Published: 05:00, 18 May 2022
| Updated: 13:07, 19 May 2022
Part of a lake could be filled in as part of plans to deliver thousands of homes and a music and arts venue at Kent's new garden city.
The planning body behind Ebbsfleet Garden City is proposing to undertake a restoration project on Blue Lake, known also as Sawyer's Lake.
Ebbsfleet Development Corporation (EDC) is currently working on a draft concept plan for an area surrounded by chalk cliffs off Thames Way, Northfleet between the A2260 and Springhead Road.
It includes Blue Lake and the land around it, the River Ebbsfleet corridor, as well as the existing wastewater treatment works and its surroundings.
The aim is to create a new "lakeside neighbourhood" featuring around 1,300 new homes. Of these EDC says a minimum of 30% will be "affordable homes", with a mix of styles and ownership options.
As part of the plans EDC wants to open up public access to Blue Lake by raising the bed of the lake, making it a safe and accessible for the public to use, as well as delivering one of seven major parks planned for the garden city.
An initial consultation was held last year but now the planning authority is stepping up its proposals.
It is proposing to submit a planning application to infill part of the popular fishing hole, known also as Sawyer's Lake, with a view to starting works this summer.
Plans also include creating a major lakeside leisure centre with a new swimming pool, fitness centre and sports hall, as well as a new community centre and cafe.
The current proposed location for the community centre – dubbed the Beacon Building – is on an area of Blue Lake that links to Springhead Road.
According to the concept plan it could include a music and arts venue and shared "hot desk" workspaces, among other ideas.
Also factored into the works are plans to relocate and replace the existing wastewater treatment works with a "modern, green, clean and odourless" facility.
EDC says the new plant would reduce the significant negative impact of the existing facility on the garden city, creating space for new homes and jobs.
The move would require modifying the traffic signals on the existing junction of the A2260 and A226 and putting in place a temporary diversion.
Partial infilling of the lake will provide provide shallower waters for future recreational uses and create development platforms for future buildings.
Works will also require the removal of abandoned cars and other items that have been discarded in the lake.
Temporary land bridges would need to be installed to carry out the works.
EDC says it will work together with the local anglers club to relocate fish to the eastern part of the lake that will remain deep water.
Fishing ceased at Blue Lake at the end of March with site security now in place.
It comes after a consultation on the plans took place between May and June last year with feedback recently published online.
Overall, 70% submitted "generally positive" comments about the draft concept plan, according to EDC.
Many people were encouraged by the idea of opening up access to Blue Lake and the proposed increased leisure opportunities, it said.
Plans to replace the existing wastewater treatment works were also well received.
However, several concerns were flagged relating to perceiving housing overdevelopment, a lack of local infrastructure and increased traffic in the area.
Wildlife worries were also expressed with the lake providing a natural habitat for insects, reptiles and birds.
Once the plans are agreed, EDC says it will seek to secure the funds from government to undertake the works which could start as early as this summer.
Ian Piper, chief executive of EDC, said: "Our ambition is to create a new lakeside neighbourhood, providing not only new homes but also important open space, leisure, recreation and community facilities for everyone.
"We’re keen to open up access to Blue Lake so that it is safe and can be widely enjoyed by the public for the first time.
"We’d like to encourage as many people as possible to tell us their views via the project website so that we can continue to deliver a garden city that reflects public vision.
"There will be lots of opportunities for people to get involved and make suggestions about the type of the facilities they would like to see at Blue Lake when we start the more detailed design work for the project in the near future."
EDC was set up by the government in 2015 to speed up delivery of up to 15,000 homes and create a 21st century garden city in north Kent.
To date, 2,980 homes have been completed, of which a third are designated as "affordable", as well as providing including three new primary schools, two community centres and local shops.
Last year, 533 homes were completed and plans were unveiled for a city centre masterplan which will include another 2,100 homes and more than 110,000sq m of commercial, retail and community spaces.
Once complete, EDC will hand over the garden city to a trust, who will be responsible for managing parks and open spaces, sports and leisure facilities and community buildings.
To have your say or find out more about the proposals click here.