A proposal to relocate a coastal road as part of a new multi-million pound housing estate – which has been strongly opposed by opponents – has now been approved.
It comes as costs for the Princes Parade project in Hythe were revealed to have risen by £16.5m and will now cost a total of £45m.
As part of the overall divisive development plans, the existing road, which runs parallel to the beach, will be closed and another built closer to the Royal Military Canal.
The stop order was the subject of a public inquiry, which was overseen by Independent Inspector Owen Woodwards and conducted in October and November last year.
Now, a report reveals that the request was granted.
A letter released by the Department for Transport reads: “The Secretary of State agrees with the inspector’s comments that the order would bring many benefits – including safer parking options and more variety, improved parking for people with disabilities, improved cycle paths and improved road safety.”
The order is subject to a six-week challenge period in the High Court if there are grounds to challenge the decision.
Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC) is behind the plans for Princes Parade.
As well as stopping the road, the program includes the construction of 150 new homes, a leisure center with swimming pool and a new coastal heritage park on the currently empty land.
As the road has been relocated near the canal, a pedestrian promenade will be developed near the coast.
The project, which was approved in 2019, has been the subject of many objections and protests over the years from residents, who want the land to remain intact.
Activists also launched a judicial review to try to stop the development, but it was lost in the High Court.
Commenting on the stoppage order granted, Cllr David Monk, Head of FHDC, said: “I am very pleased that the order has been granted following a thorough and detailed assessment of the application by an independent inspector. “
But a spokesperson for action group Save Princes Parade posted online: ‘There has never been a need to divert the route and it is a loss to our community.’
Although construction has yet to begin along Princes Parade, work has begun to clear the land, a former dump, and move the animals that live there, such as badgers and reptiles, to new homes.
Fences have also been placed around the site.
Investigations at the site revealed there were contamination issues, according to a report.
Next week, the project will be presented to members of the FHDC cabinet.
Issues to be discussed include the fact that the price of the project has risen by £16.5million to £45,300,579.
FHDC says this is due to “a number of factors” including the “nearly 18-month delay caused by legal action, increased site awareness, inflation and supply chain issues that all major projects are currently being submitted”.
The appointment of the preferred leisure center operator – Freedom Leisure – on an initial 10-year contract, with an optional five-year extension at the board’s discretion, will also be debated.
Freedom Leisure runs similar facilities in Ashford and Sandwich.
The meeting will take place at 5pm at FHDC’s Civic Center on Castle Hill Avenue, Folkestone next Wednesday (26 January).
Seating is limited, but the meeting can be viewed online.