A professionals view of Shepway’s Housing Strategy

A professionals view of Shepway’s Housing Strategy

Dear Sir(s)

I am writing with quite a degree of positivity having just read the Shepway Housing Strategies document. This document would seem to now address the reluctance of local authorities to enter into public/private partnerships to deliver affordable homes. This must be great news for people on lower incomes and those that would not realistically be able to obtain a 25-30% deposit for the purchase of a home. Low cost home ownership must be a key component in any regeneration plan and should be treated as a priority for local people. It would seem that in Shepway very little housing is classified as affordable, and in fact most of the existing homes either belonging to owner occupiers or large property portfolio landlords. Both local and absent!

As a developer and promoter of both prestige and affordable housing my partners and I are keen to invest into housing projects that are able to deliver profits over a long term. This long term strategy is not seen as viable by most private developers who are looking for the 35% returns on traditional house building which are normally made within 24 months of acquisition of a site and sale of the homes that are built upon it. To convince developers to invest into a market that is burdened by bureaucratic inertia is a tall order in these turbulent economic times. It is very encouraging to see that Shepway and central government are both doing their bit to sow the seeds of change, so as to enable housing to be provided quickly and efficiently by private/public sector partnerships. All the legislation is there for both councils and developers to use, to their best advantage, so as to deliver much needed homes. The only element missing is the most vital component! That vital component is the implementation of councillor’s decisions by the officers of their councils. It is recognised that all council officers are finding it difficult to change from their traditional role and way of doing things, to the new innovative, more pragmatic, private sector funding formulas, investment funds led solutions.    Once this missing part of the jigsaw is addressed then Shepway and similar councils will enjoy prosperous and sustainable growth through house building programs/projects.

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September 22, 2012 at 12:14 pm Leave a comment

Portas Review: An independent review into the future of our high streets

Folkestone Town Centre and the Mary Portas Review

by Nick Spurrier

In the Portas Review: An independent review into the future of our high streets, published in 2011, Mary Portas states “The days of a high street populated simply by independent butchers, bakers and candlestick makers are, except in the most exceptional circumstances, over. How we shop as a nation has quite simply changed beyond recognition, forever”. This is, she adds, “caused by the phenomenal growth of online retailing, the rise of mobile retailing, the speed and sophistication of the major national and international retailers, the epic and immersive experiences offered by today’s new breed of shopping mall, [and] a crippling recession.”

She continues “I want to put the heart back into the centre of our high streets, re-imagined as destinations for socialising, culture, health, wellbeing, creativity and learning. Places that will develop and sustain new and existing markets and businesses.” The new high streets won’t just be about selling goods. The mix will include shops but could also include housing, offices, sport, schools or other social, commercial and cultural enterprises and meeting places. They should become places where we go to engage with other people in our communities, where shopping is just one small part of a rich mix of activities.”

Portas produces a number of recommendations for the revival of town centres. It is worth considering these, how they might help Folkestone and which, if any, have been attempted or implemented in any way.

A Town Team, her first recommendation, has already been formed under the leadership of Damian Collins our MP, the team having also applied but unfortunately failed in the first round, to become one of 12 pilot towns, her last recommendation. Other recommendations concern reduction or changes in business rates and, of course, easier and cheaper parking. The problem of property owners leaving shops unused is addressed by suggesting creating disincentives to keeping them empty or compulsory purchase by councils in extreme cases.  Many of her other proposals concern reduction in regulation by local councils to enable shops to be used more easily on a short term basis, and in a variety of ways.

Empty shops, she suggests, could be used by potential shop owners on a temporary or “meanwhile” basis, allowing a business to test its potential without a substantial capital commitment. Attempts should also be made to encourage the use of premises above shops. In the streets themselves, she believes, local authorities should allow anyone to trade on the high street, unless there is a valid reason why not. Markets should not suffer from over-regulation, making it easier for first timers to have what could be called cheap taster sessions. Finally she hopes that large established businesses will look at mentoring and encouraging the start-up of smaller independent retailers.

Mentoring small businesses is an intention of Josh De Haan when his new premises are completed in Tontine Street. As he stated in an interview in the March issue of this magazine, half of the ground floor will be given over to facilities for individuals to work and receive advice on plans for their new businesses.  Are there other businesses in Folkestone that might consider contributing in this way?

Other recommendations of Portas been tried out in Folkestone or are being considered. The Creative Foundation has introduced education into East Folkestone with the University Centre and The Cube. Studios have been created fulfilling her recommendation on the introduction of “creativity and learning.”  The upper floors of shops have been made accessible and renovated for use either as living space, studios or offices. Several of the shops in the Old High Street are occupied by people “working and selling”. Empty shops have occasionally rented out to individuals as “pop up” shops for a short term try out. Though the “Hidden Gems” project has led to the tidying up of empty properties in Sandgate Road as well as the Old High Street, it might be some further help if the policy of allowing “Pop up Shops” or as Portas puts it renting out shops on a “meanwhile” basis could spread to the whole town, perhaps for as little as two or three weeks.

For those unable to take on a shop for even a short period, markets can be a first step or even a permanent way of doing business. And for Portas, markets rank high in her proposals for high street regeneration. She writes “Let’s think about the Paris flea markets and German Christmas markets… food, fashion, homemade, second hand, organic. Would-be retailers – or simply talented people who have something to sell – should be using indoor and outdoor markets as a step on the business ladder…why can’t we proceed on the assumption that anyone can trade on the high street, unless there is a valid reason why not?..

So how does Folkestone fare in relation to these proposals for markets? In fact it is easy for someone to rent a space for a Thursday or Saturday market stall on a casual basis – a six foot space being available for just under £20 – by simply turning up at 7.30 on the day of the market, having notified the market supervisor beforehand. Unfortunately it does not seem possible to rent a space of less than 6 foot. Though there is one stall “Amazing Incense” selling locally produced products as well as those from overseas, these markets do not seem to coincide with those envisioned by Portas, the majority selling discounted clothes and household goods. Nevertheless they do add to shoppers in the town centre.

Unfortunately the money taken from these two markets in the lower part of Sandgate Road goes directly to Shepway District Council, none being ring-fenced for Town Centre improvements. The Town Centre Management have responsibility for the top half of the pedestrianised area of Sandgate Road and use this to hold regular events and markets more along the Portas lines. Any money taken from these goes back into improving the town. It might be best in the long run if the whole of the pedestrianised area was under the control of Town Centre Management who could then use the money earned from markets and events to bring about improvements.

There have been other attempts at markets more of the Portas type: after discussions with Shepway District Council, Mat Flynn ran a collectors “fair” on Sundays for some months in 2011 in the area of Rendezvous Street. Allowed to charge £5 a stall on a Sunday, provided called he it a fair rather than a market, he was able to attract up to 30 stalls selling a variety of crafts and collector’s items; for a time the Creative Foundation ran an arts and craft market in the area ofthe harbour, something that may be revived in the future. In the meantime, ArtMarts selling Art & Craft and Artisan Food are now being held monthly to the end of 2012 in that area of Sandgate Road under the control of the Town Centre management.

In London there is the remarkably successful art market each Sunday on the railings of Green Park. All that is required is a license and you can turn up. The idea has been tried by the Folkestone Arts Collective on the Leas – an ideal place for a regular art market. But only once a year and if there is inclement weather on that day, it fails. The ideal would be to allow people to buy a licence to trade on any Sunday, the market being policed by a organising committee of local art groups. Unfortunately, the Radnor Estate impedes this by restricting the number of events and insisting that no money can change hands. They should seriously reconsider their position. A regular art market on the Leas, as it became well known, could bring more people into Folkestone on a Sunday.

But of course to attract visitors and ensure longer stays, a new approach to car parking is needed. If the charges are too high or people feel on edge about running out of time they may hesitate about coming to the town. So without doubt lower parking charges should be considered as should the possibility of extending ones time without having to return to your car. With mobile phone technology this should not a be a problem.

It may be that what is needed in Folkestone is not the money that being a Portas pilot town would bring but the flexibility and deregulation that would, as she says, allow people at small cost to trade in the streets of the town and in empty shops. There is certainly a need to bring the streets themselves to life and make them attractive. More events, as proposed by Town Centre Management, certainly but sometimes it is really small changes that do it, even a single busker can make a difference.

 

September 19, 2012 at 1:31 pm Leave a comment

Silver Spring Soft Drinks Factory at Park Farm Road to stay and be modernised.

Silver Spring Soft Drinks Factory at Park Farm Road to stay and be modernised.

Peter Hobbs and myself have been consulted on this exciting and important scheme, and asked for Chamber and SERP support at the planning meeting stage. Public Exhibitions have taken place to show proposals to reconfigure and modernise the Silver Spring Soft Drinks Factory at Park Farm Road, CT19 5GA and the separate development of a mixed use scheme at the land adjacent to Caesar’s Way, CT19 4AH

Dalton Warner Davis have been instructed to lead the public consultation process for exciting schemes to modernise and reconfigure the Silver Spring factory, redevelop the surplus land off Park Farm for retail warehousing, and develop the vacant land adjacent to Caesar’s Way for residential and commercial units. As part of this process, the project team would like to discuss proposals with the local community so that any relevant feedback may be incorporated into the final scheme, prior to submission of planning applications.

For further information contact the Project Team, who will be able to answer your questions on a range of topics including marketing of the site, planning, layout, highways, access, construction and sustainability/green issues amongst others.contact us at:

e-mail us on silverspring@dwdllp.com, or

Write to Silver Spring Information, Freepost RSRX-YRLR-RUSL, DALTON WARNER DAVIS, 21-26 Garlick Hill, London EC4V 2AU.

September 18, 2012 at 2:26 pm Leave a comment

NEW CHERITON ROAD SPORTS HALL AND PAVILION TO OPEN BY NOVEMBER

Folkestone Town Councillor and Go Folkestone member Richard Wallace reports on ………NEW Cheriton Road sports hall and pavilion that is to open by November.

Go Folkestone was given the privilege of a walk around the part built new Cricket

and Hockey Pavilion, and Sports Hall with Stuart Ingleston on 14th August; members

may be allowed around again in a month. I will say more in the next issue, but it

is very exciting. There is a lot of funding from the De Haan Foundation, the cricket

and hockey bodies and others, and it is shaping up to be, in our opinion, part of

a successful ( and two-way) attempt to get Kent Cricket Club to come back for a

Folkestone Cricket Week for the first time in 25years. In addition the fantastically

successful annual European Hockey Tournaments that boosted our town will also I am

absolutely sure be back.

The sports hall is about 12m in height, and feels like the size of a football pitch

inside. It is steel framed, clad in cedar and with interior blockwork, with rendered

white boards lining the lower interior to provide sightlines for players. It will have

high quality flooring in Gerfloor, a state of the art surface for the bouncing balls of

indoor cricket and the many other sports for which it will be marked out. It should

be possible to have 6 cricket ‘nets’ at the same time as 2 games of hockey, netball,

basketball, volleyball etc. Underfloor heating in the buildings will be linked to 41

income earning photo voltaic panels on the roofs. On one side at ‘first floor’ level

is a tiered viewing gallery, about 4 deep, for c 50 people with a thinner front seat

strip for wheelchairs next to it. The latter is in front of a partitioned, small indoor

members’ gym. Everything else will be open to hire to support the charitable

foundation: Cheriton Road Sports Ground Trust .

From the Sports Hall there is a linked, part glazed foyer/reception/sports shop which

will be franchised to the Canterbury Hockey and Cricket Centre of Wincheap. There

will be a video network so that both individual video analysis of sports’ players and

giant County Cricket standard electronic scoreboards will be provided . One will go

where the 1920s old pavilion is now, as that will be demolished. The cricket terracing

will be adapted and softened in some areas to provide earth banking , but viewing

numbers will be increased because of the large, new Pavilion. From the foyer you go

into an area where there are separate changing rooms for officials, one of the many

fine details that make this genuinely acceptable for international games of cricket,

hockey and probably netball .In this area also will be a central open area with a

circular bench ideal for those who just want to change boots etc. Then we go into 6

separate suites of serviced changing rooms so that tournaments and multi use are no

problem. Access will be by hotel style electronic switch cards in some cases, so that

hiring for big teams can be free from problems of missing keys etc.

The first floor of the new pavilion will have 130-150 seats in a large bar with good

kitchen etc. Dividing screens with make multi-use for up to 3 different events

including wedding receptions possible. We walked around the shell and saw where

the huge windows will soon be slotted in for viewing balconies looking over both the

two new hockey and all purpose artificial pitches, and the new netball courts, and,

on the other side the newly laid and improved cricket ground. A large plain window

to the North looks at the practice pitches that have been laid almost up to the Pent

Stream bank where the public park re-asserts itself. I hope that on the one hand the

public realises this is a high class and mostly pay to play facility, and on the other,

the committee do everything they can to reach out to every sector of the public, given that this was a park open to all.

Richard Wallace

September 18, 2012 at 12:57 pm Leave a comment

Roger De Haan and his team show confidence in Folkestone!

Details of confidence boosting Folkestone Seafront Planning application.

An outline planning application has been submitted to Shepway District Council for the development of Folkestone harbour and seafront. The outline application is not a detailed planning application and provides for the building of up to 1000 houses, together with new public spaces and recreational facilities. In view of the strategic importance of the site the plans will be determined by the full council, and the outcome is expected in spring 2013.

The application reflects the culmination of some three years’ work by the leading architect practice Terry Farrell and Partners, together with a team representing the landowners, the Folkestone Harbour Company, supported by experts in a variety of specialist disciplines. This has included two full rounds of public consultation (in spring 2010 and autumn 2011) on a range of ideas and proposals, and the results have fed back into the planning process. Further consultation on the submitted proposals will now be led by Shepway District Council as part of their determination of the application. The proposals set out the design principles and parameters within which any future planning application will need to operate and incorporate the critical factors involved, including environmental considerations, improvements to transport in the harbour and seafront area and acknowledging the heritage of the site. The plan sets the tone and establishes clear ambitions for the development of the site over the next ten to fifteen years, with the exact timetable subject to prevailing economic circumstances.

Great care has been taken to present plans that are viable and that can be delivered in a way that is sympathetic to Folkestone’s existing built environment. The plan is designed to enable development of the site in phases, thereby helping to manage financial exposure for potential developers. Each of these phases will see the preparation of an individual planning application, where design of buildings will be shown in detail. The outline application establishes the overall design for the site, including the layout and extent of streets along which the development will take place, other public squares and spaces and landscaping. Any designs that are shown for individual structures in the outline application are intended as indicative only, and illustrate the aspiration for the quality and typology of buildings.

There is potential to develop provision for sea sports and water-based activities, and the street scene and public spaces will incorporate restaurants, small-scale retail spaces and heritage use as well as housing. The area represents a unique opportunity to design a cohesive townscape next to   the sea that blends well with its natural environment and existing heritage, but that also provides well-designed and sustainable amenities for the people who live in Folkestone and for visitors to the town.

The seafront and harbour site has been complicated to plan and will be expensive to develop.  Key considerations include mitigation against the risk of flooding, to protect against a possible one in two hundred year incident; addressing transport needs adequately in an area that presently has limited access by road and public transport; acknowledging the area’s heritage assets; ()serving the needs of an incoming resident population, including new demands on schools and other public services. Detailed planning applications will need to balance and prioritise these considerations and their associated costs.

The outline application envisages a range of housing units, from one bedroom flats to larger luxury homes. The market for these is expected to come from existing local residents who are attracted by the opportunity to live by the sea as well as buyers who are relocating to the area, attracted equally by Folkestone’s fifty-three minute journey time to and from London. Terry Farrell’s team has worked on the principle that sea views will be optimised, that residents will have access to outdoor/garden space, but also that new public spaces will be created.

There is potential for job creation during the construction phase and in the longer term in the infrastructure which supports the new community that will develop, including in shops and restaurants that will located within the development area.

On behalf of Folkestone Harbour Company Trevor Minter said: “This outline plan is an important step towards realising a once in a century opportunity to create a seafront of which Folkestone can be proud. The challenges are enormous, but we are determined to get the formula right, even if this takes time.”

September 18, 2012 at 12:35 pm Leave a comment

SERP Regen News

From today SERP will be publishing its own newsletter under the title of “SERP Regen News”.

The aim of the newsletter is to keep the people of Shepway up to date with the important news concerning the regeneration of this town, as it happens. 

MP for Folkestone and Hythe, Damian Collins has kindly given his support to this initiative and has even provided the forward for the first edition.

To sign up for the newsletter simply contact us by email at: serpshepway@gmail.com 

July 2, 2012 at 2:51 pm 1 comment

Success as The Grand supports the Governments Work Experience Scheme

Over the last 18 months The Grand has worked closely with the Job Center in Folkestone to support the government’s work experience programme in a scheme that allows the people of Folkestone the opportunity to not just find employment within one of the leading private businesses in the area but to join a billion pound worldwide industry that offers training, qualifications and advancement in properties within every country on the globe.

 

Persons joining the scheme are given their first experience of the working environment (that is the real interview process, working job descriptions and the realities of joining a profession) and the real potential for securing a job with a real salary and real prospects and a nationally recognized training and qualification scheme. We truly believe in the development of people at The Grand and this initiative allows us to take it just a step further.

 

As trend setters in this scheme we have been fortunate enough to not only have had exposure in a national newspaper over the last month but to have the Department for Work & Pensions use us as a case study on their website.

 

People wishing to join this employment scheme should either contact Anne Murphy at the Folkestone Job Centre Plus or Robert Richardson at The Grand.


July 2, 2012 at 2:47 pm Leave a comment

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