The Government has supported the proposal for a new garden town in the District, between Folkestone and Ashford, perfectly located next to Junction 11 of the M20 and Westenhanger Station. The plan is to provide long term growth for homes and jobs in the district in a high quality, landscape-led environment.
- Challenge of ensuring the long term financial sustainability of the council and its ability to maintain high quality services
- Need to meet increased housing growth and grow the local economy and job opportunities.
The Council bought agricultural land in a location with potential long term development prospects. The proposal for a new garden town was stimulated by the government’s Garden Cities, Towns and Villages Programme in 2016 which it successfully became part of. The council is working with a landowner partner, Cozumel Estates (owners of the former Folkestone Racecourse) to prepare a masterplan and planning application for a garden town of 10,000 homes, 12 hectares of employment space, generous green and open space and all community facilities including schools, health facilities and community buildings.
The proposals bring the opportunity to plan properly all the facilities to meet the needs of the new community, and provide benefits such as new open space, sports and health facilities for existing communities nearby. This overcomes the problem of new development putting additional strain on existing facilities in the district’s towns and villages.
The council is likely to develop some housing itself within the town to meet the needs of local people, and to widen the range of housing opportunities for people to buy, rent or build themselves.
The council has two distinct roles within Otterpool Park, as developer and Local Planning Authority. To address potential conflicts of interest the council has put in place officer and member protocols that recognize this distinction. There is also a Planning Performance Agreement in place that sets out the responsibilities of promoter and local planning authority for dialogue at pre-application stage, which also includes the County Council.
On the Local Planning Authority side the council has prepared a draft Core Strategy Local Plan to a tight timetable that includes a draft allocation for a new garden community that will meet the district’s housing need to 2037 and beyond. The programme for plan preparation has been maintained due to the pragmatic decision to undertake a partial review of the existing plan, retaining those policies that were still relevant, rather than starting from scratch.
While the impacts will be several years off they will bring:
- Income generation from receipts from sale of land, and revenue from housing and commercial leases
- Control over future supply of housing (the council as a partner will be able to set out timeframes for completions with the housebuilders it works with)
- A location for business growth.
How is the new approach being sustained?
This project sits within a wider portfolio of sites owned by the council. This means that a rolling programme of smaller sites coming forward will help the council’s cashflow and helps build experience of council-led development at a smaller scale.
- Major development projects need significant upfront investment of time and funding at the planning stages (on both promoter and local planning authority sides) to see a return in the longer term
- Strong political support and leadership has been essential to driving the project forward
- be clear on objectives corporately - both financial and other, such as housing, quality etc. the council’s Charter for Otterpool Park sets out its environmental, social and economic objectives and was widely consulted on
- Consider a partial review of planning policy to streamline the plan making process where many policies may still be relevant.
Julia Wallace, Otterpool Park Project Manager