On 4th April I spoke at the meeting of the Folkestone and District Council planning committee in favour of the outline planning application for the Otterpool Park garden town development. Planning matters are reserved for local councils to consider but such was the significance of this application that I wanted to add my voice, as a resident of the District, as well as the Member of Parliament, in favour of its acceptance.
Otterpool Park will be able to deliver nearly half of the district’s future housing needs over the coming decades, and more than one in five of these 8,5000 new properties will be affordable, meaning that they will be available either on a shared ownership basis to help people get onto the housing ladder, or as social housing on subsidised rents. Otterpool Park will be designed along garden town principles, meaning that 50% of the land will be open green space, with new parks, cycleways and recreational facilities.
This new town will give us the opportunity to upgrade Westenhanger railway station, with the prospect of extending local high speed passenger services east of Ashford. Otterpool Park will also help to create more than 9,000 jobs, including on a new thirty-acre business park located next to Junction 11 of the M20. There will also be a great number of jobs created in the construction of the garden town over the next twenty years. As the major landowners for the site are the district council itself, as well as the government agency, Homes England, we have the opportunity, unlike with some purely commercial developments, to create upfront the healthcare and education infrastructure that this new community will need. We often talk about building new opportunities for people, and Otterpool Park is just that, a place that will help local residents to buy their first home, find sustainable and rewarding work, and be part of a new community. I’m delighted that the council have had the vision and conviction to pursue this major project over the past few years. Now that the council has given approval to the outline planning permission for the development, I look forward to seeing the first building schemes come forward.
Over the Easter Holidays we have once again experienced problems with motorway traffic queuing to reach the Port of Dover, leading to the closure of Roundhill Tunnel on the A20. This is because of the delays caused by the French border authorities checking procedures at their passport control facilities on this side of the Channel. I do not believe their policy is necessary, and it is certainly not efficient when there are large volumes of holiday traffic heading for the continent. Along with my Kent MP colleagues I have reported back my concerns to the Transport Minister, Charlotte Vere, and the Kent Resilience Forum which co-ordinates the county’s response to situations like these. Whatever the cause of the problems on the A20 route to Dover, it cannot be acceptable for the roads on the west side of the Roundhill Tunnel, and in particular the approach to Hawkinge to be gridlocked. There needs to be more effective management of the traffic, and a faster response to enable more traffic to be released through the tunnel once it is clear of vehicles.