Published: 11:09, 23 October 2020
| Updated: 11:12, 23 October 2020
Widespread objection to a major housing development opposite Betteshanger Park continues to grow as a date for planners to grant their decision remains unconfirmed.
Friends of Betteshanger, a group set up to preserve the open mosaic habitat which has grown on the former mining site over the last three decades, had thought the application, submitted by Quinn Estates in April, would go before Dover District Council (DDC) as early as next week.
But the authority says officers are still considering it.
The company seeking permission for up to 210 dwellings on land directly opposite the main county park - known as Betteshanger Sustainable Parks.
To be called Betteshanger Grove, it would be a mix of flats, two, three and four bedroomed houses and 12 plots for self-builders. A total of 30% amounting to 63 homes will be made affordable.
The proposal also includes plans for a 2,500sqm office and a centre with 150sqm of retail floorspace.
More than 80 objections have been lodged with reference to wildlife and DDC policies, which were partly designed to tackle greenhouse gas emissions.
Among them are concerns from Peter Cutler, of Friends of Betteshanger, who said: “If agreed, the result would be that a site rich in bio-diversity will be destroyed, an amenity will be lost forever and many of the trees and bushes planted by SEEDA will be grubbed up.
“The Deal, Sholden and Sandwich area will become more suburbanised with fewer ‘wild’ or ‘natural’ spaces.
“The issue of suburbanisation is important since the result will be an increase in car journeys, an increase in greenhouse gas emissions and decrease in air quality.”
Deal Town Council has objected to the development in its current form, stating members feel it is too large, within a flood plain and will have a negative impact on the highways and environment.
Concern has also been raised by the RSPB and Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory Trust over the potential loss of habitat belonging to turtle doves, one the of the UK’s fastest declining breeding birds. But Quinn Estates has now amended its plan in response, by removing development from this area.
There is some dispute over a ‘Saved Policy’ AS1 held by the district council, which indicates that the land and area on and around Almond House Betteshanger is not suitable for the residential and retail development.
Sholden Parish Council says it can find no record that this is out of date or redundant and claims the application should be refused on this basis alone.
Other objections have been raised by Northbourne, Worth, and Walmer parish councils, as well as the Kent Wildlife Trust, BugLife, Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland and Campaign to Protect Rural England.
The application has a letter of support from the trustees of Betteshanger Social Welfare Scheme, who feel the new homes will bring “vitality and vibrancy” to businesses and community spots.
They write: “Quinn Estates will finally utilise this land for the development of something the local community needs, not only by increasing the housing supply and creating jobs but also due to the revenue it will generate for the area.”
Following early consultation with nearby residents and a public meeting in March, Quinn Estates has agreed to gift the land adjacent to the social club to the Betteshanger Social Welfare Scheme to be retained as functional open space and pledged to make improvements to the area’s skate park.
A sinking fund will be generated for the maintenance of the wastewater treatment plant alongside any upgrades required to serve existing and new properties in the long term, as well as a £200,000 fund for carbon off-setting measures to existing properties in Circular Road and Broad Lane.
Responding to concerns, a spokesman for Quinn Estates said: “The site is allocated for development in the local plan and has an extant planning permission in place. The habitat referred to (Open Mosaic Habitat) has established on the development platforms created by SEEDA to enable the former colliery to be redeveloped.
“The site has already undergone significant public investment to deliver the development platforms, roundabout, roads and servicing infrastructure, with these put in place in through significant public investment prior to the purchase of the site by Hadlow College.
“The application is supported by extensive survey information and proposes the creation of compensatory Open Mosaic Habitat (OMH) at the Country Park, ensuring that an area over double the size of the OMH to be lost will be subject to ecological management and secured in the long-term. This approach also ensure that biodiversity net gain can be demonstrated whilst accepting the assessment of consultees in relation to existing habitat condition.
“The determining of planning applications requires wide ranging competing interests to be balanced to deliver sustainable development.
“The application makes clear that any loss of habitat can be mitigated through a combination of on-site retention, enhancement and management and off-site creation and management. This approach fully accords with national planning policy.”
A district council spokesman said: “Officers are still considering the planning application for Betteshanger. When the application is ready to be presented to the Planning Committee, objectors and others will be notified in the usual way.
“It is recognised that bio-diversity issues are of particular importance for the site and significant changes have been made to the originally submitted scheme to reflect this. DDC officers have worked with the relevant bodies and their report will fully cover these issues.”