Otterpool Park Update: The Elephant in the Room

The Otterpool Park Financial Viability Assessment (VA) assumes the development to be 100% debt financed.

So having taken the time to look at the VA, and also get the views of three experts in the Viability Assessment field, with in excess of sixty years of experience between them, they all agree the £127 million pounds of  s106 money set out in the VA is “woefully inadequate“.

Time and again the assessor of the VA states the 106 costs seem low.

There are six schools, one civic centre, one clinic, park areas, water features, social areas, all to be built with this pot.

Also there is no mention of funding for the station or car parking that will be associated with the Development.  In fact page 16: 3.6 of the VA makes it clear they have an aspiration for more trains, at Westenhanger. So no promise of more trains.

Now way back in May June 2014, Tibbals drew up a confidential report for the then SDC regarding “options” for Folkestone Racecourse. See  Tibbalds-folkestone-racecourse_may_2014 report.

The report identified the former Folkestone Racecourse and the area around it may have potential for a strategic allocation including residential and employment. The first potential location for Otterpool was identified as the map in the Tibbalds report shows.

It was a company called Quod and others who put forward the option of developing around stations in the Green Belt as super fiscally attractive

Quod are the agents acting for the Council’s planning application

Over the last six years the plan has developed, so much so the VA makes clear at Page 22: Para 5.5:

  • The Advisor has adopted a ‘Master Developer’ (‘MD’) model for the proposed development, whereby the MD receives income from the sale of serviced land parcels to other developers following the installation of primary and associated infrastructure across the site.

On the 28th Feb 2019, the then joint developers, Cozumel & FHDC, had their agent – Quod – submit their planning application – Y19/0257/ FH to the Council planning department for 8,500 homes, not 10,000 at Oterpool Park.

The Council promised 22% affordable housing on the 10,000 homes. This translates into 2,200 homes, but under 8,500 homes that translates to 1,870,  meaning a loss of 330 affordable homes. That’s a significant loss. That means less affordable rent, less social rent and less shared ownership.

The VA reveals there are also “a small number of parties” who have become part of the mix.

Their names are not known yet, nor have these “small number of parties” become partners in the Council’S owned Otterpool Park LLP, according to Companies House.

Now more about the 100% debt financed development more commonly known as Otterpool Park.

Costs for the development are estimated at £1.7bn according to the VA.

Now as you know, if you borrow money, so you must repay it. The Council is though silent on how much the projected repayments for the development will be. They are also silent on the period of time debt repayments will last for.

This is the elephant in the room

Whether or not the Otterpool Park Business Plan; which is anticipated to come before the Council’s Cabinet in Jan 2021, more likely than not behind closed doors, will reveal the detail, only time will tell.

As it will be you the residents, your children and their children who’ll be paying for the 100% debt finance development, we believe it’s time to start talking about the elephant.

They should openly state who’ve they borrowed £30 million of long term borrowing from already. Plus the name of the lender who allowed them £5 million in short term borrowing. Rates of return and repayment schedules should be made available to the public.

Transparency matters as it allows the public to engage and participate in local democracy.

Openness matters as it helps establish the bond of trust.

The sooner Folkestone & Hythe District Council commit 100% to these two important principles, the sooner they can begin building bridges into the district communities, which they have had little or no due regard for.

The Shepway Vox Team

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4 Comments on Otterpool Park Update: The Elephant in the Room

  1. Great article.

    Given the scale and significance of this project I think it is incumbent on FHDC to inform its tax base on what it can expect in the future in terms of CTax and other charges that residents are exposed to (and new charges that might be introduced).

  2. Is it true 90% of folkestone police have cov19

  3. Apparently “Forest elephants defecate roughly 17-20 times a day”


    So taking the ‘elephant in the room’ analogy one can assume that there going to be an awful lot of shit in that room then.

  4. doggerbank56 // November 3, 2020 at 21:51 // Reply

    For residents to be able to assess the financial impact of the development they need to know over what time period(s) the money is being borrowed and what rate of interest is being charged.

    Local authorities who engage in excessive borrowing to purchase investment property and/or development land could find themselves in difficulty in the event of a future market downturn. For example, Spelthorne Council in Surrey has borrowed £1billion for property purchases (ref Financial Times 31 October 2020) and this has been challenged by their auditors.

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