The updated framework masterplan for the Otterpool Park garden town development was published before Easter and can be viewed on the website www.otterpoolpark.org. This scheme is an opportunity to provide needed new housing to our area, and in particular to create more affordable homes for people to rent and buy. The development will bring investment and create new jobs both through the construction of the properties, and the financial boost Otterpool will create for other businesses which locate there. It also means the council can create a housing strategy for our district where we plan development around a well designed new community. This is a much better approach than could otherwise be the case, where the provision of new homes might driven by a series of speculative applications put in by property companies.
The Otterpool masterplan shows that the proposed new the garden town could provide up to 12,000 new homes, but the proportion of the land allocated to green space would be approximately 40%. Earlier last month, Homes England, the government’s new national housing delivery agency, completed on the purchase of 60 acres of land which had previously belonged to a private investor, and will become part of the Otterpool development. This purchase not only underlines the government’s support for the project, but also that the delivery of affordable homes will be an important part of it.
The masterplan also includes proposals for new infrastructure to support the new community, including eleven children’s nurseries, six primary schools and up to two secondary schools. I was also pleased to see that last week the government announced new funding for building improvements at existing schools across the district. The ‘Condition Improvement Fund’ confirmed that grants have been made for this new financial year for Morehall primary in Cheriton, St Mary’s in Folkestone, as well as Brenzett and Lydd schools on Romney Marsh. There is also funding for Brockhill Park and the Folkestone School for Girls.
As of the beginning of this month, ‘Shepway’ is no more, and instead the district council will have the same name as the parliamentary constituency; Folkestone and Hythe. The change will be gradually introduced on signs as they are replaced, and you will notice it on letters and emails you receive from the council. However, if you made direct debit payments to Shepway you will not need to change these at all, as the council has already made the banks aware of its new name. One of the problems with ‘Shepway’ as a name, was that you can’t point to it on a map; there is no town or geographical feature known as Shepway. I know that the council has considered this to be a hindrance when they are talking to outside investors or agencies with a view to attracting them to our area. A change in name, does not of course change the priorities of the council, and I know that our councillors on Romney Marsh, and in Hawkinge and the North Downs will be working hard to make sure the voice of their residents continues to be heard.
On Easter Saturday, I was delighted to be able to join the crowds to see Hythe Town complete a fine win over Lewes, who top their division. As we reach the final weeks of the football season, its great to see both Folkestone and Hythe looking to secure places in the play-offs.