Published: 15:20, 22 August 2019
| Updated: 16:55, 22 August 2019
A council has spent nearly £3 million buying a medieval castle - and plans to make it the centrepiece of a new garden town.
Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC) revealed today they have purchased listed Westenhanger Castle, which can be found in the village of Westenhanger near Hythe, close to Folkestone's former racecourse.
The authority claims it will be the 'jewel in the crown' for the proposed and controversial Otterpool Park development, which will include 10,000 new homes if given the go ahead.
Their plans for the castle - once used as a hunting ground for Henry VIII - includes creating a public park around it, refilling the moat and improving the water course.
In total, the council has spent £2.9m acquiring the stunning building from a private owner, which includes its surrounding barns and its 14 acres of parkland.
Leader Cllr David Monk said: "The council buying Westenhanger Castle is a real milestone in the development of Otterpool Park with the castle and the new park becoming the centerpiece for this aspirational development.
"It was already a superb development but now we have secured the purchase of the castle, Otterpool Park is even more special and this adds value in so many ways to the development.
"It will not only be a spectacular place for people who live there but also for those who live around it.”
As well as thousands of new homes, the Otterpool Park scheme - which has received many objections since it was first proposed, including one from Hythe Town Council - will include new schools, health centres, office space, convenience stores, sports halls and green spaces.
It will be built in several phases over thirty years, if it is given the green light.
An outline planning application for the first 8,500 homes was submitted in February.
Westenhanger Castle, a scheduled ancient monument, started off as a manor house in the 14th century and once boasted 126 rooms.
'The council buying Westenhanger Castle is a real milestone in the development of Otterpool Park...' - Cllr Monk
It has a rich history with royalty and nobility and has connections to Henry II and Henry VIII, who used to hunt at its former deer park.
In 1588 it was used by Queen Elizabeth I as the command centre for Kent’s 14,000 troops who were to defend the south coast from the Spanish Armada.
It is now a popular wedding venue.
FHDC plan to create a new public park around the castle for "everyone to enjoy".
It will have a lake, the water course will be improved and the moat will be refilled.
The historic medieval barns will also be brought back into use.
And the council has entered into an agreement with current operator Idyllic Events to carry on managing the maintenance of the grounds and castle, at no extra cost to them.
It will be used for events associated with Otterpool Park, the council said.