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Police called to Hythe as work begins on Princes Parade scheme


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Police were called to a beauty spot after people gathered to protest over work starting on a new housing development.

Ecology work to clear trees and vegetation has begun along the northern bank of the Royal Military Canal in Hythe in preparation for the divisive Princes Parade scheme.

Work has started on Princes Parade to remove some trees and vegetation, sparking anger among residents. Picture: Save Princes Parade Facebook
Work has started on Princes Parade to remove some trees and vegetation, sparking anger among residents. Picture: Save Princes Parade Facebook

When complete, it will include 150 new homes, a leisure centre, a hotel and green spaces along the coastal road.

It was granted permission in 2019, but has been subject to many protests and even a court battle to stop it going ahead.

Last week, Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC) - which is behind the development - revealed that officers will be removing dense vegetation such as dead trees and invasive weeds to "create a better environment for certain species of wildlife", such as reptiles, bats and birds.

The work, the council said, would minimise the effect on nesting birds later in the season.

As such, sections of the footpath alongside the canal have been temporarily closed.

Police arrived at the scene this morning during the 'protest'. Picture: Save Princes Parade Facebook page
Police arrived at the scene this morning during the 'protest'. Picture: Save Princes Parade Facebook page

But Hythe residents and councillors are now calling for the work to stop.

Around 50 people are said to have gathered at the site this morning, prompting a police response.

Mark Brophy, member of the Save Princes Parade action group, said: "It is not an organised protest. Just people who care about the area and want to know what is going on.

"We're all very social distanced and respectful of Covid protocols."

Mr Brophy said FHDC gave little to no warning about the work.

The council say they are removing dead trees and dense vegetation from the site. Picture: Mike Blakemore
The council say they are removing dead trees and dense vegetation from the site. Picture: Mike Blakemore

Members of Shepway Green Party have called the removal of the vegetation 'premature'.

Cllr Lesley Whybrow, leader of the Green group at FHDC, said: "A week after the council committed itself to a greener Folkestone and Hythe, I am dismayed at the extent of this clearance work.

"Development of Princes Parade hasn’t even got under way yet and its impact is already being felt on the opposite side of the canal."

Cllr Georgina Treloar (Green), whose motion for a climate and ecological emergency to be declared in the district was adopted unanimously in 2019, added: "We should be protecting biodiversity not destroying it.

"This action shows a disconcerting contempt for transparency and the concerns of Hythe residents.

Councillors Martin Whybrow, Georgina Treloar, Douglas Wade and John Wing at the site of the clearance. Picture: Mike Blakemore
Councillors Martin Whybrow, Georgina Treloar, Douglas Wade and John Wing at the site of the clearance. Picture: Mike Blakemore

"The council claims it is green, but this action is vastly to the contrary and I would go as far to say utterly hypocritical."

Save Princes Parade posted on Facebook: "This is just the beginning sadly.

"How distressing it is for anyone that cares for the area and how disruptive it is at any time, but particularly when open space and nature have become so important for the physical and mental well-being of us all.

"As we have always stated, this is an unwelcome and unsuitable development and we will continue to stand firm against it."

A spokesman for Kent Police said: "Kent Police officers attended Seabrook Road, Hythe shortly after 8.30am following a report of a disturbance in the area.

"Officers attended and liaised with those present, who have since dispersed."

The Princes Parade scheme has long divided members of FHDC.

CGI of what the new leisure centre along the coastal road will look like
CGI of what the new leisure centre along the coastal road will look like

A vote last week which would have seen cash for the scheme removed from the budget was lost by 16 votes to 13.

Speaking today, Cllr David Monk (Con), leader of FHDC, said: "This protest is either a protest fuelled by misinformation and rumour, or another delaying tactic by the Save Princes Parade Group.

"It’s very disappointing to hear there has been damage to fencing and padlocks on site.

"It’s also incredibly irresponsible for these individuals to be congregating and breaking covid rules when the rest of the district is trying so hard to keep following the rules to protect the NHS and save lives.

"The work taking place on the northern bank of the Royal Military Canal has been recommended by expert ecologists and is being overseen by a qualified arborist.

"Vegetation removed has comprised of dead trees, brambles, invasive weeds, an invasive species of non-native North American poplars and particular elderberry trees that were being strangled by ivy.

"Nesting birds are not being disturbed. Specifically to avoid this these and subsequent clearance works are been preceded by a check for nesting birds.

"No vegetation containing nesting birds is being disturbed."

Read more: All the latest news from Hythe

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