Despite the fact that many people specifically asked him the question, David Monk has not explained why he is insisting on submitting a planning application for Princes Parade before the Local Plan is completed other than to say that it is “to help progress the development of Princes Parade”. Is he saying that the views of the people he is supposed to be representing don’t matter? Does he not understand just how much people value green open spaces?
Although he will not acknowledge it, the response from the public to the places and policies consultation earlier this year was clearly (80%) against any development on Princes Parade.
He explains that they are looking at developing Princes Parade because they view it as a significant asset but he does not explain the sudden great urgency to progress the proposals. He says that Shepway are looking at the redevelopment potential of the land at Princes Parade “in line with Government expectations” but these are only “expectations” and there are many arguments why Princes Parade should not be developed – arguments which Shepway could put to Government. Given that the Local Plan is not due to be adopted until autumn of 2017 would it not be better to wait until then to give the public a chance to exercise their democratic rights to influence that Plan?
It is true that Hythe Town Council suggested that Shepway look at The Green as a possible site for the new leisure centre but that does not explain why Shepway have already submitted a planning application, i.e. before HTC have agreed to make the land available to Shepway. The resolution passed on 4th November said that the planning application would be made subject to HTC’s decision (which will be made at an extraordinary meeting on 18th January.)
Why didn’t they wait for that decision before spending public money on consultants to prepare the application? Money that will be wasted should HTC refuse to make the land available to them? And again why can’t they wait for the Local Plan to be completed before threatening our open spaces?
As was agreed at the cabinet meeting on 4th November, if HTC do refuse to make The Green available then Princes Parade reverts to being SDC’s preferred site for the new facility. But there is strong evidence to support our view that Nickoll’s Quarry is a better site and likely to be no slower to develop than the difficult Princes Parade site which could instead be tidied up and re-opened to the public.
Councillor Monk says that the land at Nickoll’s Quarry will not be available for many years. Elsewhere Shepway have claimed that the construction won’t be able to start until 2020. Where is the evidence that a leisure centre could be completed on Princes Parade before Nickolls Quarry?
He also says that the site requires considerable investment in infrastructure before it can accommodate a recreation centre but what he does not make clear is that under the s106 agreement it is the developer’s responsibility to prepare the land not Shepway’s.
The other issue he avoids making is that putting the new facility on Princes Parade would cost millions of pounds more than putting it on Nickoll’s Quarry. Their own consultants have identified that the preliminary remediation strategy for the contamination will be £2.15m and there will be millions of pounds of other additional costs (including attempting to mitigate the damage done to the setting of the Royal Military Canal). And of course who knows what other problems they might find once they start digging?
So even in the unlikely event that it did take a little longer for the leisure centre to be completed on Nickoll’s Quarry it could well be more cost effective to keep the existing pool open until then rather than attempting to put it on Princes Parade.
Shepway have still not made a convincing case for ruling out Nickoll’s Quarry and therefore it is completely wrong that they have put Hythe Town Council in the difficult position of having to choose between our two precious open spaces.