Another box ticker from FHDC.

The 26th March 2021 was webinar day; the day when the public had the opportunity to pose questions to a group of FHDC’s experts about the proposed housing estate known as Otterpool Park. Treading carefully not to upset the apple cart, FHDC’s host Phil Laycock presented us with the positive effect that Otterpool would have on our lives and invited written comments to be put to the panel of experts, including Andy Jarrett from FHDC. Not all the questions or statements made were delivered due to the time factor. At some point Mr. Laycock assures us that we will all be able to view all the questions/statements made on his website. Where that is, we don’t know. Perhaps will get to hear about it soon, who knows?

We still have the opportunity to contact Mr. Laycock and make our views known by emailing:

phil.laycock@built-environment-networking.com

Why not copy us in with your comment. We’d be happy to hear from you.

Anyhow, we are publishing some of the comments on our website just in case they are mislaid or end up on the cutting room floor, so to speak. Here they be:

Heritage

Great that they are celebrating the heritage, such as the castle and… that’s about all they’re saying.  The barn has a hammerbeam roof – one of a handful (six?) in the country.  They forgot to mention that.  It isn’t suitable for a museum unless you’re putting doors on it and lighting and… ugh.  And the Roman villa – nothing said about that this time.
I asked at the last ‘consultation’ where the museum was going.  I got a sheepish look and admission there wasn’t one.  I asked about the Roman villa and suggested a Roman Painted House style museum over the top.  They said it’s likely going to be covered over (and built upon?).  So I’m glad to hear they’re ‘considering’ an alternative.  There’s more to be discovered there – discover it, assess what you truly have and perhaps get the likes of English Heritage or the National Trust involved.


Cars

Well, that’s all a shambles, isn’t it?  It’s a real shame that KCC are intent on reducing parking spaces per the Kent Design Guide, and FHDC absorbed it verbatim into the PPLP (see Transport section including Policy T2 and tables 13.1 and 13.2).  It’s a shame they adopted it a couple of weeks after the Use Classes changed, as that leaves its effectiveness up in the air for commercial parking standards.
Where’s the encouragement of greener fuel sources?  Why discourage cars altogether?  That is impractical – firstly for the elderly and disabled, but also for anyone who needs to go out in the rain shopping, or bring a lot of shopping home.  I don’t know about you, but I find the whole process of online grocery shopping poor, especially not being able to choose your own cut of meat, vegetables etc.  And getting skimmed milk when you asked for whole, or some bizarre replacement!
Public transport is poor.  Bus travel times have greatly increased – the bus from Folkestone to Ashford takes over 90 minutes now (it was around an hour a few years back) AND that’s because it goes around the houses in Lympne!!  To Maidstone, it’s 3 hours!  The alternative is a very expensive train (I think it’s about £20 to Maidstone)… or drive.  Likewise, if you’re a Mum in Cheriton or Hythe, it’s cheaper to drive to Ashford and park (let alone Folkestone) than get two kids on the bus to go shopping for a couple of hours in Folkestone on the bus.  And the retail offering is better in Ashford (or was).  MAYBE the silver lining could be their focus on essential shopping only, which could see people come to Folkestone if the Place Plan gets its act together.  I think that’s a weird focus for… isn’t it 10,000 homes in the end – so about 25,000 people?  
Buses need a local loop and interconnecting out-of-town buses that don’t fart about around the houses.  They DO know that there’s only one bus to Folkestone from Westenhanger per hour, and it takes exactly an hour, right?  Ashford is about 15 minutes more!  And those are direct buses without changing!
The speed limits sound pretty restrictive – 30 mph on the A20?!  That’s going to cause chaos.  And I wasn’t impressed with that shared space layout – it just looked confusing.  You just have to look at Ashford to see that it is a stupid idea that doesn’t work.  But don’t worry, “Operation Stack is not a regular event” – Andy Jarrett.


Affordability

It’s a joke that the Council set a 30% affordable housing target, yet they come up with 22% for the largest scheme in the district.  What message does that give other developers?  It’s OK to submit a shonky viability assessment to excuse the need to provide more?  Or will they put extra pressure on other developers to make up their huge (what, 800?) shortfall by reducing it to 22%?  And, of course, they won’t be truly affordable. 


Initial Provisions

Someone mentioned a GP surgery.  Interesting, but isn’t there a shortage of Doctors?  I wonder if the CCG will test their ludicrous idea for a ‘super surgery’ for Folkestone at Otterpool?  Hopefully they do and realise it doesn’t work.  Someone mentioned frequent traffic jams on the A20 (that’ll be worse at 30 mph) and how they affect the ability to get to William Harvey hospital.  Does that mean Mark Quinn isn’t building his super hospital in Canterbury, or that Ashford will remain open now, anyway?  Because WHH is 14 minutes from Westenhanger by car and KCH is 24 minutes.  That 10 minutes could be life or death.  Well, you’d have to get an ambulance, of course – it’ll be a longer difference on your bike!!
So the housing provision is going to be for the key workers in the area.  They’re all welcome, so long as they’re fit to walk / cycle and don’t have kids older than 10.  Well, they could go to Brockhill, but how many more can they take?  Oh, and they probably shouldn’t be religious, unless they don’t mind cycling to Stanford.  Except that’s C of E.  There’s a Methodist church in Sellindge, a Baptist church in Brabourne and err… is the nearest Catholic church in Hythe?!  Does this mean the Otterpool team are antisemitic?!?

It’s a joke that the Council set a 30% affordable housing target, yet they come up with 22% for the largest scheme in the district.  What message does that give other developers?  It’s OK to submit a shonky viability assessment to excuse the need to provide more?  Or will they put extra pressure on other developers to make up their huge (what, 800?) shortfall by reducing it to 22%?  And, of course, they won’t be truly affordable.  

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Q: This area has the designation of having WATER SCARCITY STATUS. The population of the Dour region, as set out by Affinity Water is 160,000 or thereabouts. The proposed increase in the population will have a detrimental effect on Groundwater resource, which can not be denied. If the population increase is allowed to go ahead, this decade will see the onset of a desalination plant somewhere along our coastline. This has been documented in Hansard (July 2006). How can this be squared against the current governments policy of all development to have an environmental gain?

Q: we often hear about stakeholders having an input into the consultation process of building a new town. The only ones that we seem to hear about are the ones that plan to make a profit out of it. The most important stakeholder of them all is the local resident. Where are those voices? In a number of polls, support for a new town was less than 3% across the area. Where is there mention of all the demonstrations that have taken place showing residents opprobrium against an unwanted town within a rural setting.

Q: DCLG Criteria for a new town was to have local support – there is none, abeit 3% as stated. It also states that new towns should not be dormitory towns. It would appear that that is not the case, emphasising main transport links to London.There should also be a local housing need. The town is over and above the local plan. Will there be migration into the area, possibly from London or overseas?

Q: Isn’t this soi-disant consultation a case of the cart before the horse. We still have to hear back from the Inspector on adopting the Local Plan and also the Planning Application for Otterpool. I would suggest that this is just another box ticking exercise by FHDC to help the application along the way.

Q: Paddleswoth (which is the proposed reservoir for Otterpool) is only 13 megalitres, and is literally a transfer pool, from groundwater sources. The pipeline of 11Km has not been accounted for in the £30m Utilities budget. At what point does this Otterpool scheme become unviable, given that the £30 million budget will be far in excess of that cost. Will it be the Affinity Water customer paying for Otterpool Town via their water bills.

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Dear Mr Laycock,
Thank you for the opportunity to take part in the webinar. The presentations were clear and it was useful to learn more about the plans for Otterpool Park. I was rather disappointed in the Q & A part of the session. It would have been interesting to hear more questions from local people and to give them a chance to comment on the answers given by ‘the Team’, as in “Question Time”. 
I have some questions that I would appreciate having answers to, please:

  • Will it be possible to view all of the questions and comments raised in the webinar and subsequently, and by whom, for the sake of transparency? If not, there is a risk that interested parties will we be left with the impression that negative or difficult issues may have been excluded from the public consultation. 
  • It is documented that FHDC failed to receive the £281,000,000 Government grant for the new Garden Town infrastructure. What impact will that failure have on FHDC’s ability to achieve its ambition to create a high quality development with excellent design and construction, wonderful facilities and well maintained public spaces? Cozumel Estates Ltd was to have been the major co-developer of the project. Cozumel has withdrawn from the project, making approximately £20,000,000 profit from the sale of the Racecourse land to the project, even though that land does not currently have planning permission for development. FHDC Councillors have told me that the money needed for infrastructure could always be borrowed. As a local council tax payer I am concerned about how the costs for the project are mounting (£50,000,000+) and the fact that the Otterpool Park project is still under consideration for approval in the local Core Strategy. Will local council tax payers end up having to pay for this project despite it being of little or no benefit to the surrounding communities?
  • Are the statements in the webinar presentation about Otterpool Park being well connected based on the assumption that Westenhanger Railway Station will be a stop on HS1? Why would HS trains stop at Otterpool Park when they stop already at Folkestone and Ashford, and the residents of Otterpool Park are not expected to be commuters to London? Is the reality that Otterpool Park will become a dormitory town?
  • How is it intended to provide 8,500 new homes with a sustainable water supply when Affinity Water has stated that it can provide only potable water to 1,500 of the proposed homes at Otterpool Park? Is Council Leader Mr Monk’s suggestion of a desalination plant at Hythe or Folkestone still on the table? What would happen if the new residents at Otterpool Park exceed the projected unrealistic allowance of 90 litres of water per person per day?
  • What new medical facilities will be available at Otterpool Park to coincide with the first new residents moving in, given that the local hospital and surgeries are at full capacity already?
  • The consultation was for Phase One. This is for 8,500 homes. How many homes are proposed for subsequent phases? The website master plan shows 10,000 homes and the original proposal to Government for Garden Town status was 12,000 homes. 

I look forward to receiving your responses to the above questions.

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Looking forward to seeing your comments.

S&DRA.


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