There has no been no public consultation regarding the preferred site of the new Hythe pool. The decision that this should be Princes Parade was made by the Shepway cabinet in December 2012 based on the Strategic Leisure study. The decision was made before Cabinet had considered the Princes Parade consultation reports.
The first set of consultations took place in July 2012. The results are in the two reports below but there was a very clear message that the public wanted to protect wildlife habitats and the natural environment.
In answer to the question “what aspects of the site would you most like to change?” change nothing got more votes than a new pool.
The second stage took place in February & March 2013.
The key messages were strong support for a new pool, a strong voice against any development on Princes Parade and the fact that Princes Parade is viewed as an important green space.
The results for question 2 show 195 people voting for a new pool on the site with 191 voting for do nothing and 69 for no development. However, “do nothing” and “no development” were not options on the questionnaire but were added by members of the public. Had these options been printed on the form they may have had even more votes.
The questionaire was too simplistic and should have asked if people would still support a pool on the site if this required an enabling housing development.
Public exhibitions hosted by Shepway’s PR consultants were held on 23 May 2014 (ie before the 28th May Cabinet meeting ) and 5 June 2014. Ostensibly these were to allow the public to choose whether the pool and school should be at the east or west of the site but there were also questions regarding support for the project (as well as trick questions regarding support for a new school in Seabrook and expansion of leisure facilities in the district.)
The results are summarised in this Press release .
At the first event there were 320 visitors who whom only 145 filled out questionnaires. 32 fully supported the project, 24 generally supported it, 88 opposed it and one didn’t know.
At the second event there were 170 visitors, 94 filled out questionnaires. 40 fully supported the project, 34 generally supported the project, 18 didn’t support the project and 2 didn’t know.
So of 239 people filling out forms, just 72 fully support the project.
The Save Princes Parade online petition against any development currently has 630 signatures (and a further 500 on the paper version).
Shepway’s planners are now looking at the site allocations for the local plan. The options were due to be subject to consultation in March 2016. This was postponed to 30 Sept 2016 and eventually opened on 7 October and is now closed. As expected it the consultation document includes proposals for 150 houses and a new leisure centre on Princes Parade. More info here.
At the issues and options stage (Jan 2015) there were very many comments from the public against development of Princes Parade. You can read them here.
On 29th & 30th November 2016 Shepway held 2 pre application public exhibitions at which they displayed the masterplan for the housing and the leisure centre. There was an option to submit comments but based on previous experience we are not hopeful of our views being listened too.
You can view the display boards and panels here: http://www.princesparade.co.uk/uploads/images/PressReleases/Exhibition-November2016.pdf
We were concerned that all this housing is being proposed in order to enable the leisure centre and yet Shepway didn’t seem to have any robust evidence for the need for indoor sports facilities in Hythe. (This is a point Sport England raised in their comments to the 2015 Issues and Options consultation). The project manager for the Leisure Centre who told us that they have asked Strategic Leisure for an update of the report they wrote in 2012. He agreed with us that that was a very shoddy report but it sounds like all they have done is tidy it up and make the body of the report agree with the conclusion! We have just requested a copy under the Freedom of Information laws but Shepway have a history of refusing our requests . You can read the original report here.
We also asked about the time frame for the building work. The feasibility work won’t be finished until February 2017 but the planning application is likely to be submitted before then. (Note there may be 2 planning applications – one for the leisure centre and an outline one for the housing.) Assuming the planning application is approved (and why would Shepway refuse their own application?) then depending on which procurement method is chosen work on the swimming pool could start by this time next year – at least according to the project manager. The work (and disruption ) would last a year. The land for housing will probably be sold to a developer so work won’t start quite so quickly but that could be another 2 years of disruption at least.And after that we will have next to no open space left.