Museum proposed for Ford Halstead
A MUSEUM, a care home and a hotel are all possibilities for the future of the Ministry of Defence site Fort Halstead.
The current home of the Government's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), the site is expected to be vacated by up to 800 workers in the next four years.
This will leave a small area used by remaining private defence technology firm QinetiQ – and almost one million square feet for owners Armstrong Kent to develop.
Consultations were held in surrounding Sevenoaks villages Halstead, Knockholt, Dunton Green and Otford last Thursday and Friday, where residents were able to find out more about the land and fill in surveys giving their own opinions of how the plot should be used.
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Fort Halstead was the subject of controversy in 2010, when plans to build 1,100 homes on the property were floated – but these were quickly deemed unsuitable, due to public outcry.
Planning firm CBRE is working on behalf of Armstrong Kent to collate responses and draw up ideas for possible uses.
And CBRE planning consultant Stephen Roberts said an incredible variety of ideas is currently in the pot, which include using the ancient fort itself as a heritage centre.
He explained: "There is a huge amount of history in the fort and it is practically untouched.
"When Dstl moves out, one of our thoughts is certainly to create a heritage centre for the community to enjoy.
"We've also had questions about using the grounds as a hub for the villages – with a cricket pitch, tennis courts and swimming pool.
"Some of our developers have thought about building a care home or hotel, and the responses to that have been very positive."
Mr Roberts admitted housing had been a bugbear for residents around the development.
He said he could not rule out residential building as part of the plans, but insisted it would be fewer homes than previously thought – "it will most likely be around 500 or 600, to fit in with the nearby villages".
The consultation is designed as a "fresh start", he continued, adding: "This is a chance to go forward with the community and make this a development we can all be happy with."
Viewing the consultation in Donnington Manor in Dunton Green, Richard Gibbons, secretary to Chipstead Sailing Club, said: "I haven't seen anything yet I didn't already know about, but I'm hopeful.
"I wanted to see the proposals firsthand out of personal interest, given the high profile of the development, and also in the context of its impact on local amenities."
What do you think should happen to the site? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org