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.
Why have proposals for Otterpool Park been put forward?
Folkestone & Hythe District Council, as a local planning authority, is responsible for making sure that enough homes are provided for all its residents. To address the future housing needs in the district, 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 8,000 homes – leaving a deficit of 6,600 up to 2037. Homes will be needed beyond this date too. You can view the SHMA report here. As a landowner at the proposed site, the council can help to provide 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, Newingreen and Westenhanger village and station. Existing communities nearby include Stanford and Sellindge. Larger towns in this area of the county 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 the district sits in the North Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and large areas are at risk of flooding. A 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?
Folkestone & Hythe 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 Folkestone & Hythe 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 in themselves becoming increasingly crowded.
Are you applying for planning permission?
The planning application that we submit in 2018 will be for 8,500 homes, but the masterplan takes up to 10,000 homes into account, setting the framework for longer-term growth and designing the community as a whole.
The planning application will set out plans for how these 8,500 homes - and supporting facilities and services - will be built out in phases. Much of the detail will therefore come forward in subsequent phases, with each phase requiring permission for the detail to be approved by the Council, in consultation with stakeholders and the local community.
If the local planning authority planning committee decides to approve the 2018 planning application then the Secretary of State at government level might decide to ‘call in’ the application to make a final decision.
Planning application submitted: 2018
Application public consultation: Following submission
Core Strategy Local Plan examination: Spring/Summer 2019
Inspectors report and planning decision: Late 2019
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 period of at least 30 years.
How many homes are you building at Otterpool Park?
Our masterplan is for 10,000 homes, which sets the framework for longer-term growth and the broad layout and facilities for the community as a whole.
The initial planning application submitted later in 2018 will be for 8,500 homes, plus supporting facilities and services, and will be built out in phases. Further detail on each phase will come forward in subsequent applications, with each requiring permission for the detail to be approved by the Council, in consultation with stakeholders and community.
What types of homes will you build?
We want Otterpool Park to be a garden town for everyone and to provide a wide mix of homes for people of all needs and aspirations. This will include flats and small houses for first-time buyers, family homes and homes for people who are retired. They’ll be homes for rent and to buy, as well as opportunities for self-build.
The design of the homes will be guided by design principles (which will be included in the planning application later in 2018) and the masterplan. Design codes will also play a part, influencing materials used, range of house types and considering local character.
Will there be affordable housing?
Yes. The proportion of affordable housing will be 22%, in line with Folkestone & Hythe District Council’s policy. The exact proportion and mix of types of homes has not yet been determined, but we hope to include homes for social rent, affordable rent and shared ownership. We want Otterpool Park to meet the needs and means of people of all ages and for an emphasis on high-quality design in an outstanding setting.
How will you attract businesses to the area?
Consultant Lichfields was 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 included understanding the facilities that would make this an attractive location for businesses.
According to this report, Otterpool Park can provide around 8,000 jobs. 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.
We’re also planning approximately 550,000 sq ft of office space, 115,000 sq ft of light industrial space and 270,000 sq ft of retail, café and restaurant space.
We want to encourage people to be able to work differently and flexibly – including at home and in shared and borrowed working space. Plans for ultra-fast broadband will support this.
What effect will Otterpool Park have on the environment?
We are planning for the settlement to incorporate at least 40% green space.
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.
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.
Take a look at the framework masterplan report
to find out more about our plans.
There are already too many cars on the roads. How will you reduce car usage?
We have been working closely with Kent County Council, Highways England and other transport operators to plan for access and travel. Our main objective is to encourage people to use their cars less, so we can help them lead active lives and minimise air and noise pollution from traffic. All facilities will be ten minutes’ walk from where people live.
We are proposing cycleways and paths that allow easy access to everywhere people want to go, as well as cycle parking and storage, cycle training programmes and car clubs.
To find out more about our plans for the transport network, take a look at our article: Better Connected.
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.
There is a water shortage in east Kent. How will you address this and provide water for new homes?
Affinity Water has confirmed that the whole garden town can be supplied with water, with a supply for up to 1500 homes possible before any investment into the distribution system is needed. At that point, investment into the distribution system could involve an expansion at Paddlesworth Reservoir nearby and a new, dedicated water main.
We’re also talking to Albion Water – a supplier that uses innovative on-site solutions to provide and manage water and waste water – and to Southern Water regarding waste water services.
However, our main objective is to create a sustainable water solution for Otterpool Park that will protect resources in the area and address the water shortages affecting the whole country. Our target for clean/drinkable water use is 90 litres per person per day, whereas the average national is 140 litres per person per day. In the average home, substantial amounts of drinkable water are used for toilet flushing or outdoor use – we will reduce this consumption, potentially by using treated, recycled water instead for these purposes. Our response to the water shortage will provide the water that people need while protecting resources at the same time.
Find out more about our plans for providing water.
How are you protecting historical elements of the location?
Our archaeology and heritage team has been working hard to identify any points of historical interest within the site boundary for Otterpool Park, alongside Kent County Council’s archaeologist and Historic England. Important monuments and historic landmarks will be kept, enhanced and protected as far as possible and all historical remains will be subject to historical building recording.
We hope that many of these landmarks will play a key part in setting the character for Otterpool Park. For example, Westenhanger Castle is an important focus, and we’ll be improving its setting by creating a town park adjacent and recreating a Tudor garden.
Find out more about the work of the team.
I’d like to buy a home. How do I do that?
Please get in touch by email or phone, and a member of the team will add you to our database. It is unlikely that homes will be launching in the next few years, but we'll be happy to contact you as soon as plans have progressed to that stage.