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Planning application submitted for coastal heritage park at Princes Parade in Hythe

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Detailed plans for a controversial seafront housing development and "coastal heritage park" have been met with strong objections.

Planning approval was granted in 2019 for the divisive Princes Parade project in Hythe, which includes 150 homes and a leisure centre set to be created on the former tip.

Fencing now surrounds Princes Parade in Hythe, as work continues on the project
Fencing now surrounds Princes Parade in Hythe, as work continues on the project

Work has already started to prepare the land, with badgers and reptiles having been relocated and vegetation cleared.

Now, a new planning application has been submitted to Folkestone and Hythe District Council – which is also behind the scheme – seeking permission for reserved matters relating to the infrastructure and landscaped areas.

Planning literature shows how a "coastal heritage park" would be created to the west of the site, including paths for cyclists and walkers, meadows, picnic areas and a pavilion.

The document, from Mark Hanton Studio, shows how a 'sense of arrival' would be created for the park with Gabion baskets – metal crates – filled with ragstone to "form strong geometric gateway structures".

Signs showing the "natural and historical context of the site to enhance user experience" would also be put up.

Sketch shows proposed coastal park set for Princes Parade. Photo: FHDC planning portal/Mark Hanton Studio
Sketch shows proposed coastal park set for Princes Parade. Photo: FHDC planning portal/Mark Hanton Studio

To promote health and wellbeing, a series of fitness stations, including equipment for work-outs, would be put throughout the park, linked by marked trails along the proposed paths.

Flat grass areas would be seeded to create open meadows, providing "a strong natural coastal character and valuable ecological habitat".

Other fields would be used for informal play, relaxing and picnicking, the document states.

A new pavilion, with toilets, a kiosk and shelter is also proposed, as well as a play park for children, which would have a "citadel/coastal theme".

Improvements to the Royal Military Canal, which is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, are also intended. There would also be a car park.

The land before work started
The land before work started

Planning documents state: "The provision of a new park provides public benefits including significant heritage benefits through potential to reinforce the setting of, and greater awareness of, the Scheduled Ancient Monument."

As well as new homes, the leisure centre and coastal park, the Princes Parade project also includes plans to stop-up the existing Princes Parade road and move it closer to the canal.

This part of the scheme has been subject to a public inquiry, the results of which are still pending.

The development has been long fought, with campaigners from action groups Save Princes Parade and Wild About Princes Parade holding regular protests.

A Judicial Review was also launched but was defeated at the High Court.

Artist's impression of the proposed leisure centre
Artist's impression of the proposed leisure centre

Objections also stem from the results of investigations which revealed the land was contaminated.

The latest planning application refers to "constraints" of the development, including the "significant contamination" and the "potential cost of dealing with this".

And the application has also attracted objections from those against the scheme.

One comment reads: "I strongly object to these proposals.

"Very little tree planting on the embankment exposes the new road and traffic due on it, therefore highly intrusive. The leisure centre will also be highly visible, and the tree proposals seem woefully inadequate for protection and screening.

People have long been fighting to stop the scheme going ahead. Photo: James Willmott
People have long been fighting to stop the scheme going ahead. Photo: James Willmott

"Certain pines are Mediterranean, hardly native, so the proposed plants do not conform to required criteria.

"I’m extremely concerned in this day and age of increasing and vicious rain 'bombs' as to whether any of the flood protection, particularly where the canal is concerned, are remotely adequate and able to cope.

"There is also the ongoing pollution issues highly relevant to the decontamination required and how this is going to be conducted relevant to any landscaping and flood protection activity."

Another said: "Totally against any development on Princes Parade.

"The works conducted to date should not continue and no further work on the land should proceed that may expose the toxic materials located under the surface."

Another commenter said they would hope the plans would be unveiled during a public consultation.

A decision on this application is expected by March.

A Folkestone and Hythe District Council spokesman said: “This application focuses on our aim to provide excellent leisure facilities for the district at the former municipal tip at Princes Parade.

"Our vision includes a destination play area, accessible open grass areas, the incorporation of a landmark pavilion, a car park integrated into the landscape, and exercise equipment.

"This would not only be a fantastic amenity for residents and visitors, but also help reinforce the setting – and generate more awareness – of the Royal Military Canal, a scheduled ancient monument."

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