Our aim is to provide information about the land at Prince’s Parade – its history and in particular the current threat to develop it with a new leisure centre to replace the Hythe pool, housing and perhaps a new Seabrook School.
We believe that Princes Parade is a valuable open space and should be left that way to protect the wildlife and to protect the Royal Military Canal which is a scheduled ancient monument. We have serious concerns about the financial viability of Shepway’s proposals to develop the site (and the other linked sites) and do not think it is appropriate to build on a contaminated site.
The original idea for a leisure centre to replace the existing swimming pool came about as part of the planning application for Nickoll’s quarry (now Martello Lakes). The s106 agreement for that development includes a prepared site for the new facility which Shepway can buy for £1. The agreement also provides for a payment of £3.2m towards the new facility whether at Martello Lakes or elsewhere in Hythe. The release of this money is staged depending on the number of new homes built.
In 2012 Shepway DC commissioned 2 sets of consultants’ reports. One from Strategic Leisure looking at the preferred site for the leisure centre (NQ, Princes Parade and the existing site) and one from GVA looking at Princes Parade. The brief to GVA said
“The purpose of this project is to secure a residential allocation for the mixed use redevelopment of Shepway District Council owned land at Princes Parade, Hythe in the council’s proposed Site Allocation Development Plan Document.”
Mixed use included the new recreation centre, a new Seabrook Primary School and housing.
Strategic Leisure concluded (without any public consultation) that the preferred site should be Princes Parade although the report itself didn’t provide overwhelming evidence to support that. This recommendation was accepted by Cabinet at their meeting in December 2012 when they also authorised officers to continue with the project.
In July 2013 Cabinet authorised the officers to look at a revised plan which included looking at the linked sites as well as identify the sources of funding (which has still not been made public.). At this stage Shepway had still not done a viability study of their plans nor had they done a contamination study.
In May 2014 Cabinet considered further reports from Strategic leisure (who now recommended a cheaper model for the leisure centre) and GVA. The financial assessments provided by GVA were “high level”. Jeremy Chambers said he would ask GVA to provide more detailed financial data but this was never done. It was agreed that the number of houses be limited to 36 and that a covenant be out in place to protect any remaining open space and parkland. We remained concerned that Shepway had still not identified all the costs and potential risks. GVA and Strategic Leisure differed in opinion as to whether the east or west end of Princes Parade would be the most suitable so it was agreed this would be put to the public. Unfortunately this was done by Shepway’s PR consultants who insisted that the contaminated waste would be removed. Shepway eventually conceded the waste would be capped not removed.
During the summer of 2014, Shepway commissioned a heritage study from Lee Evans. Shepway weren’t keen to publish this but we eventually got hold of it via a FoI request. Lee Evans recommended that Shepway delete housing from their proposal and discussed the risk of significant damage to the Royal Military Canal if the Leisure Centre is built on Princes Parade. Historic England have serious concerns about the effect on the setting of the Royal Military Canal. Read more here.
Early in 2015, Shepway held a public consultation as part of the Local Plan process. 80% of those who responded to the Princes Parade question were against development on the site but Shepway have never publicly acknowledged this.
In July 2015 Shepway officers attended a Hythe Town Council meeting with proposals to put a new pool and housing either on the existing site and/or on the South Road recreation ground. Both of these options were later ruled out (mainly because of parking but also because Shepway needs the capital receipt from the existing pool to part fund the new facility) but Hythe Town Council suggested they also look at The Green for the new leisure centre.
On 28th October 2015 Shepway’s resource Scrutiny Committee recommended that Cabinet reconsider Nickoll’s Quarry as the preferred site but cabinet ignored that recommendation.
On 4th November Cabinet were presented with a new report which:
-said that the new primary school was not financially viable (any final decision resting with Kent County Council);
– included a comparison of the 5 possible sites for the leisure centre including The Green concluding that The Green should be the preferred site with Princes Parade second preference. (However we would dispute the reasons given for ruling out NQ.) Note that even if the leisure centre was built on The Green then there would be housing on Princes Parade.
– said that remedial measures would be needed to deal with the contamination (but note the contamination will be capped not removed.)
– included land value assessments for the various sites (note that lower density housing on Princes Parade gives rise to a higer land value because more of the land would have to be sold off.)
– recommended submitting outline planning applications for The Green (subject to HTC approval) and Princes Parade
Some of the supporting documents (including the contamination report and another report from Lee Evans looking at the planning risks due to risk of harm to the Royal Military Canal) were published on Shepway’s own Princes Parade website but it is not clear if cabinet members were aware of this.
At the cabinet meeting Councillor Collier tried to ask how this fitted in with the Local Plan (currently a work in progress) but was ignored.
The report failed to mention the previously agreed covenant on the open space on PP nor the limit of 36 houses but it was confirmed at the meeting that that the relevant resolution still stands.
Hythe Town council have now agreed to make part of The Green available to Shepway for the new leisure centre. However we expect Shepway to submit an outline planning application for a mixed use development on Princes Parade in the very near future.
Princes Parade is currently designated for open space and recreation – not housing and despite the fact that Shepway keep referring to it as a brownfield site it is not a “previously developed site” as defined in the NPPF. We believe that any attempt to change the designation of the site should be carried out via the Local Plan ie the proper democratic process.