Democracy wins

The struggle to prevent the development of Princes Parade has been a long one.

At a rowdy and emotional meeting at Seabrook Hall about twelve years ago council representatives tried to justify developing the Princes Parade seafront and the local residents were angry. Some had to fight their way into the packed meeting and didn’t like what they were hearing. Eventually, in an attempt to placate them, Councillor Russell Tillson said that if the overwhelming majority of the people of Hythe didn’t want the development it wouldn’t go ahead. He didn’t mean it, maybe he was worried about getting out of the hall in one piece.

In 2012 F&HDC used the need for a new swimming pool in Hythe as a pretext for proposing 36 new homes and a leisure centre on the land. Soon the the plan was for 150 homes up to four storeys high, a hotel and commercial properties, plus diverting the road to run alongside the Royal Military Canal.

The Save Princes Parade campaign raised the funds for a Judicial Review to overturn the planning permission and when that failed they raised some more to appeal against the decision.

That too was unsuccessful but Save Princes Parade was in action again when a 38 Degrees petition secured enough signatures to force a Public Inquiry into the diversion of Princes Parade.

The Save Princes Parade campaign group agreed to coordinate the case against the stopping up order but were again unsuccessful and for its efforts were slapped with costs order. The Council wanted the costs awarded against individual members of the group but the inspector decided award it against the organisation regardless of whether the sum could be collected.

The group was out of funds and there was no prospect of the costs order being paid. It appears that the Council’s aim was to keep the group off its case and in that respect it was successful, Save Princes Parade wasn’t able to raise funds to continue its campaigning, and its website hasn’t been updated since January 2022.

However, while the campaign stalled, the people of Folkestone and Hythe did not lose hope. They have used the ballot box to show what they think of David Monk and his plans.

It was the will of the people that spelled the end of the Princes Parade scheme. Over the last two election cycles the Conservatives have seen their majority (with 22 seats out of 30!) first eliminated in 2019 when they needed the support of Independent and UKIP councillors to push their policies through. Then, on May 4th 2023 they were reduced to five seats against a united front of eleven Green Party, two Liberal Democratic Party and ten Labour Party councillors all on a platform of saving Princes Parade.

The Conservatives are no longer a force in the district and the Greens and Liberal Democrats have formed a strong coalition and, with the backing of the Labour members, they have pledged to stop the development of Princes Parade… leisure centre, hotel, housing and all!

In the end it was the electorate that decided. It was the democratic will of the overwhelming majority of the people of Hythe that in the end won the battle for Princes Parade.