Updated: 17/04/21 @08:42
On the 20th October 2019, Kentonline Folkestone section declared that Folkestone & Hythe District Council had bought the former Gasworks site at Ship Street, in Folkestone, Kent.
Yesterday, Wednesday 14 April, the Council announced:
The former gas works site at Ship Street has been purchased by Folkestone & Hythe District Council as part of the strategic regeneration of Folkestone and the wider district.
On the 16 Oct 2019 the report to the Council’s Cabinet said of the Ship Street site:
The fact that the Council has the land does not require it to develop it immediately; it could “bank” the land and wait for market conditions to improve;
So given the information in the public domain, the Council have, according to them and Kentonline, paid twice for the site as they purchased it in 2019, and again in 2021, according to publicly available information.
According to the land registry, as of yesterday the site still belonged to the National Grid Property Holdings Ltd. That said the title deed was suspended as of the 8 Jun 2020, meaning it has taken nearly ten months for the council to strike a second deal.
The Ship Street site was a former gasworks located in East Folkestone. The gasworks closed in 1956 and the structures were demolished between 1960 and 1964, with the gasholders remaining for storage purposes until their demolition and removal in 2001.
Many believe the site to be heavily contaminated however that is not the case, according to the Shepway District Local Brownfield Strategy Site Assessments which states at page 40:
We understand the site was contaminated from its former use. Remediation works have been undertaken and completed in 2009. Supplementary groundwater remediation works are due to start in Q1 2011.
Contamination would not appear to be an issue. Even if it is the land can be remediated and used.
Back in 2017 at a Special meeting, Overview and Scrutiny Committee Wednesday, 27th September, Report Number C/17/37 states:
This report seeks authority to acquire the former gasworks site in Ship Street, Folkestone (East Folkestone Ward) for the provision of 85 homes. The derelict site is at the centre of a residential area but has remained of no interest to private sector developers owing to the complexities for its re-development and associated costs. The site will therefore remain derelict for the foreseeable future unless the Council acts.
Appendix D to the report gave an example of the potential housing layout of the site.
Both Cllr Prater (Lib Dem) and Cllr Keutenius (Lab) have weighed into the debate regarding putting housing on the site. This has always been the council’s intent ever since they took an interest in the site.
For decades, the Council has sought the development of this site for residential use but it has not attracted private investment. Consequently, the site was included in a list of potential Housing Revenue Account sites to be pursued that was approved by Cabinet in July 2015 (Report C/15/16) and included in the HRA “pipeline of sites” approved by Cabinet in April 2017 (Report C/16/120).
So it’s clear this site has long been on the Council’s radar. We wrote about it in Sept 2017 when the then Shepway District Council made an offer to purchase the former Gaswork’s site at Ship Street. Then followed that blog up with part 2, a day later, then added part 3 in Feb 2018, announcing SDC’s £2.5 million funding failure for the Ship Street site. And our last post was in 2019 when a further report recommended the purchase of the Ship Street Gasworks site in Folkestone.
Now the fact neither Cllr Prater, or Cllr Keutenius, could find all the documents [he did find one] relating to Ship Street on the Council’s website is quite astounding. Either the website is bad, or their ability to do some simple research is lacking. We suspect it to be the former.
Gen2 Property Ltd – a company wholly owned by Kent County Council – are managing a procurement exercise on behalf of Folkestone and Hythe District Council to procure and appoint a Development Partner to facilitate the development and regeneration of the 1.56 Ha former gas works site, ‘Ship Street’, near the centre of Folkestone as part of the town’s transformation.
So there you have it. The Council have purchased the Ship Street site twice. On the second occasion the sum has not been disclosed; and the land registry deed still shows the sites as owned by National Grid Property Holdings Ltd. And have now issued an £18 million pound tender for a development partner.
Let’s just hope these brick houses, when built, will be truly affordable to all.
The Shepway Vox Team
Journalism for the People NOT the Powerful