Otterpool Park Update: East Stour river pollution puts brakes on Garden Town

Back in Oct 2020, the Stodmarsh phosphorus and nitrogen issue meant Folkestone & Hythe District Council had a planning log jam of 133 homes as a result of the updated legal advice from Natural England regarding the Stodmarsh phosphurus and nitrogen issue.

For those of you not aware, this issue affects the Otterpool Park development as the East Stour runs through the site (blue line below). The East Stour rises in Postling and flows to Ashford where it becomes the Great Stour.

Otterpool Park Garden town is where Folkestone & Hythe District Council, via the company it owns – Otterpool Park LLP – wishes to build up to 10,000 homes.

According to conditions listed in its outline planning permission application, the 10,000-home Otterpool Park garden town has the ability to be able to deliver “on-site technical solution to mitigate” excess nitrogen and says little to nothing about resolving the phosphorus issue.

Fast forward to Dec/Jan 2020/21 and Natural England made it clear in the meetings they had with all concerned that:

On-site solutions – private water treatment – such as the one proposed for the Otterpool Park development were not acceptable as they don’t perform as well as public infrastructure; and that some of the benefit are undone later in the treatment process.

Our Council had set aside £8 million of their Otterpool budget to deliver on site  techanical solution to mitigate the issue. But according to the lastest viability study submitted to the Planning Inspector on the 28th June 2021, it states at paragraph 2.14:

GE [Council viability consultants] have also been informed that the requirement leading to additional Onsite Waste Water costs (amounting to £8 million) may no longer be required. We have therefore undertaken an additional scenario test whereby the On-site Waste-Water costs are removed from our appraisal.

So if the Council are scrapping the Onsite Waste Water treatment plant to deal with the phosphorus and nitrogen issue, what do they intend to put in its place?

The Council’s solution is reed beds to filter the chemicals out of the equation. However until we know the outcome of the “WINEP” investigation which will provide them with more data on how the catchment area works, little to no development should go ahead.

The data from the WINEP investigation is expected in March 2022. It’ll provide important information, including firming up the way the Stour catchments work (which will provide more certainty) but it is only a report. It will not change anything. It will provide facts that inform a subsequent options appraisal.

That said in 2019 the Environment Agency make it clear that the East Stour failed to achieve healthy status as too many chemicals were entering it. This includes phosphates, nitrogen, mercury and its compounds and polybrominated diphenyl ethers.  It was also known that organic pollution caused by Sewage discharge (continuous) was causing significant detrimental issues to the East Stour.

The Stodmarsh phosphorus and nitrogen issue will put the brakes on the Otterpool Park development, albeit temporarily – “every little helps“.

But there is a natural solution we are told by Andy Jarrett (pictured) director of planning at Otterpool Park LLP, who has stated:

we’ll be building a new treatment works along with 22 reed beds to filter out those nutrients, phosphates and nitrates, to keep the water clean.”

But we now know they’ll be no new treatment works. Also the theory of Reed-Bed sewage treatment is simple, though in practise, the treatment is often far from satisfactory due to incorrect design by cheap, ‘Cowboy’ designers and infrequent maintenance of the system.

Furthermore, Otterpool will be further slowed by the fact the Planning Inspector has made it known that all changes to the Core Strategy will have to go out to public consultation. No date for this has yet been set.

This will no doubt once again set back the start date for Otterpool; which for those of you not aware has been set back three times already.

The Shepway Vox Team

Journalism for the People NOT the Powerful

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4 Comments on Otterpool Park Update: East Stour river pollution puts brakes on Garden Town

  1. Will more land be required for the reed beds, or will some of the ‘usable’ green features be sacrificed? You can be sure the number of houses for non-locals will not be reduced.

  2. Thanks for the information — you provide a vital resource for those interesting in local developments.

  3. If they relied on reed beds then half the development area would be be needed.

    If only ‘some’ houses were built then the issue might actually be solvable. But 10,000+ are being proposed which – given this issue – makes the entire project sound like a non-starter.

  4. Slurry-Kent // July 16, 2021 at 22:35 // Reply

    A reed bed the size of Kent would have to be planted to treat all the bullshit that eminates from the Civic centre.

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