Arcadis: Otterpool Park Garden Town
Otterpool Park, a proposed garden town located in the Kent countryside close to the seaside towns of Folkestone and Hythe, is planned to provide up to 10,000 homes, 12 hectares of employment space, open green areas, and community facilities.
What we know
Kent County Council proposed this project as a sustainable solution for meeting house building targets, growing the local economy, and to maintain the economical delivery of local services. Arcadis led the planning and development of the project and innovatively integrated ecosystem services and natural capital assessment tools into the planning process, alongside stakeholder engagement and multidisciplinary collaboration.
The concept of a ‘garden town’, which can be traced back over a century, recognises the shortcomings that many of our cities and common approaches to urban design have for both nature and society.
By developing new communities in accordance with a plan that includes nature and natural spaces, public transport, and access to essential goods and services, these communities can be more sustainable and resilient places for both nature and people. Incorporating modern ecosystem services assessment tools in the planning process means the latest scientific understanding is used, ensuring developments create a net gain for biodiversity and other natural qualities.
Demand for housing in the UK is growing, with Folkestone & Hythe District Council committing to building 14,600 new homes between 2014 and 2037. Otterpool Park will meet some of this demand, supporting 8,500 homes initially, with potential to increase to 10,000.
A master plan is being developed to that include community facilities such as schools and health facilities, as well as a layout to encourage walkable access and public transport use [source].
What we’re doing
Otterpool Park is being planned to incorporate nearly 50% green space.
The project is being led by Arcadis in collaboration with a diverse range of environmental experts to ensure the landscape is sustainable and supportive of wildlife as well as the health and wellbeing of residents. Quantifying positive and negative environmental impacts allowed targets for environmental net gain to be set and carried through the planning, design, and the delivery process.
The site is mostly formed of arable farmland and improved grassland, which has limited biodiversity value, so the landscape driven masterplan supports natural habitats and is anticipated to achieve a 20% biodiversity net gain.
Graphics were used during the design process to support multidisciplinary collaboration and communication with stakeholders. This ensured the functionality and benefits of green infrastructure were not compromised throughout the design process.
What it’s worth
The master plan for Otterpool Park has been used as a case study for how ecosystem services and natural capital assessment tools were trialled and effectively integrated into the planning process.
Strategies such as Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) were prioritised to support multiple benefits including carbon sequestration, passive cooling and visual amenity. The findings of the natural capital assessments were presented as part of the planning application.
The project demonstrates how natural capital and ecosystem service assessment tools can be incorporated into planning, how ambitious biodiversity net gain objectives can be achieved, and how a multidisciplinary approach to planning can be used without compromising core development goals.
Deliberate efforts have been made to share findings with the ecology profession, as well as specialists on construction projects. This will enable future projects to benefit from the approach’s advantages and lessons learned.