Four years on since the Council purchased the Biggins Wood site, not a single house has been built on the site. The Council have, we believe, bought a pig in a poke.
On the 21st Dec 2016 Dr Susan Priest, (pictured) then the Corporate Director for Strategic Development at Shepway District Council, now Folkestone & Hythe District Council used urgency powers to purchase 10.75 acres of land known as Biggins Wood, in Cheriton . The land the Council bought was purchased from a known convicted criminal – Adrian Kirby (pictured) – for £1.5 million.
The land was purchased with existing planning permission for 77 homes, 54 light industrial units (Y16/0403/SH) and one office building. The site comprises 2.43 hectares (10.95 acres) in all of which 2.08 hectares (5.14 acres) is the commercial land area and 2.34 hectares (5.81 acres) is the residential land area. Twenty three of these homes were meant to be “affordable“.
The government definition of “affordable housing” states it must be provided at a level at which the mortgage payments on the property should be more than would be paid in rent on council housing, but below market levels.
Between 1991/92 to 2017/18 only 496 “affordable” were built in our district according to Govt data.
10.7.5 Acres or 4.35 Hectares where F&HDC wish to build 77 homes – 23 affordable and 54 light industrial units
Moving on, just days prior to the planning decision the Council received reports from BNP Paribas regarding the the land. They valued the 10.95 acre site at £1.2 million, but the Council paid £300,000 above the odds for it.
The cost breakdown for site makes it clear that the developer would make a profit of £2,747,450, with overall costs being £15,379,924.
In Jan 2017 Cllr David Monk (pictured), Leader of the Council, commented on the Biggins Wood site by saying:
“I am very pleased to announce the purchase of this land. We will start work this year (2017) to build 77 homes, including 23 affordable homes, along with high quality, modern workspace. This gives us an opportunity to help fulfil our key and on-going corporate objective to build more homes and create more jobs.”
On 23rd March 2017 the Council made an expression of interest to Home England’s Accelerated Development fund.
On the 31st May 2017 Report Number C/17/06 set out three options for the Council.
Council acting a developer
Selling the site in its current state to a private developer to construct the housing units and commercial serviced plots.
The Council seeks to ‘de-risk’ the site in order to attract the private sector by managing and funding the remediation costs
By the end of 2017, not a sod of earth had been turned on the Biggins Wood site. Cllr Monk’s promise was broken, even though the need for “affordable housing” in the district remains chronic.
In Oct 2018 the Council received nearly £1 million from the Home England’s Accelerated Development fund to bring forward the site sooner. Cllr David Monk, Leader of the Council said at the time:
“We can start work sooner and will provide an important boost to the local economy quicker than expected.“