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Council buys former Folkestone Racecourse for £25m for Otterpool Park scheme

More land has been purchased for the controversial Otterpool Park development - at the cost of £25m.

Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC) have bought the former Folkestone Racecourse, which sits on land near Hythe and close to the village of Westenhanger.

How the Otterpool Park scheme could look
How the Otterpool Park scheme could look

The site closed in 2012 and has been vacant ever since.

The authority agreed the hefty deal with Cozumel Estates, who they were in partnership with to create the 10,000 home 'garden town'.

But FHDC says it will now take the lead on the project, describing itself as the 'master developer'.

Altogether, the purchase includes the freehold of the former racecourse, several houses, a total of approximately 200 acres and also the ability to purchase neighbouring farmland of a further 440 acres in the future.

Andy Jarrett, spokesman for Otterpool Park said: "This is a site with fantastic potential and excellent connectivity; and is an opportunity to deliver a beautiful garden community incorporating well-designed new homes.

Land earmarked for Otterpool Park, taken near the Airport Cafe
Land earmarked for Otterpool Park, taken near the Airport Cafe

"Following a successful partnership with Cozumel Estates, which has seen us achieve important milestones including land assembly and the submission of the outline planning application, the council will now progress the project as the master developer."

Otterpool Park, first proposed in 2016, will be created in several stages over the next 30 years, pending approval.

A planning application for the first 8,500 homes was submitted in 2019.

As well as the new homes, a fifth of which are proposed to be affordable, the project will also include new schools, green spaces, health centres and retail and leisure facilities.

Cllr David Monk
Cllr David Monk

But this is not the first time the council has spent money when it comes to Otterpool - last summer they purchased Westenhanger Castle for £2.9m, which is set to become the 'centrepiece' of the scheme.

They also spent £5m buying 357 acres of farmland south east of the Racecourse in 2015.

And in November, FHDC approved a £100m loan to allow the first stages of the new ‘garden town’ to proceed, despite it not yet receiving planning permission.

Cllr David Monk, leader of FHDC added: "We have worked productively with Cozumel Estates in an innovative public/private sector partnership arrangement and have advanced the project to a stage where the council will now take the lead.

"Otterpool Park is an exciting opportunity for us to deliver an exemplar garden town, bringing homes across a range of tenures, employment opportunities, leisure facilities, green spaces and major infrastructure improvements, together in a new, vibrant community.

Artist impressions of the new garden town. Credit: Arcadis Design and Access statement
Artist impressions of the new garden town. Credit: Arcadis Design and Access statement

"Our aspiration is to achieve high levels of sustainability and consider future ways of living and working in its design, so that it integrates and benefits the wider district."

Otterpool has received much opposition since it was first announced, including more than 100 objections, two protests and an official objection from Hythe Town Council.

Read more: All the latest news from Hythe

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