Otterpool Garden Village

IMG_7666Shepway Green Party is opposed to the proposed Otterpool Garden Village development. We completely understand the need for more homes but believe that developments such as this are too large (12,000 homes) and do not create communities, as reflected in the urban sprawl around Ashford, something that – if we are not careful – will be replicated in Shepway. 

As with the two large-scale developments that are underway in Hythe, at Shorncliffe Barracks and Nickolls Quarry, there does not seem to be any consideration for the wider implications related to roads, hospital capacity, lack of GPs (it is no good building a new doctors’ surgery if there is no one to work there), water supply, lack of local jobs etc. We also know that the proposed development at Otterpool is in addition to, not instead of, other developments.

There will also be the loss of prime agricultural land. The UK already imports 40% of our food and this is set to increase (according to the National Farmers Union). Vague claims of business benefits from such developments tend to be hugely over-stated. We need the right type of housing in the right place combined with quality jobs – nothing we have seen so far has shown that Otterpool will deliver solutions to either of these problems. The main purpose seems to be to meet the housing overspill from London so it won’t be for the benefit of local people at all.

Locally, there is the double whammy for the area of the proposed huge Operation Stack lorry park, with all of the well-understood issues that this will bring. It is understandable if many local residents who must feel battered rather than served by their local district council.

In terms of lack of transparency, there were initial pronouncements that the purchase of the land at Otterpool was not for development, this major decision has been taken outside of cabinet, and there is now the threat of Compulsory Purchase Orders hanging over local landowners, plus the potential loss of prime agricultural land. Sadly, this is in keeping with the District Council’s mode of operating in recent years, with a lack of transparency and democracy, as reflected in the number of meetings that take place behind closed doors, with the public excluded.
Some of the recent marchers opposing Otterpool

Some of the recent marchers opposing Otterpool

There has been no public consultation whatsoever despite the fact the Government guidance on garden villages says that: “New garden villages should have the backing of the local authorities in which they are situated. We expect expressions of interest to demonstrate a strong local commitment to delivery. They should also set how the local community is being, or will be, engaged at an early stage, and strategies for community involvement to help ensure local support”.

The situation is rather summed up by the fact that our local MP, Damian Collins, wrote in his column in the local press: “Shepway District Council have also put in an expression of interest to the government to create a garden town…” before the decision to do so was agreed by cabinet.

Meanwhile, Shepway District Council leader, David Monk, has made claims about the eco-friendliness of the proposed development. However, with the Government’s scrapping of the Zero Carbon Homes requirement last year and the failure of some proposed amendments to the Housing and Planning Bill this year, such promises seem false ones.

So we believe that it is an unacceptable proposal on many levels, with the situation as usual exacerbated by false statements, lack of consultation and lack of transparent decision-making.