Biggins Wood: Hollow Promises
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.
Biggins Wood Land – Google My Maps
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.“
In Feb 2019 Biggins Wood was offered for sale, freehold or leasehold in the Estates Gazette.
On the 3rd June 2019 our public face won a historic victory against the Council regarding Environmental Information relating to Biggins Wood. This victory means that person will not have to pay for environmental information in the vast majority of cases.
On the 17th July 2019 Report Number C/19/12 makes it clear the Council had two offers on the land. In regards to the completion of the commercial element (54 light industrial units), the Council are putting together a joint venture agreement and partnership with the accepted developer. The agreement has NOT been finalised yet. If it had it would show up on the Biggins Wood title deed, but it doesn’t. As for the residential part, the Council have as we understand yet to find a contractor/developer for the 77 homes.
On Jan 8th 2020, the land purchased by the Council back in Dec 2016, by Dr Susan Priest (pictured), under urgency powers, still has no houses on it, even though Cllr Monk stated that work on the site would begin in 2017. These sorts of promises by Cllr Monk and the Council are nothing new, as we were promised that in 2019 work was to have started on Otterpool Park. A year on we are still no closer to that happening either. Cllr Monk’s and the Council words are beginning to look like hollow promises.
The Shepwayvox Team
Not Owned By Hedgefunds or Barons
Biggins Wood, Princes Parade and Otterpool all should have started by now, the first two completed. However, all this demonstrates to me (a Project Manager) is the Council and Monk are crap at project management.
It would be worth submitting an FOI request to find out what is going on. Are there any problems with the land itself or, are there legal problems/issues that have prevented an agreement from being signed? I am sure Mr Monk would welcome the opportunity to provide you with an update!
I assume that the site has become a white elephant and is not economical to develop due to the cost of dealing with past contamination. Does Mr Monk want to tell us the truth about what is going on here?
Was Bunnett still at ABC or had he moved to Shepway in time to have had a hand in this? He and Adrian Kirby both have a background in waste management.