Folkestone Seafront Development: The Trees Are All Gone

It would seem once again that site activity within the Seafront Development area has raised both eyebrows and concerns. If you didn’t visit the area at the right moment, you would be forgiven for thinking that we are in Middle Earth as some trees appear to have got up and walked to another part of the site! More on that later, but let’s take a brief look at the site’s history first…

The Roger De Haan Charitable Trust purchased Folkestone Glassworks in 2003, they were eventually awarded a £3 million grant to fit-out the building and cover the first 5 years of running costs by SEEDA and HEFCE. As Sir Roger De Haan explained in Nick Ewbank’s book Adventures in Regeneration:

  • “We secured the site, we brought the partners together and then we moved to raise the necessary funding. It was incredibly hard work lobbying the regional development agency SEEDA (where Dr. Susan Priest, now FHDC Chief Exec, was then Area Director for Kent and Medway) and the Higher Education Funding Council. It took vision and persistence, meeting after meeting, report after report, and endless presentations to boards and panels.” Here’s a brief timeline of the past 15 years:

December 2006 – Sir Roger announces purchase of Rotunda site for a larger campus

April 2007 – Dr Priest becomes a trustee of the Creative Foundation representing SEEDA, remaining on the board for 2 years

January 2008 – UCF Glassworks campus opens

2008 – Seafront plans put on hold due to economy

December 2009 – New scaled-down seafront plans announced

2010 – Sir Terry Farrell seafront plans unveiled at public consultation events. The university no longer features

October 2012 – Seafront plans formally submitted

2013 – UCF closes

October 2013 – Robert Bliss suggests Dr Priest as Corporate Director for Regeneration & Growth at Shepway District Council because “she has a very good address book”

February 2015 – Outline planning permission granted for seafront development

September 2017 – Section 73 minor material application for seafront development submitted – receives much public protest

April 2018 – Shepway renamed Folkestone & Hythe; Dr Priest promoted to Chief Executive

September 2018 – After some concessions, the S73 application is approved

October 2018 – Reserved matters for Plot B submitted

January 2019 – Plot B planning permission granted with conditions

2020 – Building work on Plot B commences January 2021.

We report that work above ground level violates the conditions. The Council allowed work to continue whilst conditions are prepared as they prefer the applicant to be

  • “given an opportunity to rectify the breach before the commencement of costly and protracted formal action.”

These applications have now been submitted. This brings us to last week, when Kent Online reported that

  • A new al fresco dining experience – complete with palm trees – is coming to Folkestone.

Many were confused about the new project, called Beachside, as they hadn’t seen the planning application. It was submitted in December 2019, validated in February 2020 as Y19/1474/FH without a notice in the paper, site notice or notification letter to neighbours according to the Planning Portal, and subsequently approved in June 2020 by the Planning Officer without going to the Planning & Licensing Committee. No wonder Councillors and public alike were surprised – they don’t appear to have been correctly informed per the Council’s legal obligation under Section 15 of the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure)(England) Order 2015.

Even a Paragraph 5 development requires either a site notice or letters to neighbours. It seems statutory consultees were consulted as they commented, but there is no list showing who was consulted. Was the application not correctly publicised, or are the Council failing to make all documents publicly available? Perhaps this is a case of more “technical issues”? The Council admitted to one statutory consultee they were not consulted on “a number of applications” (sic).

We note the application is part retrospective, probably as the Goods Yard was open last year, albeit on the opposite side of the railway track, much akin to the signal box change of use prior to approval. Do Folkestone Harbour Company have scant regard for the planning process, or is our Council being too relaxed with them?

We must ask the question: does Dr Priest’s previous history with Sir Roger and his companies constitute a conflict of interest?

This would be contrary to the second of the Seven Principles of Public Life:

  • Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.

It has certainly been noted by quite a few people that the majority Conservative Council has a history of deciding in the Tory donor applicant’s favour, but this could merely be a series of coincidences.

Before you make up your own minds, consider this:

Workers were seen removing palm trees along the boundary of the former Rotunda site this week, which grew within a Conservation Area, whilst one was shown being brought to the Beachside site last week. According to guidance on the Planning Portal:

  • In conservation areas, notice is required for works to trees that have a trunk diameter of more than 75mm when measured at 1.5m from ground level (or more than 100mm if reducing the number of trees to benefit the growth of other trees).”

You have to give your local planning authority six weeks’ notice before carrying out work on trees which are located in a conservation area but are not yet the subject of a tree preservation order.

This gives the authority an opportunity to consider whether an order should be made to protect the trees.” This is further clarified in Section 211 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990:

211 Preservation of trees in conservation areas

1. Subject to the provisions of this section and section 212, any person who, in relation to a tree to which this section applies, does any act which might by virtue of section 198(3)(a) be prohibited by a tree preservation order shall be guilty of an offence.

2. Subject to section 212, this section applies to any tree in a conservation area in respect of which no tree preservation order is for the time being in force.

3. It shall be a defence for a person charged with an offence under subsection (1) to prove—

a. that he served notice of his intention to do the act in question (with sufficient particulars to identify the tree) on the local planning authority in whose area the tree is or was situated; and

b. that he did the act in question—

i. with the consent of the local planning authority in whose area the tree is or was situated, or

ii. after the expiry of the period of six weeks from the date of the notice but before the expiry of the period of two years from that date.

4. Section 210 shall apply to an offence under this section as it applies to a contravention of a tree preservation order.

Section 210 as referenced mentions what constitutes an offence:

210 Penalties for non-compliance with tree preservation order

1. If any person, in contravention of a tree preservation order—

a. cuts down, uproots or willfully destroys a tree, or

b. willfully damages, tops or lops a tree in such a manner as to be likely to destroy it,

he shall be guilty of an offence

Also, Section 213 states:

213 Enforcement of controls as respects trees in conservation areas

1. If any tree to which section 211 applies—

a. is removed, uprooted or destroyed in contravention of that section; or

b. is removed, uprooted or destroyed or dies at a time when its cutting down or uprooting is authorised only by virtue of the provisions of such regulations under subsection (1) of section 212 as are mentioned in subsection (4) of that section,

it shall be the duty of the owner of the land to plant another tree of an appropriate size and species at the same place as soon as he reasonably can.

There does not appear to be any information in Y19/1474/FH about trees. In fact, the KCC Biodiversity Officer requested a condition in his comments:

  • “In alignment with paragraph 175 of the National Planning Policy Framework 2019, the implementation of enhancements for biodiversity should be encouraged. Whilst opportunities for ecological enhancements are limited regarding this development, we strongly advise that any soft landscaping features native plants only and species in keeping with local vegetation. As such, we advise a condition is attached to secure this if planning permission is granted.”

This was in addition to a request for a lighting design plan.

It is surprising, therefore, that Planning Officer Helen Payne glosses over the soft landscaping in her report:

  • “A condition has been requested relating to the submission of a lighting design plan. There is also the requirement for ecological enhancements as part of this proposal.”

Why did she not make note that this was a condition request? Subsequently, she has omitted any such condition from the Decision Notice. As soft landscaping includes trees, we remind our Local Planning Authority of their duty under Section 197 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990:

197 Planning permission to include appropriate provision for preservation and planting of trees.

  • It shall be the duty of the local planning authority—

  • a) to ensure, whenever it is appropriate, that in granting planning permission for any development adequate provision is made, by the imposition of conditions, for the preservation or planting of trees; and

  • b) to make such orders under section 198 as appear to the authority to be necessary in connection with the grant of such permission, whether for giving effect to such conditions or otherwise.

Unfortunately, we don’t see any mention of trees and tree works in the original outline application, S73 amendment or the application for the bar. Nor is there any evidence of a Conservation Area application having been made. We understand the Council are looking into the matter.

The Shepway Vox Team

Dissent is NOT a Crime

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3 Comments on Folkestone Seafront Development: The Trees Are All Gone

  1. I wonder how many of those palms will survive

    And here’s how to properly transfer mature trees..

  2. Captain Beefpants // April 28, 2021 at 16:40 // Reply

    A planning site notice for the restaurant was stuck to a streetlight by Chummies. You must have missed it.

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