“The fields have remained unspoilt for centuries and there is an Anglo Saxon burial ground in the middle of the site which is of great importance.”
A leaked brochure for Howbridge Park, says a “vibrant new community” would be created, using “garden village principles”.
Mr Quinn said it would offer a “complete mix” of properties, including family homes, flats, retirement living, “a significant amount of affordable housing”, part ownership and homes available for social rent.
Plots for self-build homes would also be provided, similar to those at Hammill Park, near Sandwich.
Architects involved in the scheme are Canterbury-based firms Clague and On Architecture.
A new primary and secondary school, nurseries, a doctors’ surgery and pharmacy would be created, together with restaurants, pubs and shops, both independent and high street.
Mr Quinn said: “The retail market is constantly changing so we would have to adapt to trends, but we could include both local and national companies and we could even bring back Marks & Spencer [to Deal]."
Space would be earmarked for businesses, while pedestrian, cycle and vehicle access to Betteshanger Sustainable Parks, on the former colliery site, would link Howbridge Park residents to work opportunities.
Hadlow College, which has ploughed £40m into the Betteshanger Park redevelopment, is also collaborating with Quinn Estates and is in the brochure.
Its principal Mark Lumsdon-Taylor left the company last month amid a probe by regulators into the colleges finances.
However, in the brochure, he said: “We share the belief that the strategic relief road and new settlements will bring a prosperous future for Deal.”
Hadlow declined the opportunity to comment.
Ms Davis and fellow residents Martin Coleman and Graham Ellis met with DDC planners on March 14 to outline their concerns.
The scheme will be examined by DDC to determine if it is suitable for inclusion in the Local Plan, which will be decided in the autumn.
If built, the new homes would be adjacent to the famous Ham-Sandwich sign depicted on postcards and referenced on Google Maps.
Mark Quinn said that the development was around four to five years away and added: “We are right at the beginning of a very long process.”
Deal & Betteshanger Rugby Club, whose ground is at The Drill Field in Canada Road, Walmer, has been offered a new home at Howbridge Park.
In Quinn Estates’ brochure, the club’s director of sponsorship Richard Barker is quoted saying: “Although we are a young club, Deal & Betteshanger RFC have become an integral part of the local community, running 15 teams across senior, junior, mini and girls. With a major partnership with the premiership side Saracens, the stage is set for us to have our base match our ambitions.
“Although we are extremely grateful for our current premises, our club would be able to push the boundaries with a new clubhouse and modern pitches, strengthening our community engagement, financial standing and playing strength.”
The club’s webpage reported that Mr Quinn donated £10,000 to the Lions in April 2017 and was sponsor of the under 7s and the 1st XV that season.
Deal and Betteshangar RFC chairman Matthew Curd said: “Quinn Estates are a long term platinum sponsor of the club and provide valuable support to our club. We have not entered into a partnership with Quinn Estates on Howbridge Park or any of their developments.
"We have received an initial briefing on their vision for Howbridge Park and can confirm that nothing formal has been concluded."
Mr Quinn also envisages a FA community football hub on the site.
He said: “The housing is needed and the infrastructure is needed but we will take people’s concerns into account and address them during the design process.”
Mr Quinn described the road linking the A256 and A258 as being a “major benefit” of the scheme.
The brochure states: “The provision of the new link road will alleviate congestion on the A258 and surrounding road network, thereby improving traffic flows and associated air quality”.
It added the result would be: “A reduction in Deal’s traffic congestion and journey time between north and middle Deal and Dover, and a general circulation around the town.”
The development of a new town could lead to a nightmare at Upper Deal.
That’s the fear of one resident living on the already congested London Road into Deal.
Les Craggs feared for safety with traffic building up at the congested mini roundabout at Upper Deal.
He and others waged a campaign against a smaller scale development two years ago that would add to what he deems an already dangerous and congested entrance to Deal.
The arguments he raised about mums and toddlers in buggies negotiating cars parked on the pavement and the regular gridlock in that part of town - in addition to broader issues of the loss of natural habitat for wildlife and green space - led to Dover District Council throwing out that proposal.
On Tuesday he said: “To think this is all going to happen again is deeply depressing.
“No one wants to stop progress and so many people need affordable housing but unless these key considerations are taken into account from the beginning, this could be a nightmare.”
Howbridge Park’s infrastructure would mean that it would be relatively self contained, while upgraded public transport, cycle and pedestrian networks to Deal, all mitigated the effects of extra traffic the brochure claimed.