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Developers confident Otterpool Park green space plan will go ahead

By Molly Mileham-Chappell

Bosses behind a controversial garden town plan say they are 'confident' they can deliver their pledge of 40% green space.

The team behind Otterpool Park held the first in a series of public meetings yesterday morning at the Leas Cliff Hall in Folkestone to outline finer details before the initial planning application is submitted later this year.

It comes after our sister paper the Folkestone and Hythe Express last month revealed landowner Cozumel Estates refused to promise 40% green space in 2016.

An artist’s impression of the Otterpool development
An artist’s impression of the Otterpool development

If approved, 10,000 homes will be built over the long-term between Westenhanger, Lympne and Sellindge, with offices, shops, medical facilities and schools, to create a community for the future.

Plans for 12,000 homes were recently reduced by 2,000, with a council report saying half of them would have to be flats if that many were built.

This week's presentation was told there will be homes to rent and buy for all ages and backgrounds, including commuters, first time buyers and the elderly, with 22% affordable housing in line with Folkestone and Hythe District Council’s (FHDC) Core Strategy Policy, as shared ownership and social and affordable rent.

'Green buffer zones' between existing villages will be in place, as well as conservation areas such as country parks, sports areas, woodland and a riverside management area.

Facilities such as allotments and sports pitches are included in the 40% target, according to developers.

Rebecca Kearney, project manager at Arcadis, said: “It is viable at that level and we’re actually over 40%, so I’m very confident that that’s what we will end up with.”

Julia Wallace, representing FHDC landowners, said: “I think some of the concerns about the 40% was from very early correspondence before we’d even begun doing any master planning work, when I think there was a sense of its difficult for us to commit to anything at this stage in the process.

“That was two years ago and since then an awful lot has happened.”

How Otterpool Park could look
How Otterpool Park could look

There will be six primary schools, each with a 10 minute walk catchment, 11 nurseries and two secondary schools, with the potential for sixth forms and further education at one of them.

Medical provisions were also addressed.

Gary Young, from Farrells, who are behind the masterplan, said: “Because of the size and spread, we think there will be a local centre which is in addition to the town centre which can have a small group practice for doctors, but the town centre can provide an additional facility rather than just a doctors and group health centre.

“I don’t think we’re fixed on locations. We’re saying land has been allocated at two or three locations, and one is large enough to expand from a typical GP practice to a treatment centre,” he said.

There will also be a new high street at Westenhanger, connecting buses and walk ways to shops and the train.

This year’s application to Folkestone and Hythe District Council will include proposals for the first 8,500 homes of the project, set to be built in phases.

The publicly available masterplan takes into account 10,000 homes, but the remaining 1,500 homes, located on in the south west of the site with industrial units would be the last phase, and could not be built for more than 20 years.

Phases will have further detailed applications.

The next public consultation will be once the planning application has been submitted, but a series of 'community engagement' events are taking place over the coming weeks, including a briefing for estate agents to assess the market and potential future buyers, along with workshops for schools and businesses.

A public event will be held today for all to attend and ask questions at Westenhanger Castle between 2pm and 8pm.

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