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A Framework which will hurt Cheriton

July 16, 2009 5:39 PM
By Tim Prater

Local Development Framework's sound like exactly the sort of document you should go out of your way to avoid, but in the case of Shepway, it's suddenly a big issue for a number of areas, including Cheriton. The Framework (LDF) is basically the Council's "plan" on where developments could happen over the next 18 years in the area, and indicates where they would allow them if an application was made. It doesn't mean any proposal made WILL happen, but makes it more likely that it could.

To the horror of many in Cheriton, the LDF includes a line saying:

"To provide a high quality development of about 900 new homes, including family and affordable housing, at Risborough and Napier Barracks, Cheriton. This would help retain the MoD in Folkestone and secure new military investment in Shepway."

If you look in depth at the supporting documents however, the site proposed even includes the Church Road "Stadium" area which is hugely well used by the community.

Although I strongly support the retention of the MOD in Folkestone, such a big development must be out of the question, as is the loss of the much valued Stadium. There is certainly potential for some housing development at the Napier / Risborough barracks site, but 900 homes is too high - in effect, it would increase the size of Cheriton by around 25%. Sandgate Valley ward has around 600 homes - this would be bigger than that.

The additional traffic that such a development would bring would add increased pressure to the already woefully inadequate Horn Street railway bridge (and indeed the whole of Horn Street itself) and that would be a major route of access - as would be the also narrow and crowded Church Road. The roads infrastructure in the area is simply not currently up to the job of sustaining such a large increase in traffic.

There would be significant concerns to about other infrastructure issues - not least school place availability in the area. As the Chair of Governors at St Martins Primary School near to the proposed site, I know that that school is already close to maximum intake for next year, and indeed, with a large troop movement taking place this summer, would be massively oversubscribed if it had taken all those wishing to join the school. Other local schools are also moving towards to top end of their intake. 900 new houses would generate more extra school age children than could be accommodated in existing local schools. Are new schools planned? Not that I know of.

On another infrastructure point, there are a very limted number of local shops within walking distance of the proposed development (indeed, I can think of only a couple in Royal Military Avenue and a couple more in Risborough Lane - the next nearest developments would be Cheriton High Street, Golden Valley and Tescos, all outside the reasonable range of walking, and therefore adding to road pressures still further, and hardly developing sustainable communities. Bus routes in the area linking to shopping areas and stations are poor.

The same applies to doctors, dentists and other services - where are the spaces locally that will be needed to support the needs of so many new houses?

A development strategy can't simply be about building more and more new houses in an area. It should ensure that infrastructure is in place before new developments are built, it should ensure that green spaces are protected, and it should ensure that new developments are not too big for their area. The LDF for Cheriton is NBG. It needs changing - now.