What do I need to know about Otterpool Park?
What is a garden town?
A garden town is a new settlement which offers high-quality homes, jobs and community facilities and services in an attractive, landscape-led setting. It provides everything people need for a new community to thrive – including schools, medical centres, green space, public transport, new roads, community centres and shops – to create a well-connected community with the health and happiness of its residents at its core.
Garden towns draw on the key principles of the original garden city designs. A planned new settlement that combines the best of town and country, the principles include land value capture for the benefit of the community, community stewardship and affordability of homes. Green infrastructure, integrated transport systems and healthy homes are also important principles of the model. TCPA.org.uk/garden-city-principles
Why have proposals for Otterpool Park been put forward?
Shepway District Council, as a local planning authority, is responsible for making sure that enough homes are provided for all of its residents. To address the future housing needs in Shepway, 14,600 new homes will need to be built between 2014 and 2037. At the moment, the area has completed, or has plans for, some 8000 homes – leaving a deficit of 6,600 up to 2037, and homes will be needed beyond this date too. You can view the council SHMA report here.
As a landowner at the proposed site, the council can help to provide a solution to the housing crisis locally, alongside Cozumel Estates.
Where is Otterpool Park?
The proposed site sits to the south of the M20 and west of junction 11 and stretches from the village of Lympne to the south to Barrow Hill in the west. It covers around 700 hectares and includes the former Folkestone Racecourse, the Link Industrial Park, Newingreen and Westenhanger village and station. Existing communities nearby include Stanford and Sellindge. Larger settlements in this area of the county and nearby to Otterpool Park include Ashford, Hythe and Folkestone.
Why has this location been chosen?
There are a number of restrictions on where development can take place in the area – much of Shepway sits in the North Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and large areas are at risk of flooding. A recent report by AECOM also found that other areas of the district don’t have the capacity to make a significant contribution to growth, based on reasons including environment, lack of infrastructure and flood concerns.
Otterpool Park is a great rural location which is ideal for a garden town. The area is close to the motorway, has an existing railway station and is large enough to be able to create a settlement that has plenty of space for residents to live, work and enjoy a range of leisure facilities. It is close to the Channel Tunnel and the Kent coast is minutes away.
Why can’t brownfield sites be used, or the many vacant properties around the area already?
Shepway District Council has found that there simply are not enough brownfield sites in the area to provide all the extra homes that are needed, although as much as possible is being used. On the basis of current rates of these sites, they can only provide for 1,000 homes between 2014 and 2037. Also, brownfield sites can be so scattered that it is hard for the council to provide infrastructure to support them.
Many of the existing brownfield sites in the area are already being developed, including Shorncliffe Barracks, Folkestone seafront and Nickolls Quarry in Hythe.
Why can’t every town and village take their ‘share’ of the new homes needed?
This is an option that Shepway District Council as a planning authority considers when planning new homes. The landowners who have put forward proposals for Otterpool Park believe that by building all the homes the area needs in one place, the development can also include all the roads, schools, utilities and health services that are needed by the residents. This means much less pressure on existing services in villages and towns which are becoming increasingly crowded anyway.
How will you attract businesses to the area?
Consultant Lichfields has been commissioned by the council to prepare an Employment Opportunities Study to look at the types of businesses that could be attracted to Otterpool Park. This includes understanding the facilities what would make this an attractive location for businesses. The draft masterplan currently allocates land for employment close to Junction 11 of the M20 and the station, which provides an accessible location for business.
Along with the jobs provided by businesses who choose to locate themselves at Otterpool Park, there will be many employment and training opportunities during the construction period – we hope to give priority to local businesses and individuals who want to be involved in developing the garden town.
How will you stop this from becoming just a commuter town?
While inevitably there will be some out-commuting, this should be balanced against the employment opportunities that will be provided locally, through new business development, people working from home and jobs created within the schools, health facilities and shops.
People have always moved to the area from London and elsewhere - many retire here and more young people are choosing to live here. We will look into schemes that would give local people (including people with relatives here or with local jobs) the first chance to buy or rent Otterpool Park homes. Council homes will go to local people on the waiting list.
Will there be affordable housing?
Yes. The proportion of affordable housing will be agreed with Shepway District Council. The exact proportion and mix of houses for rent or shared ownership has not yet been determined but we want the homes in Otterpool Park to meet the needs of people of all ages, needs, and means.
We want homes that meet the needs of a new, vibrant, mixed community, with an emphasis on high-quality design in an outstanding setting.
What effect will Otterpool Park have on the environment?
We are working closely with environmental experts in many areas, including natural landscape, wildlife, pollution, energy and sustainability. Work has included thorough research in each of these areas as well as ongoing discussion with the organisations responsible for these areas.
Our proposals for Otterpool Park incorporate expansive green space and landscaping in the form of parks, meadows, woodland and riverside, as well as allotments and opportunities for food foraging. We even hope to increase overall biodiversity in the area.
A full environmental impact assessment is being carried out as part of our planning application. This will cover transport impact, air quality and noise assessments. The scope of this will be agreed with the Environment Agency.
There are already too many cars on our roads. What will be done to reduce car usage?
Otterpool Park is also being designed to promote health and wellbeing by encouraging walking, cycling and public transport. Many of the new homes will be within easy walking or cycling distance of the train station. Electric cars are improving in range and cost and Otterpool Park will have plentiful charging points. We will also be looking for best practice on car share clubs and rapidly developing new technology.
Access to ultra-fast broadband for every home will make working from home a real option for many more people.
When will building work begin?
We still have many more stages of consultation and planning to go through before the masterplan is completed, and the detailed plans are then agreed. We currently aim to submit the planning application in 2018, and hope that building work can begin in 2020, phase by phase over a long period of at least 30 years.
Why is a garden town approach a positive solution to meeting the housing crisis? Take a look through these useful links to get up to speed with Otterpool Park’s timeline and this type of development.
Shepway District Council’s timeline for Otterpool Park Garden Town
The government announces approval for a locally-led garden town in Shepway, Kent
The government’s invitation for expressions of interest in garden towns, issued in March 2016
The TCPA has been leading a campaign for a new generation of Garden Cities as part of a portfolio of solutions to meet the nation’s housing crisis
What is a garden city?
A blog from the Royal Town Planning Institute regarding garden towns