Published: 13:45, 16 August 2018
| Updated: 22:29, 16 August 2018
Plans for 150 seafront homes and a leisure centre have been approved by councillors, despite concerns it will leave a town "ruined forever".
More than 100 protesters gathered before the meeting of Folkestone and Hythe District Council, which spent two hours debating the proposals for Princes Parade this evening.
The controversial scheme, which attracted more than 700 objection letters on the grounds of its impact on Hythe beachfront, was narrowly approved with five votes in favour, four against and one abstention.
Save Princes Parade campaign group had called for a peaceful protest at the Civic Centre base at 6.15pm before members discussed the application.
Dr Geoff Burrell from the group said: "The character of Hythe will be ruined forever. The abundant wildlife will be decimated."
The authority argues the project will give the town a state-of-the-art replacement pool, yet protesters criticised the loss of green space.
While the council claims developing the old landfill site will bring economic benefits, campaigners say the business plan is flawed.
Conflicting views also hang over the development’s proximity to the Royal Military Canal, a Scheduled Monument and nationally recognised asset.
Less than “substantial harm” will be caused to the nineteenth century waterway according to the council, however, the development will “ruin its setting” campaigners argue.
The council hopes to ‘stop up’ Princes Parade road and move it almost one mile adjacent to the canal.
But the opposition say the thoroughfare is synonymous with Hythe, offering sea vistas and easy disabled beach access.
More than 700 objection letters have been lodged against 170 written representations in favour.
Sandgate Parish Council, Historic England and Kent Wildlife Trust were also strongly opposed.
Yet Hythe Town Council came out in support, while Natural England and the Environment Agency did not object.
Rows have also broken out over the way the council drafted its own planning bid.
So far most of the application has been only been given outline approval, with detailed decisions on how the project takes shape to happen later.
This “writes the developer a blank cheque,” according Lesley Whybrow of Save Princes Parade.
However the council has promised to deliver 150 homes, of which 30% will be affordable, as well as a 25m pool with gym and up to 1,270sqm of commercial space.
Approximately five hectares of public open space will also be included, official council documents say.
Recently an e-petition of 6,292 names was addressed to council leader David Monk requesting the project be scrapped.
The council said the petition could not be considered an objection against the proposal, as the signatories had not signed the petition on that basis.
“In accordance with the council’s constitution, petitions relating to planning and licensing matters will not be received or considered by full council meeting,” the council said.
Dr Geoff Burrell from Save Princes Parade said: "The council leader has simply failed to listen to, and understand, the entirely reasonable wishes of so many local people who daily take advantage of Princes Parade and value what it offers.
"The character of Hythe will be ruined forever. The abundant wildlife will be decimated.
"Yes everyone wants a new swimming pool but a better leisure centre than planned can be provided on the larger Nickolls Quarry site in a similar timescale without placing our council tax money at risk.
"Their viability analysis for this project is seriously flawed because it is based upon dodgy data - the promised affordable homes cannot be accommodated."
He added a resuly of approval was that "everyone will suffer as a consequence of a misguided aspiration".
Ex-army veteran Christine Farrell, 58, of Brook Close in Seabrook added: “I am an army veteran, disabled while serving my country.
“I walk along the canal at Prince’s Parade in Seabrook nearly every day. It is beautiful, tranquil and teaming with wildlife.
“I think it is the best place on earth and it would break my heart to see this unique, precious area destroyed.”
More by this authorSean Axtell