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Labour bid to stop 'Benidorm-style' homes along Folkestone seafront thwarted by government

By Sean Axtell

Labour’s bid to thwart plans to build a thousand "Benidorm-style" homes along a seafront has been thrown out by the Secretary of State.

Last month, the party called on then Housing Secretary Sajid Javid MP - who is now Home Secretary - to take charge of plans to build 1,000 properties along Folkestone seafront.

But last week party officials were told the request had been thrown out.

An artist's impressions show the scale, position and layout of the development
An artist's impressions show the scale, position and layout of the development

It means the plan put forward by regeneration firm Folkestone Harbour Company (FHC), which is backed millionaire philanthropist Sir Roger De Haan, will progress.

A spokesman for FHC said it “welcomes the decision of the Secretary of State and looks forward to moving ahead with the development.”

Call-ins can be made by anybody wishing for the Secretary of State to take charge of an application rather than a planning authority.

To succeed, a case and evidence must be presented to the government.

Labour’s grounds to call-in the bid hinged on the developer’s ‘minor amendments’ to the original pre-approved plans, known as a Section 73 application.

The amendments sought to demolish the harbour master’s house, significantly increase the size of some tower blocks and scrap sea and beach sports centres.

New proposals - Courtesy Folkestone Harbour Company (1164789)
New proposals - Courtesy Folkestone Harbour Company (1164789)

Writing to the Secretary of State, the party said: “The proposed alterations would change the character of the development from a formal layout consistent with the historic buildings within Folkestone town centre, to a much taller, ‘Benidorm’ style design.

“(It) would blight this National Heritage coastline and effectively privatise an area that has been used as a public beach for generations.

“The proposed amendments would fundamentally alter the wonderful views that draw visitors to the area and go far beyond what was originally authorised.”

Cllr Jacqui Mead said she was “disappointed” the request was rejected.

She said: “There are people still in the town who think the developer wants to build little homes on the seafront and aren’t aware of the recent changes.

“We will continue to give the people of Folkestone a voice.

Former Housing Secretary Sajid Javid
Former Housing Secretary Sajid Javid

“I would like to say to Roger De Haan and his professionals to look at the infrastructure on the site.

“Parking already is a nightmare. When it was hot during the bank holiday weekend visitors were just turning around and going home.

“Imagine what it’s going to be like when the development is finished.”

Now the plans have been approved, some plots will rise only by a couple of storeys, while others will increase from 20.5 metres to 29.5 metres.

Under the latest agreement the height of seven plots are proposed to increase.

But Plot H will reduce by 15m back to 20m and beach sports facilities will be built in Phase five of the development but scattered within the estate rather than in one building.

FHC has also pledged to give funds to the existing Folkestone Sea Sports company on the Stade as part of an agreement worth £3.5 million.

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