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Folkestone's fate looks sealed by housing decision

Folkestone racecourse, which closed in 2012
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Any hopes remaining that racing might return to Folkestone evaporated on Friday when the government announced its support for a housing development at the site.

Arena Racing Company closed Folkestone and Hereford in 2012 but, while racing has returned to Hereford this year, the Kent course has remained shut.

The proposed Otterpool Park garden town development would include 12,000 houses accommodating up to 29,000 people, with the racecourse site part of the land set to be built on.

The track is still owned by the Reuben Brothers but is no longer part of Arena Racing Company, the racecourse group confirmed.

Arc's director of external affairs Susannah Gill said: "Ownership of the racecourse has now been transferred within the group."

The government, which has announced a new £18 million fund to speed up house building, is set to provide £750,000 in funding for the development.

Housing minister Gavin Barwell said: "We are getting behind plans for a new garden town which offers a unique opportunity to boost the local economy, jobs and provide new homes in Shepway, Kent."

Approval followed a formal 'expression of interest' to the government during the summer from Shepway District Council in a new garden town.

Following the news, council leader Cllr David Monk said: "Housing minister Gavin Barwell's announcement of support and capacity funding of £750,000 means we will be able to pursue our ambitions to create a new community where our children and their children can live, work and play."

There has been local opposition to the project, which is set to take 30 years to complete, and the council said community consultations were due to start in December before a planning application was submitted.

Monk added: "I have already met with many people, businesses and local parishes to discuss our ideas but nothing is set in stone yet. We do know that over the next 30 years we will need more homes and jobs for our children and grandchildren.

"Many in my generation have done well for themselves. I feel a deep obligation to make sure that we do not deny future generations the same opportunities we had."

Ownership of the racecourse has now been transferred within the group
E.W. Terms