Disgraceful decision to agree development of garden centre site with no affordable housing

Shepway District Councillors last night voted to agree to the controversial development on the former Wyevale Garden Centre site in Shorncliffe Road, despite the fact it has no social, or even ‘affordable’ housing in the scheme. Our Labour Town Councillor Jackie Meade spoke at the meeting to state and deliver the objections of the Town Council to the plans. This is what she said:

Good evening Mr Mayor, Councillors, Town Clerks and members of the public.

My name is Jackie Meade and I sit on the Planning Committee for Folkestone Town Council. I have been asked to explain the reservations and objections that we have raised with regards to the proposed development on the old Wyevale Garden Centre site.

The first point is in regards to the lack of social or affordable housing being offered on a site of this size. The current percentage that has been agreed I believe on developments such as these is in excess of 30%. However on studying the planning proposals none was built into the scheme. 30% should equate to approximately 4-5 units being available. I understand that an agreement has been reached by District Council and the developers for a figure of approximately £200,000 to be paid in lieu of this percentage. The planning committee think this figure is very low compared with 4-5 units on a luxury development being built on one of the last available sites so close to Folkestone Central Station. We would ask that this be revisited, and indeed the rational behind the agreed figure be shared.

Secondly, this site is held in strong regards by locals as an area of natural space and beauty – not least because of the mature trees and canopy. When we studied the plans provided by the developers, it would appear that many more mature trees than previous thought were to be felled. This raises many issues. The artist’s impression of the trees on site are thought to be misleading as they show fully grown crowns which fill out the picture. Several councillors have visited the site and discovered that this is not the case, although it may be in many years to come. It is thought by the committee that there will be too many trees felled, especially along the tree lined avenue leading to a listed building. We would like the amount of trees to be felled to be revisited and also would like conditions regarding the maintenance of these trees to be put into the conditions of the planning.

Cutting down trees and tarmacking the area leads to another issue that has been raised: that of flooding. Any resident who lives locally is already aware of the flooding that occurs around the roundabout at the edge of the old Garden Centre. This is a regular occurrence, and indeed I believe Highways has put down conditions on the proposed development in order that the main drainage system will not be overloaded. On removing a large area of ground that is capable of soaking up excess rainfall i.e. tarmacking and houses, the excess rain will run away to the nearest and lowest point, thereby exacerbating the flooding that occurs at the roundabout. By leaving more trees and open ground space this can at least be mitigated in some small part.

The increased noise, dust and pollution to local residents during the build also needs to be taken into consideration, and a careful plan needs to be put into place to minimise the effects.

Finally — although not thought of as a reason to object to planning — we believe that the parking for visitors on site is inadequate. This development is in a quiet residential area where the increased traffic – and that is not including the construction lorries etc – will cause noise and nuisance for all. Added to this, visitors attempting to find parking along the adjacent streets in an already fully occupied residential area, and you will obviously have a detrimental effect on local residents rights to live in peace and quiet.

In summary we have objected on the ground of social and affordable housing levels, the landscaping of the site and loss of mature trees, the increased risk of flooding, construction noise, dust and pollution and the parking and traffic problems caused by a development of this size being constructed on this site.

The Folkestone Town Council Planning Committee asks respectfully that the District Council takes these items into consideration regarding permission for this development.

Sadly, despite several councillors at the meeting agreeing with Jackie’s points, Shepway waved the permission through regardless, with just three against and two abstentions. To add insult to injury, instead of having 30% social/affordable housing on the site, the developers have arranged with Shepway District Council to pay them a financial contribution of just 10%. And where is that money going to be spent?

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