Published: 10:30, 22 December 2016
The developers of a new garden city plan to use tunnels through chalk cliffs to link a shopping centre with thousands of homes.
Shoppers will be able to travel to Bluewater on buses using the bored channels between the site and the Eastern Quarry, where 6,250 homes are to be built over the next 15 years.
The existing tunnel network, used for transport when the chalk pits were active, have laid dormant for more than two decades and can be seen when entering the shopping centre.
It is understood garden city bosses will not allow cars to use the route to avoid creating new traffic problems, reserving it instead for an upgrade of the area’s Fastrack bus system.
The proposal supports the aim to make the garden city less dependent on cars, unveiled in the masterplan for the site in September.
It refers to the “facilitation of fully-dedicated Fastrack route through Eastern Quarry” which could “utilise Bluewater tunnels to allow the service to run seamlessly between Bluewater and Ebbsfleet station through Eastern Quarry”.
The plan indicates the tunnels could also be used as a “cycle superhighway” giving cyclists and pedestrians direct access to the shopping centre from houses in the quarry.
Paul Spooner, chief executive of Ebbsfleet Development Corporation, the planning body for the garden city, said: “One of our aims is for the new high-quality Fastrack to provide existing and new residents with direct access to Bluewater including opening up the tunnels through the chalk spine from Eastern Quarry and we are working with the owners to investigate the feasibility of delivering this.”
Bluewater general manager Robert Goodman said: “We look forward to working with the Ebbsfleet Development Corporation team to help realise their vision.”
So far 171 homes have been completed and occupied in the Eastern Quarry.
More than 500 homes and a primary school are under construction in the garden city, with plans for a further 1,100 homes on two riverfront sites in Northfleet due to be considered early next year.
Developers are also expected to submit a new masterplan for more than 4,500 homes in two villages in the Eastern Quarry in the first few months of 2017.
Mr Spooner added: “As we approach 2017, Ebbsfleet Garden City is well placed to attract further public and private investment, deliver development at pace, and create the much needed new homes, community facilities and transport improvements which this area of North Kent deserves.”