Proposals to develop Princes Parade in Hythe are still being pushed along despite the divisive nature of the scheme. It was in August 2018 that Folkestone and Hythe District Council awarded itself permission to develop land it owns on the site, its planning committee approving an application for up to 150 houses and associated buildings including a leisure centre, hotel and café or restaurant. Despite this, the campaign to block the scheme, spearheaded by Save Princes Parade, refused to die, although protestors were dismayed when in February 2019 the government announced it would not be calling in the council’s decision. Undeterred, campaigners forced a judicial review. There was a substantive hearing in the High Court in March last year, but some three months later they learnt this had been dismissed by the High Court. And in December, permission to appeal that review was refused, causing Folkestone and Hythe District Council to declare: “There is no other route of appeal against the decision and the Princes Parade development can now go ahead.” However, so contentious is the scheme, which borders a stretch of the Royal Military Canal, that some councillors have still not given up the fight. During the local authority’s cabinet and full council meetings on Wednesday, February 24, one asked that almost £29 million be removed from its General Fund Medium Term Capital Programme, effectively denying the funds required for the project to proceed. The councillor suggested focus should move instead to building a leisure centre elsewhere in the town, “probably at Martello Lakes”. His amendment was, however, voted down by 16 votes to 13. Work has now begun on clearing the site, by the Royal Military Canal – the upsetting scene of trees and vegetation being chopped down sparked a protest to which the police were called. There is also concern that the powerful weedkiller glyphosate is reportedly being used to kill the stumps left by the tree-chopping on the north bank of the canal. It has been pointed out that there are no signs or barriers warning the chemical is being used in an area where children and dogs could come into contact with it. It would, also, of course be far more environmentally desirable to leave the stumps to degrade naturally.
The scheme proposed by Folkestone and Hythe District Council will impact on the Royal Military Canal, a scheduled historic monument
There has been disappointing news concerning Princes Parade in Hythe.
The decision by Folkestone and Hythe District Council to award itself planning permission to build on land it owns at the site will not be called in by the government.
In August, the council’s planning committee approved an application for up to 150 houses and associated buildings including a leisure centre, hotel and café or restaurant.
In response to that approval, campaign group Save Princes Parade asked the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to call it in.
However, yesterday’s (Tuesday, February 12) letter to the council from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government says:
“The Secretary of State has carefully considered this case against the call-in policy, as set out in the Written Ministerial Statement by Nick Boles on 26 October 2012.
“The policy makes it clear that the power to call in a case will only be used very selectively.
“The Government is committed to give more power to councils and communities to make their own decisions on planning issues, and believes planning decisions should be made at the local level wherever possible.
“In deciding whether to call in this application, the Secretary of State has considered his policy on calling in planning applications.
“This policy gives examples of the types of issues which may lead him to conclude, in his opinion that the application should be called in. The Secretary of State has decided not to call in this application.
“The reason for this decision is that, having regard to the policy on call in, the application does not involve issues of more than local importance justifying the Secretary of State’s intervention.”
If the scheme goes ahead, it will impact on the Royal Military Canal, a scheduled historic monument (image courtesy of Save Prince’s Parade, saveprincesparade.org)
More than 700 letters of objection, an e-petition of 6,292 names, opposition from Historic England, Kent Wildlife Trust and CPRE Kent, together with a peaceful protest by some 100 people, were not enough to stop Folkestone and Hythe District Council awarding itself planning permission to develop land it owns at Princes Parade in Hythe.
The council’s planning committee approved the application for up to 150 houses and associated buildings including a leisure centre, hotel and café or restaurant on Thursday, August 16.
The 100 protesters had gathered before the planning meeting, which saw the proposal approved by the tightest of margins, with five votes in favour, four against and one abstention.
CPRE Kent had objected to the council’s plans on ecological grounds, submitting a detailed report highlighting the harm that such a development would cause to the site’s wildlife and wider natural environment.
Our historic buildings committee had also put in an objection, citing the scheme’s unacceptable impact on the setting of the nearby heritage assets, namely the Royal Military Canal and its associated fortifications.
This was supported by government body Historic England, which expressed its concerns about the effect of the development on the setting of the canal, a scheduled historic monument.
Campaigners against the development were also concerned it could be approved even before the site’s future was fully considered as part of the overall planning process for Shepway.
In response to the application’s approval by the council, campaign group Save Princes Parade has asked the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to call it in.
Graham Horner, CPRE Shepway district chairman, said: “The loss of this green open space in an urban area is regrettable.
“The design of the leisure centre is ugly and it has been put in a position that severely compromises the heritage assets in that area.
“To raise the money needed to pay for the necessary clearing-up of the site, which is contaminated, there needed to be a lot of housing in the application and so we’re left with this monstrosity.
“We’re waiting to find out if this will be called in by the Secretary of State as Folkestone and Hythe has been deciding its own planning application – or effectively marking its own homework. I would support anything that brings about a rethink.”
CPRE Kent’s Supreme Court victory over the Farthingloe Valley was cited in the initial quashing of the plans for Little Densole Farm
A planned development in the Kent Downs AONB that had earlier been quashed by the High Court was last night (Tuesday, May 29) approved by Folkestone and Hythe District Council.
The scheme for 12 holiday lodges, tennis courts and a fishing lake at Little Densole Farm, Densole, had initially been approved by the council (when it was known as Shepway District Council) in February last year, but that decision, which had been recommended for refusal by the council’s own planning officer, was challenged by local businessman Tim Steer and in February this year it was overturned by the High Court.
The consent was quashed by Mrs Justice Lang on the basis of inadequate reasons for overturning the officer’s recommendation.
In making this judgment, she cited the case of Dover District Council v CPRE Kent, where at the Supreme Court we successfully defended the Appeal Court’s decision to quash a planning permission in the Farthingloe Valley near Dover.
In the Densole case, Mr Steer had based his bid for a judicial review of Shepway’s decision on three grounds.
Two of these were rejected by the court, but the one accepted by the judge was:
“The committee was under a common-law duty to give reasons for its decision, as it was not following the OR’s [officer’s report’s] recommendation, and the application concerned a protected AONB. It failed to provide adequate and intelligible reasons for its decision to grant planning permission.”
It is here that the Farthingloe case was cited.
Mr Steer was quoted in the Folkestone and Hythe Express as saying:
“We hope that in the future the council will take its responsibilities more seriously and carefully and follow planning policy and logic.”
Last night, however, the proposal – which was again recommended for refusal by a council planning officer – went back before the Folkestone and Hythe planning committee and was accepted by eight votes to one (with one abstention).
It is not immediately apparent how circumstances have changed, or in what way the overturning of the officer’s recommendation was explained sufficiently.
Graham Horner, Shepway CPRE chairman, said: “Disappointingly, this is what we expected, to be honest. One councillor gave a speech giving all the reasons the committee should override the officer’s recommendation.
“There was no logic to it, but they seemed to think that having a recreational area in the AONB would bring in people and money.
“The new officer’s report appeared softened from the initial one. Previously, it had been poorly defined as to what constituted a major development, but it was now decided that, no, this wasn’t a major development, so that cleared one of the major hurdles.
“Why would they change their view? There were no new drawings, no new reports. It was stated that the applicant had planted a lot of trees, but he was going to plant those anyway as part of the application!”
One councillor asked for a recorded vote, but that suggestion was not accepted as four members of the committee need to agree to it.
For more detail on the background to this story, see here