Published: 10:41, 13 November 2020
| Updated: 10:44, 13 November 2020
The lake at Folkestone's now closed racecourse is destined to be in the 'heart' of the proposed Otterpool Park development and will be available for public swimming and fishing.
The land at the racecourse, which closed in 2012 and is near the village of Westenhanger, was purchased by Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC) earlier this year for £25million.
The authority agreed the hefty deal with Cozumel Estates, who they were in partnership with to create 10,000 home 'garden town' Otterpool Park, which is destined for the site and surrounding land.
FHDC is now solely behind the ambitious project, which is yet to be granted planning permission.
As well as the new homes, a fifth of which are proposed to be affordable, the Otterpool scheme also includes plans for new schools, green spaces, health centres, retail and leisure facilities and will have its own town centre.
At the authority's latest question and answer meeting, held virtually due to Covid-19 restrictions, a member of the public quizzed the council over access to the lake at the racecourse, which is currently out of bounds.
The question was 'Will the council allow members of the public to fish the lake at Folkestone Racecourse and have it monitored by its water bailiff?'
Cllr David Monk (Con) responded and said: "It is the intention that the lake will be available for public use for a range of leisure facilities and activities as part of the first phase of the proposed development."
Cllr Monk, leader of FHDC, added that the details are still being worked through.
Andy Jarrett, spokesman for the Otterpool Park LLP - a company set up to 'drive' the project forward, added that the lake will be in the 'heart' of the proposed town centre.
He said: "The racecourse lake is an important feature of Otterpool Park and it will need to meet a range of different needs.
"It will be in the heart of the town centre which will wrap around its south east corner with restaurants, cafes and bars facing across it with views across the new park to Westenhanger castle.
"It is hoped to bring the lake to life with leisure and recreational uses which may include fishing and wild swimming but care is being taken to ensure that biodiversity is protected, that habitats are enhanced and also that the lake can perform a sustainable drainage function.
"The thinking around this will develop over the forthcoming months and is hoped that there will be more detailed proposal to consult upon in the new year."
Financially FHDC has invested a lot in the Otterpool development - last summer they purchased Westenhanger Castle for £2.9m, which is set to become the 'centrepiece' of the scheme.
They also spent £5m buying 357 acres of farmland south east of the racecourse in 2015.
And in November 2019, FHDC approved a £100m loan to allow the first stages of Otterpool to proceed.
But the scheme has received much opposition since it was first announced in 2016, including more than 100 objections, two protests and an official objection from Hythe Town Council.
Outline planning application for the project was submitted last year and, if approved, the scheme is planned to be built in phases over the next 30 years.