When looking for a new home, we don’t just look at the physical space, we look at the wider community and what will be around us. Will there be access to healthcare amenities and open space? What about transport links? And for those entrusted in building our new communities, there are even more questions to consider. How to create streets suitable for walking and cycling? How will the demands of climate change affect how we design and build communities? For Folkestone & Hythe District Council, these were just some of the challenges they faced when devising a plan for a contemporary new garden town in East Kent, called Otterpool Park.
We understood these challenges and are proud to be leading the development of the masterplan and planning application for Otterpool Park, which will include up to 10,000 new homes across a 770 hectare greenfield site. The plans will totally transform the area, creating a vibrant new community just an hour’s train ride from London and within a 15 minute walk of the Kent Downs - a region designated by Natural England as a ‘National Character Area’.
As well as new homes, the plans also include land for employment, shops, schools and medical centres, as well as extensive open space and access to the countryside. Respecting the surrounding communities, landscape and heritage is going to be key, and Otterpool Park is being designed with wellness and a healthy lifestyle at its heart.
We are also exploring how exciting new technology and digitalization can be incorporated into the plans. From connectivity and charging options to accommodate the potential increase in electric and autonomous vehicles, through to smart cities technology to drive more efficient local services. The intention is to create a flexible community that can adapt and grow for each generation.
The Stage 1 Feasibility and Capacity Study, prepared by Arcadis, included topics such as green space, water and wildlife, as well as heritage and transport. This has now been completed and will help to inform the design of the proposed garden town and the development of a Framework Masterplan. This will outline a suggested layout and design for Otterpool Park as the project moves forward. Local residents and businesses will all be encouraged to engage and help shape the development of the masterplan.
Vision of the future
As humans we are hardwired to enjoy nature. It improves mood, productivity, health and all-round quality of life. And true to its 'garden town' status, Otterpool Park will be 50% green space; only minutes from the coastal town of Folkstone. But people also need to exist in the modern world with high-speed connectivity, both digitally and physically. The demands of this new community will be well met on both fronts. Its strategic location will not go unrecognised by those with business in mind - quick access to London and the Continent via high-speed trains, motorways, flights and the Channel Tunnel.
When considering overall quality of life, Otterpool Park promises to be the ideal. A place of balance. Countryside, but connected. It's a re-defined look at what a contemporary town can be - with one eye on the needs of today and the other on the communities of the future. Where people and businesses can thrive, with all the technologies of the city but in the rolling greenery of 'The Garden of England'.