Hythe Town Council objects to Otterpool

June 25, 2019

Hythe Town Council has lodged an objection to the planning application for 8,500 new homes at Otterpool.

A working group comprising Green Party councillors, Jenni Hawkins, Jim Martin and Martin Whybrow, and Lib Dem, Tim Prater, drafted the response. This was voted on at a full council meeting on Monday 24th June and was passed by seven votes to six, with the latter comprising the five Tories in attendance and one independent.
The objection states that council, which the Conservatives lost control of at the local elections in May, does not believe that the development is sustainable, including in terms of water supply, transport infrastructure, health services, affordable homes, ecological impact and loss of prime agricultural land. Prior to the local elections, the previous Conservative-led council had rejected the idea of a council response to the proposed development.
The official objection states that the town council supports the need for more affordable and social housing for local first-time buyers and renters but wants any development in the district to be of an appropriate scale. It does not believe that the Otterpool proposals are sustainable and do not meet requirements to:
  • maximise carbon reduction;
  • have good transport links where car use is minimised;
  • retain prime agricultural land and ecologically important sites;
  • respect the environment it is being built in;
  • and maximise the provision of affordable housing.

Councillor Douglas Wade, Town Mayor Hythe and Green Party town and district councillor, says: “Rather than being planned through proper consultation with local residents, as the Government requires new Garden Towns to be, this feels like a scheme that is being done TO local communities, not WITH them.”

Hythe Town Council is also concerned that Otterpool does nothing to support the regeneration of Folkestone and Ashford, and could even have the effect of taking jobs and services away from them, as well as potentially having a negative impact on surrounding villages.

In addition, Hythe Town Council is not convinced that the Otterpool development will attract GPs to the area, instead creating significant additional demand on GP services, and the town council has seriously doubts whether hospital and adult and children’s social services would be able to cope with such a huge increase in the local population.

The full objection from Hythe Town Council to Otterpool is here:

Hythe Town Council (HTC) OBJECTS to the planning application for Otterpool. HTC does not believe that a development of 8500 new homes as outlined in the application is sustainable, including in terms of water supply, transport infrastructure, health services, affordable homes, ecological impact and loss of prime agricultural land.

HTC rejects central government’s imposed housing targets for local councils but acknowledges that, at present at least, all district and borough councils are under statutory pressure to meet these.

HTC supports the need for more affordable and social housing for local first-time buyers and renters and can support any proposal that is of appropriate scale, that is sustainable, maximises carbon reduction, has good transport links where car use is minimised, does not remove prime agricultural land and ecologically important sites, is designed to respect the environment it is being built in and maximises affordable housing. We do not believe the current planning application for Otterpool satisfies these criteria.

HTC also does not believe that the Otterpool scheme has met the criteria set out by central government for Garden Towns, whereby they should be done in proper consultation with local residents. This feels like a scheme that is being done TO local communities, not WITH them.

The population centres in the area are already established as Folkestone and Ashford and this scheme does nothing to benefit or regenerate them. Indeed, it could have the effect of taking jobs and services away from existing urban centres. It also has the potential for serious negative impact on the surrounding villages.

Water Supply

It is clear from the Water Cycle Study and from conversations with consultants at the recent public exhibitions that there is inadequate additional water available to supply the development. The Environment Agency has said that the surface and ground water resources in the district are over licensed or over abstracted. Reducing leakages, water efficiency measures, additional bore holes in the area and other piecemeal steps are unlikely to meet the requirement for Otterpool, particularly when considered alongside all of the other planned developments in Kent.

According to the study, WRMP14 concludes there is not enough water to meet demand in all of the operating areas and proposes reducing leakage and other water efficiency measures to solve this problem. Whilst we welcome these measures we do not think that they will be sufficient. It will also be difficult to change residents’ behaviour in terms of water usage.

Waste and Waste Water

The Sewage Strategy needs a more holistic approach where alternative methods of dealing with sewage are incorporated. As we understand it, the original plan to take waste water into the existing system at West Hythe has been jettisoned, due to logistical and cost implications, which we welcome. But it remains unclear how waste water from 8500 homes will be adequately handled, with insufficient detail here.

For general household waste, existing Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) are already at or near full capacity and there is no provision for additional ones. As such, we do not believe there are adequate facilities to allow residents to recycle their household waste.

Affordable Housing

HTC objects to the proportion of affordable housing being just 22%. There should be a duty to provide as much affordable housing as possible. Policy CSD1 of the 2013 Core Strategy requires 30% affordable housing. HTC notes that the draft revised Core Strategy has a target of 22% but this change of policy has not yet been approved by the Planning Inspector.

Ecology and Loss of Agricultural Land

Many parts of the proposed site are rich in fauna and flora. A rich, complex ecosystem will be carved up and severely damaged by the houses and infrastructure in a small part of the county that has already had a lot of development imposed up on it (including the Eurotunnel site and major road and rail connections). Many of the UK’s vertebrates and invertebrates, including pollinators, are in steep decline and all local authorities have a statutory duty to protect biodiversity.

While some of the wildlife would survive, this would be in reduced numbers, on fragmented and unconnected habitats, so would be less diverse and far more vulnerable. There is no plan to pay nearby landowners to provide set-aside as refuge for species driven from the site by development and no guarantee that those species would go there or thrive away from the ecological niches that they now inhabit.

HTC also objects to the loss of so much prime agricultural land at a time when the focus should be on local food production.

Travel Plan

HTC welcomes the stated aspiration to give priority to walking, cycling and sustainable transport but is not not convinced that the measures planned to reduce car use will be effective.

The traffic modelling for the area related to the 8500 homes is limited and flawed. It does not take into account peak periods – particularly weekend summer traffic into and out of Hythe – nor the likely reality of traffic through the village of Lympne and on Lympne Hill and West Hythe Road for accessing Romney Marsh and the west.

The current road improvements do not adequately address unsustainable traffic volumes at the Newingreen junction of the A20, A261 and Stone Street, nor the impact that congestion here will have on alternative routes into Hythe, including on Sandling Road through Saltwood and on Bargrove Road/Blackhouse Hill/Station Road via Sene Valley.

The currently intended phasing for the development, whereby phase two will be at the western end of the site, will leave this community isolated from infrastructure and services, making it particularly reliant on cars.

A good bus service will be essential but HTC does not believe this is within the power of the applicant to provide for the medium and long-term, after developer subsidies expire.

The fact that there is no agreement for the High Speed rail service to stop at an extended Westenhanger Station is a major concern. This was cited as a key building block when the scheme was originally unveiled but, at the public exhibition, there was the clear message that no such extension is likely until the scheme is well under way and, even then, the developers have no influence over Network Rail and the operator, both of which will be driven presumably by purely commercial considerations.

Much of the need for this new housing would look to be not from local people but from people moving out of London. Therefore it is to be expected that many of those people will be intending to commute to work in London. The current rail service is not fit for this purpose

Energy Strategy/Sustainability

It is disappointing that a district heating scheme is not thought to be viable. HTC welcomes the intention to use Air Source Heat Pumps and Solar PV for heating as well as to adopt energy efficiency measures but the aim to showcase green construction should be a requisite not just an aspiration.

HTC is disappointed that the initial phases of new homes will be heated using natural gas, despite central government plans to ban the fitting of gas boilers in new homes in the UK from 2025 within its Future Homes Standard.

HTC would like to see more ambitious targets for improvement on the building regulations 2013 than those quoted in the document. There should be a zero carbon target not just “an aspiration” towards one. Zero carbon is now cost-effective and becoming a mainstream approach across the country. It is a proven means of significantly cutting energy bills, tackling fuel poverty and reducing carbon emissions.

Air Pollution

As discussed above we do not believe that the measures to reduce car use will be effective and therefore the claim that the development will not cause significant air pollution problems cannot be justified. The physical and mental health implications of poor air quality are now clear from numerous scientific studies.

GP Recruitment Problems

HTC notes the existing problems with GP recruitment and is not convinced that the Otterpool development will attract GPs to the area. It will instead create a significant additional demand on GP services. Given the uncertainty about the planned reconfiguration of the hospitals and the large amount of development in neighbouring districts, HTC has serious doubts about whether the hospital services and adult and children’s social services would be able to cope with such a huge increase in the local population.

 



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