Our beloved Council will be giving away land to a developer. Not just
any old land, but money-making car park land. And not just any old car
park, but valuable car parking land near the sea front. And not just any
developer, but one that’s been on telly.
Let’s not forget, the Council is simply holding things on our behalf. So when the press reports that:
“A formal planning application is due to be submitted shortly and a
land swap deal is close to being agreed, where Canterbury City Council
would gift part of their land, used as a car park, for the scheme.”
the phrase “their land” should be taken with a pinch of salt.
I’m intrigued by the “land swap deal” and what the other half of it might be. What, if anything, is being gained for this land? Our Council appears to be about to give away some or all of the two car parks either side of the Beach Street cul-de-sac. Between them, they have the capacity for some 65 cars – about two-thirds of the capacity of Morrison’s roof-top car park.
What would the value of this land be on the open market? What would the Council be taking in parking revenue, week after week, for years? These two numbers are an indication of the value of the “gift” that our Council wants to make.
The press report indicates that the “land swap deal” is nearly a done deal. Presumably this has taken a while to organise and negotiate, so we’re looking at the end of a process that’s been a while in the making. I don’t think CCC will be putting any obstacles in Mr Murray’s way at this late stage, and as you can see from the pictures below – from the Herne Bay Showcase on 6th March – Mr Murray gets on famously with our smiling star-struck councillors (Jean Law, Peter Lee, Peter Vickery-Jones).
I don’t know much about the planning process, but I have a feeling that this application will have a smooth ride.
Once there was a plan. A bad plan.
The driving force behind our
Council’s exceptional generosity (are Coplan and Denne getting the
William Street car park for free?) is the conspicuous failure of the
CDA, or Central Development Area plan. Back in 2009, CCC decided that the Area Action Plan gave them a free hand to dispose of the William Street car park to the highest bidder. This would of course mean a windfall for the Council.
developers (Coplan and Denne in this case) would then be able to use the large town
centre site to generate a windfall for themselves. Obviously, they would
be looking for maximum benefits for themselves, rather than delivering
maximum benefits for the town. As a result, they developed what appeared
at the time to be a safe (i.e. stunningly unimaginative) clone town proposal for a
development, centred on a new supermarket that would be built literally next door to the existing supermarket.
Pinning their hopes on a new supermarket was the fatal flaw in an already pretty rubbishy plan – as explained here. Which supermarket would want to invest millions to set up shop next door to a competitor? Clearly not Tesco or Sainsbury, which is why they’re pursuing options on the edge of town. Would Morrison’s be coaxed out of their current store into the new one? Clearly not. They’ve withdrawn from negotiations, having calculated that it would take decades to recover the millions the move would cost them, quite apart from the problems of selling their old (current) store.
The lynchpin, the cornerstone, the catalyst for the whole CDA project has failed to materialise, and as a result we have nothing to show after three years apart from planning blight on all the properties bordering the William Street car park, the Bus Depot, and the Beach Street area – the three blocks ear-marked for development.
And this is where Mr Murray comes in. His interest in developing the Beach Street area must have been very welcome news. Our Council will present this as contributing to the town’s regeneration; Mr Murray’s architect says it will revitalise the bottom end of Mortimer Street and Central Parade. Quite an achievement for three dozen dwellings and a handful of shops.
One shop would be demolished – 73 Central Parade, the left-hand side of Tivoli Amusements. The new development would include 4 shops, 8 three-bedroom town houses, 2 three-bedroom apartments, 16 two-bedroom apartments, 9 one-bedroom apartments, 27 private parking spaces and 11 additional parking spaces. Clearly Mr Murray stands to make a pretty penny if all this turns out well.
I’m not sure that our Council realise that there’s a difference between making it easier for people to make money out of Herne Bay, and regenerating Herne Bay.
Beach Street development
Finally, here’s a document that’s celebrating its third birthday. First issued in March 2010, it’s Canterbury City Council’s vision for the future of Beach Street. None of this has happened yet, of course.