Following the elections on 4th May, the Green Party became the biggest group on Folkestone & Hythe District Council with 11 councillors. On 24th May, Green and Liberal Democrat councillors formed an administration and Cllr Jim Martin became the Leader of the district council.
Councillor Jim Martin posted this update on the Folkestone Green Party website regarding the Disrict Council’s decision to abandon the Princes Parade project.
I’ll never forget the moment when, to loud cheers, I was able to stand up in the council chamber as the newly elected Leader of the district council and announce that Princes Parade is saved. Thank you to each and every one of you, from all over the district and across the political spectrum, who has campaigned to save this precious site from unwanted development and who made their feelings known in the local elections. Saving Princes Parade will be one of my proudest moments, and to be frank, I could not have done it without you.
Naturally, my announcement on Wednesday has raised many questions about what happens next and I’ve attempted to answer them below.
Is the scheme definitely finished?
Yes! There are various complex issues to untangle and work through, but all current development plans have been scrapped.
Is there a financial consequence of stopping the development?
In short, yes, and I know many different figures have been quoted, in part because there is a difference between the amount spent to date and the cost of the ‘write-off’. The latter will depend on what happens to the land and what remediation is necessary, so we don’t know yet what the final figure will be.
What happens to the land now?
We want to explore all options for the land, including rewilding and parks amongst others. With so much public money wasted so far, it’s sensible not to rush into a decision until we understand all the options.
What does ‘remediation’ of the land mean?
We know that there is contamination on the site, which dates from the time when it was used as a rubbish dump. Arguably, this contamination should have been dealt with previously and it will almost certainly need to be now, even though the development is no longer going ahead, if the site is to be considered safe for public access. We in the Green Party would like Princes Parade to be rewilded, so that plants, animals and birds flourish here, just as they did in the past. Work to understand how the remediation may be done and how long it will take is getting under way. We will keep you informed of progress.
When can the hoardings come down?
I understand the strength of feeling about the hoardings but they cannot be taken down immediately as much as I, like you, want that to happen. The public cannot be allowed access until the site is safe. The council will also want to recoup some of the money spent on the hoardings if it can. Rest assured though, the hoardings will be removed as soon as possible.
What about the road along the seafront?
Obviously, with the development cancelled the road will no longer be moved. We’ve had some questions about improving the quality of the existing road and about cars driving too fast along here which we will pass on to Kent County Council.
What about the promised leisure centre?
We agree that Hythe Pool needs to be replaced and are already discussing other possible locations that offer greater accessibility, carry fewer costs and risks and which could even accommodate more extensive facilities. You’ll understand that money is an issue here, as it is for most things but the council will look at how much can be realised from the sale of the existing swimming pool site and at other sources of funding.
Will local people be consulted on any new plans?
Yes, the council will consult on its plans for a new leisure centre and also on what happens to Princes Parade in the future, although we already know, and so do our fellow councillors in other parties, that you want this precious asset to be protected for future generations and that’s what we’re going to do.
Cllr Jim Martin, Leader of Folkestone & Hythe District Council