Published: 10:00, 10 October 2017
| Updated: 10:44, 10 October 2017
The team developing a garden town in Kent are pressing government for a tiny railway station to become a stop on the high speed rail line.
Shepway District Council hope Westenhanger station will be given money for improvements so it can serve 12,000 homes being built at Otterpool Park over the next 30 years.
Council officials said they are “lobbying hard” for HS1 to stop at the site, which was used just over 66,500 times from 2015 to 2016 according to the Office of Rail and Road.
The high speed service already stops at Ashford International, which had 3.8 million uses, and both stations in Folkestone, which were used a combined 1.5 million times over the same period.
Susan Priest, corporate director of strategic development at Shepway District Council, said the Otterpool team has made the case for a stop as part of a bid for up to £250 million from the government’s housing infrastructure fund.
She told delegates at the Construction Expo conference in Detling that this was “one of the top priorities of the council” and that the bid included “specific allocation for station enhancements”.
She said: “There is a real willingness from the council to make sure this is delivered.
“I think we are being listened to in terms of Network Rail and the station enhancements.
“The bids are about how the government can provide regeneration money to stimulate the provision of early infrastructure that will give confidence to the market."
High speed services have previously stopped temporarily at Westenhanger station for events at the former Folkestone Racecourse, which will become part of the garden town.
The council will hear if its funding bid has been successful by June next year.
It has a team of 100 people working on the garden town and has hired engineering consultancy Arcadis to do masterplanning work on a two-year contract.
A public consultation was carried out in June and the council will reveal its preferred options for the site by the end of the year.
Arcadis associate director Rebecca Kearney said there has been some debate about the nature of the town centre being created for Otterpool.
She said: “We’re looking to create an amazing high street. It’s an interesting area of debate. Will there still be the volume of shops and services we see now on the high street?”
Ms Priest confirmed the council “probably will” look at developing some homes on the site itself, especially as it is one of the major landowners of Otterpool Park.
However, she said it would try to be different from Ebbsfleet Garden City, which is being developed further up the high speed line near Gravesend.
She said: “Ebbsfleet is more cosmopolitan and close to the city.
“We don’t want to undermine the Ebbsfleet offer. This offer will be around the coast and countryside. People here will also be closer to the Channel Tunnel.”