Tim's Council Diary: That is One Short Crab

28 Jul 2023
Jim Martin, Polly Blakemore and tim Prater with seaside board

Monday, and I'm sticking my face through a board with Jim Martin and Polly Blakemore at Sunny Sands in Folkestone to highlight the importance of taking litter and rubbish home. This is both less easy that it looks (that crab face is quite close to the floor) and one of the odder requests of the week. What was great was to talk to the Communities Team about their work there - they were doing various awareness raising work, including on picking up after dogs. They were prepared: they had cable tied their gazebo down, which given the weather this week, was wise...

A veriety of meetings through the week including Full Council (at which about my only interevention was to answer a question on parking enforcement income and expenditure from Nicola Keen, and a Cabinet meeting to consider a couple of urgent issues, including taking a Government grant to buy more Council houses, and the disposal of a brownfield site at Biggins Wood.

That site is quite interesting. Folkestone & Hythe District Council bought the Biggins Wood site in 2016. It was essentially unused since the 1970's, and no developer wanted to touch it. The council got grant funding to clear up the site and decontaminate it, and have done most of those works. They also sought and got planning permission for essentially a business park and 77 houses, and are now attempting to sell on the site for a developer to build the houses and business park. The whole scheme will deliver a return to tax payers (ie we'll get back more than it cost in total - quite a bit more), and get a brownfield site not used for 50 years back into use.

Although a sale to two developers had already been agreed, the developer of the hosuing part of the site backed out at the last minute. We therefore needed to make a decision on who to sell that piece of the site to - the developer of the business park / commercial section who had offered to buy that as well, or another recently received offer.

The options for sale were rather more complicated than it looked, as there were a lot of moving parts, including planning conditions that required the business park and houses to be built in a sequence, and the possibility of grants that had been used to clear the area "timing out" unless it was sold by next March. The scheme selected has 30% affordable units: the newly received alternative did have more, and that was really attractive, but they were not just for rent (the majority would have been part ownership, so still need mortgages) and a number of caveats that made it have a high risk / potential to fall through - not least that the buyer of the commercial land would walk away from that part of the deal...

So we had to make a decision, and for a variety of reasons, mainly about risk, the decision was made to sell the whole site to the one developer. Overall the scheme will see a brown field site in Cheriton back into use for jobs and housing, it will have a number of affordable units on it, and it will deliver a "profit" to taxpayers that could be used on a number of things, including potentially buying more homes to let for affordable rent.

There was also a Folkestone Park and Gardens Charity meeting, at which the proposals for large scale redevelopment of the facilities at East Cliff and Jocks Pitch were finally laid to rest. They are no more.

Larry Ngan and Lib Dem Campaigners on The Leas, Folkestone

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Larry Ngan, Daniel and Fry with "Build More Houses" t-shirt on The Leas, Folkestone

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