At their meeting on 7 February 2017 5pm cabinet approved the submission of a planning application for Princes Parade – despite an almost complete lack of evidence, lack of any assessment of the risks and lack of a financial feasibility study. The planning application (150 new homes, leisure centre and has now been published and is open for comments – please make sure you lodge your objection – guidance here.
The summary of the planning application is: Hybrid planning application for the development of land at Princes Parade. An application for outline planning permission (with all matters reserved) for up to 150 residential dwellings (Use Class C3), up to 1,270sqm of commercial uses including hotel use (Use Class C1), retail uses (Use Class A1) and / or restaurant/cafe uses (Use Class A3); hard and soft landscaped open spaces, including children’s play facilities, surface parking for vehicles and bicycles, alterations to existing vehicular and pedestrian access and highway layout within and around the site, site levelling and groundworks, and all necessary supporting infrastructure and services. Full application comprising a 2,961sqm leisure centre (Use Class D2), including associated parking, open spaces and children’s play facility.
This video illustrates why local people and visitors to the area are so upset by the proposals to develop this beautiful green open space – most definitely not a wasteland!
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.
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 agreed to make part of The Green available to Shepway for the new leisure centre but during the full council meeting at Shepway on 24 February Councillor Monk said that because of problems with the covenant on The Green the leisure centre would be built on Princes Parade after all. He tried to claim there would be no extra cost of building it there – thus ignoring the contamination, harm to the Canal and other known and unknown problems of developing the site.
On 6 April 2016 a report was presented to the Resource Scrutiny Committee. This report was not made public and the public were excluded from the meeting on the grounds that a third party was involved and hadn’t given their permission. Shepway attempted to do the same for the cabinet meeting on 13th April. We argued that they had not given the required notice/and or reasons. In the end the Hythe & Saltwood Sailing Club who were apparently the third party gave permission for their identity to be revealed and so the public were allowed into the meeting at the last minute.
At the meeting cabinet were presented with a land use report which showed three options – all three including 150 or more new homes ; two include a leisure centre and one a “yacht” (they mean sailing) club. Cabinet members unanimously voted to allow officers to use this report as a basis for a planning application. A budget of £500k for this preparatory work has already been agreed. Officers are due to report back to cabinet before November 2016
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.