Published: 16:05, 26 March 2021
| Updated: 16:46, 26 March 2021
The first homes of a new garden town planned for Kent could be built by 2024, it has been revealed.
Otterpool Park is destined for land near Hythe and the village of Westenhanger and is planned to include up to 10,000 new homes, schools, shops and green spaces.
Watch: The new town centre will be the focus of phase one
Land from Folkestone's former racecourse, which has been shut since 2012, will be used for the project, and its lake will be the 'heart' of a proposed new town centre.
Outline planning permission was submitted for the ambitious scheme - for which Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC) is behind - in 2019, although this is now likely to be updated following consultations.
Today, an online webinar was held on the first phase of the massive development and detailed what it might include and how it will be built.
Members of Otterpool Park LLP - a new company set up to 'drive' the scheme forward - and other experts gave presentations on different aspects of the project, and then answered questions from members of the public who were watching virtually.
A timeline presented during the session revealed that it is hoped planning permission for Otterpool will be granted by 2022, and a team will be on site from 2023.
If all goes to plan, the first homes could be built by 2024.
Phase one will be a 'place for working and living' and include a mix of homes, ranging from flats to large family houses, plus office space.
It will also include the scheduled town centre, which will run off a new 20mph road called Otterpool Avenue.
Restaurants and cafes - with views over the lake - and independent shops will feature on the road.
Examples of how the new 'high street' will look were given during the webinar, and included images of a town centre in Hennef, Germany.
Two primary schools are also planned for phase one, plus nursery provisions for smaller children.
A library, community centre, health centre and leisure centre with a swimming pool are also all proposed for the first stage.
Historic Westenhanger Castle - which FHDC purchased for £2.9 million in 2019 - will be enhanced and a new 'destination' park, Castle Park, will be created around it. This will include parts of the former deer park and Tudor gardens.
People will be able to enjoy walking, running, relaxing and picnics in the green space, which will also feature children's play parks.
A cricket pitch will be built, with a pavilion, and it is hoped other teams will eventually be set up. Swimming will be available in the lake.
A new 'station square' is also planned for Westenhanger Station, which will effectively be turned into a public realm and will be the 'gateway to the development'.
People will get off the train and enter the square, which will include shops and cafes plus links to other transport, such as buses, cycle hire, taxis or walking routes.
New bus routes, called Otterpool north and south loops, will be established and the whole site will be promoted as a 'car free' development. Although parking will still be available, such as in car barns.
Questions from members of the public included queries over affordable housing - 22% is proposed - and whether cycle lanes will be established - they will.
If approved, it will be built in phases over 30 years.
As well as buying Westenhanger Castle, the council has also spent £25 million buying the now empty racecourse and £5m buying 357 acres of farmland to the south east of it.
More than 80 people attended this afternoon's webinar, and a further 60 are planned to watch the second one planned for this evening from 5.30pm until 7pm.
The engagements will be recorded and published on the Otterpool Park website, so that those that are unable to attend can watch it at a later date and provide their feedback.