More than 100 new homes are to be built in Folkestone following the council’s purchase of a 1.5 hectare plot from the National Grid.
The development, which will take place at Ship Street near the area’s town centre, is at the location of a former gasworks site left derelict for 65 years.
However, it has now been bought by the district’s council as part of a strategic development of the town, and will not only provide new housing for local residents, but will also contain small-scale commercial space and a number of high-quality public areas that link numerous parts of the town together.
Councillor Michelle Keutenius, who represents the East Folkestone ward, believes the project will ultimately allow for greater expansion in one of the area’s most urban hotspots.
Yet the Labour Party member admits the initial target of 100 homes should be the absolute minimum given the alleged increasing housing problem throughout Folkestone and Hythe.
“We are encouraged to see that the Old Gasworks site is going to be brought back into use for the community as housing – redeveloping brownfield sites is essential and should be a top priority over greenfield developments,” she said.
“The Ship Street site is an excellent opportunity for regrowth and rebalancing the council’s priority between community building for residents and large profit developments.
“Whilst the site is currently earmarked for 100 mixed tenure units, the Folkestone and Hythe Labour Group would like to see more than the usual 30% used for increasing our council housing stock, as the affordability of housing is becoming an increasing concern for many local residents.”
Ship Street in Folkestone is the location of the confirmed new housing
Despite being left derelict since 1956 when it stopped operating as a gasworks station, it wasn’t until 2001 that the site was fully demolished, before it was eventually revisited eight years later due to topography and contamination issues.
Although it has remained as empty brownfield land since, a lack of private investment in the site has meant the council has intervened, and, although it still needs further public support moving forward, it aims to create a new, unique hub for sustainable housing in the town.
Janine Smith, a local resident based just minutes away from the development in Black Bull Road, acknowledges it has some potentially major benefits for the area, although admits she is concerned about the amount of housing being proposed.
She said: “I am slightly concerned that it’s going to take a long time to make it work, and that’s alongside all the noise and the fact that having heard about what is being envisaged, it probably won’t look in great taste with what’s traditionally been built here.
“But for a long time this area has been quite stagnant when it comes to change, so not only will it nice to not have to walk past such a blemish in the form of the unused land, it will of course be great to see so many families have new homes.”
Leader of Folkestone and Hythe Council David Monk echoes the views of Mrs Smith, with the Folkestone Central ward councillor acknowledging that the project will undoubtedly prove difficult to make successful initially.
He explained: “It is no doubt a difficult site with possible contamination problems, as well as the fact that the ground is on multiple levels.
“However, the development is absolutely the sort of site that the council should take on – we will only have to look to break even and the housing gain alone is such a positive for the continued regeneration of Folkestone.”Embed from Getty Images
Folkestone Harbour is one of the area’s most popular destinations
By working in partnership with Creative Folkestone, a charity that focuses on producing artwork throughout the town, the revitalisation will though be developed with a strong focus on design, sustainability and art in public spaces through one of their projects, Pioneering Places.
Director Jason Jones-Hall admits the collective efforts of all those involved in making the development a viable opportunity, will mean the site will change from a dormant to a decorative hub.
He said: “Through our Pioneering Places project, and with the support of Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, we have been able to shine a spotlight on what has been a forgotten and disused, brownfield location for decades to start to explore its rich potential with and for the local community.
“With Folkestone and Hythe District Council committed to maintaining links to the arts and creative sectors at the Ship Street site, we look forward to seeing the former gasworks being brought back into full use, starting with the three amazing artworks that will reopen the site to the public in July.”
The council is yet to set an exact date for inviting others interested financially in redeveloping the site, although acknowledge they will release further details in the coming weeks.