Published: 06:00, 21 September 2021
| Updated: 15:57, 21 September 2021
Concerned residents fear their village could “become like Sheppey” if plans to significantly expand a caravan park are given the go-ahead.
The owners of the Alberta holiday complex in Seasalter want to add an extra 91 mobile homes to the existing 332, but villagers worry the area will be negatively impacted as a result.
Should the additional caravans be built on land opposite the park, next to Lucerne Drive, they believe Seasalter will begin to morph into the Isle of Sheppey, where more than 7,000 static homes are stationed.
Speaking to decision-making members at Canterbury City Council’s planning committee meeting two weeks ago, resident David Stewart warned how the area could change.
“You put 91 caravans on there, and you’re now becoming Sheppey as far as I’m concerned,” he said.
“If you go through Sheppey, there’s not a lot there so I think you’re doing wrong. Once you grant this, you cannot take it back.
“It’s not going to bring any more money into the area. Caravanners do not need to spend money in local amenities as they bring their own stuff from home and don’t go out much.”
However, staunch supporter of Sheppey and it's Islanders, is almost life-long resident and Sheppey reporter, John Nurden, who has hit back at the latest slur and given readers a full and frank rundown of everything the Isle has to offer.
Mr Stewart added: “Seasalter is a unique place with a large housing estate and three caravan parks.
“Whatever you put at that site, you’ve got to live with it. At the moment you’ve got horses grazing and it’s lovely. And then you’ve got the council estate the other side, so there is a balance.”
Park Holidays, the nationwide firm operating Alberta, submitted plans for the extra mobile homes - as well as a new playground area and sports zone - in 2019.
It originally wanted 143 new pitches, but reduced the number to 91.
Council planning officers looked favourably upon the scheme and recommended committee members approve the project at a crunch meeting.
But after hearing concerns from residents and raising fears of their own, a decision on the expansion plan was deferred until a later date to allow for more evidence to be gathered.
Objections over flooding, external lighting, sewage, and highway safety were all raised, as well concerns over the impact on the neighbouring Seasalter Local Nature Reserve, which has a thriving bird population.
Councillors said the “priceless habitats” - which are “one of the most important areas we have in the country” - should not be disturbed.
The applicants have now been asked to address the criticisms and come back with new reports.
Cllr Valerie Kenny (Lab) said: “Ninety-one caravans is a phenomenal amount to put on this site. "We’re all very aware of the sewage problems in this area. I can’t imagine 91 caravans are going to really assist that.”
Extra caravans will result in an increase in vehicle movements, and residents say Seasalter already suffers from “total mayhem” due to its limited infrastructure.
Faversham Road, Joy Lane and the Church Lane rat-run all become snarled-up when there is an incident on the Thanet Way.
Long-term resident Marie Woodyer said: “Seasalter will become a village of people living in caravans rather than tourism. Tourism is based on touring caravans rather than static caravans.”
If approved, the caravans would be occupied strictly for holiday purposes on a 10-and-a-half-month operating season between March and January.
David Middleton, the agent acting on behalf of Alberta, said: “The development will secure the long-term sustainability of Alberta Caravan Park as a tourism business and local employer. It will result in an increase in visitor spend to local businesses, Seasalter, Whitstable and the wider area.”