The news in last week’s Kentish Express that planning permission has been granted for the Otterpool Park Development on the former Folkestone Racecourse will itself have an impact on the Ashford area. It also reminds me of many of the debates about Chilmington Green when it was at the same stage some years ago.
The underlying deeply sensitive issue about both Chilmington and Otterpool is how do we strike the right balance between providing housing for young people which they can afford and preserving the countryside.
In these cases both Ashford and Folkestone Councils have come to the decision that it is better to meet the bulk of the housing need with one high-quality large-scale development than a series of medium-size developments which would change the character of every village they surrounded.
I think both the councils are right in the path they have pursued. I am very much in favour of more local control over the planning process, but that must not become an excuse simply to hold back on new housing.
This looks the easy option, but over time it means that too many people who grow up in the area can never hope to own a home here. Equally bad is that if you do not have enough homes, rental prices rise to the point that young people cannot afford to leave home.
So an ambitious programme of something built along garden village lines, with proper planning of amenities and infrastructure will be better than simply squeezing extra homes on the edge of every village in the area.
Of course big developments have teething problems, as we have seen at Chilmington. But these can be resolved and the long-term quality of life for thousands of people will be better. I wish the development at Otterpool well as it grows over the coming years.