In 2010, Arena Leisure PLC who owned Folkestone Racecourse put forward the following document:
The document says at page 40:
The surplus land on the Racecourse site is capable of accommodating the required number of residential units of approximately 800 in order to allow the redevelopment of the Racecourse.
The Racecourse site has good infrastructure links via Westenhanger Station, the A20, junction 11 of the M20, and the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and is close to the main centres of Folkestone and Hythe. It is also outside the Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Westenhanger Station, in particular, provides good accessibility to public transport, thereby reducing the need to travel by car and allowing for sustainable residential development.
In its submission draft of the Shepway Core Strategy (January 2012), the District Council included a policy which outlined its ambitions for 800+ homes on the former Folkestone Racecourse, At examination and in the, Planning Inspector’s report (page 20 onwards), he comprehensively rejected the policy as unsound, being neither justified nor necessary to meet housing targets. A further policy outlined the concept of a ‘Strategic Corridor’, covering the area proposed for Otterpool Park as well as the urban areas of Hythe and Folkestone, for mixed use development in furtherance of the Council’s growth agenda. This policy too was rejected by the inspector as unsound.
The 2011 census, “caught out” the Greater London Authority (GLA) with its higher-than-expected levels of population growth, showing 600,000 more people living in the capital than had been predicted.
It showed growth of 63%, which was a lot more than the GLA had predicted.
So the GLA headed up by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, began considering what to do about London’s population heading towards 9 million by 2020, 10 million by 2030 and even 11 million by 2050.
They hatched a plan and came up with the London 2050 Bigger and Better document.
Tucked away on page 37 of the document is the genesis which has come to grow into what we know as Otterpool Park. It’s clear Otterpool Park then was part of the GLA’s plan to create development space for the London Overspill.
The map shows potential rail links where Garden Towns could be potentially placed.
The map states:
We have also considered the impact of some the projected population growth being accommodated outside London, and linked by radial rail.
Exporting some of the growth to the South East could help regenerate these areas.
So it’s clear the GLA wanted to decant their population elsewhere. As such, this map has led the way to the concept of Strategic Garden Cities on Growth Corridors Outside London.
Quod, ASI London Society and others put forward the option for developing Garden Cities/Towns around train stations in the Green Belt, as super fiscally attractive.
The GLA map, geographical analysis was sound especially the unrealized potential of coastal communities in Kent which then lacked good rail connections.
The HS1 line which serves Folkestone was at the time operating well below its theoretical maximum capacity (only 10% by some estimates). The section of the HS1 track around Westernhanger is, as you know, a large area of countryside outside the AONB. It’s served by J11 of the M20 and A20; and the countryside was according to Andrew Lainton:
“below the usual exceptional quality for Kent and development here could serve as overspill for the otherwise highly constrained Kent Coast towns and AONB/Greensand Ridge towns and villages.“
In June 2014, Tibbalds drew up a confidential report for the Council (discussed behind closed doors), regarding “options” for Folkestone Racecourse.
This document put forward two proposals for the mapped area. Which feeds into the Quod and ASI London Society scenario that developing around stations will be super fiscally attractive.
The first proposal was for a site of 175ha (approx) with 45 hectares (ha) of residential land to take 1125 houses; at 25 houses per hectare; and 20 ha given over to employment. The rest taken up by green space 35ha, Westenhanger Castle – 11ha and Mixed Use/Station area – 8ha.
The second proposal was for residential Land – of 50ha, to take 1250 houses at 25 houses per/ha) Mixed Use/Station area – 8ha Parkland and open space – 44ha Employment – 60ha and Westenhanger Castle – 11ha.
In April 2016, the Reuben Brothers via their offshore company, Cozumel Estates, registered in the British Virgin Islands, buy the racecourse for £4million.
In Sept 2016 the Council sign a collaboration-agreement with Cozumel Estates, owned by the Reuben Brothers, who own the racecourse.
On Nov 11th the then Housing Minister Gavin Barwell announced £750,000 worth of funding for Oterpool Park. Cllr David Monk said at the time:
Housing Minister Gavin Barwell’s announcement of support and capacity funding of £750,000 means we will be able to pursue our ambitions to create a new community where our children and their children can live, work and play.
Cllr Monk forgot to mention it’ll be our children and their children who’ll be paying back the £2.7bn pound project for years to come.
In Feb 2020 the Reuben Brothers via their company Cozumel Estates, sell the racecourse to Folkestone & Hythe District Council for £25 million
Fast forward to Oct 2020 and Kent County Council presented their
for consultation. It mentions Otterpool Park ten times and Westenhanger sixteen times. This will close to public comments on 17 November 2020.
In this document it states at page 41:
The proposed Otterpool Park Garden Town development adjacent to Westenhanger station is expected to generate a significant increase in demand for rail services, principally to/from London but also locally to employment, further education and retail centres at Ashford and Folkestone. The current Transport Assessment for the new Garden Town provides an estimate of total journeys which would be made by rail based on the existing Mainline service, but to meet the predicted increase in demand the TSR for the new South Eastern agreement will need to accommodate the additional stops at Westenhanger on the High Speed service which are included in the proposed train service plan outlined above.
It also makes clear that the Department of Transport make it known there are funding methods avaialble to develop Westenhanger Station.
The ‘Rail Market-Led Proposals’ (RMLP), applies to private-sector proposals for rail infrastructure investment where a third party promotes a particular investment scheme which it agrees to fund in its entirety. Network Rail then has to approve the scheme before it is added to the Route Assert Base (RAB). The infrastructure options listed above could be eligible for RMLP funding applications where the proposed enhancement is to be entirely developer funded, as Westenhanger Station would be.
The rail service outcomes (page 34 onwards) include proposals to serve Westenhanger with HS trains to meet the increased demand which will arise here, once an agreed dwelling occupancy level has been reached in the new Garden Town.
This then fulfills the Quod and ASI London Society concept that devolping around train stations is super fiscally attractive.
In 2018 Quod submitted representation to the Counil’s Local Places & Policies Plan, for & on behalf of the joint developers at the time – The Council and Cozumel Estates.
Now for those of you who are unaware, Quod are the Council’s agent for the planning application – Y19/0257/FH – which was submitted on the 28th Feb 2019. It is they who’ve long believed developing around stations is super fiscally attractive.
In March 2019, residents in Lympne, Postling, Saltwood, Sellindge, Stanford and Aldington were randomly chosen to take part in a local housing needs survey.
The survey was commissioned by consultants Quod on behalf of Folkestone & Hythe District Council. The survey was carried out door to door by independent social research organisation Opinion Research Services (ORS).
In the SDC-Corporate-Plan-Delivery_2017-2020, it makes it clear the planning application for Otterpool Park was to be submitted by mid 2018. And that building was to start on site by 2020.
Finally, as 2020 draws to a close, the super fiscally attractive idea to build around Westenhanger Station has not happened yet, as planning permission for Y19/0257/FH has not been decided. Even if Otterpool is granted planning permission, it’s unlikely a start on the site will happen prior to 2022.
The Shepway Vox Team
Journalism for the People NOT the Powerful