Thousands of homes could be built alongside the HS1 route in Kent if proposals approved

Tens of thousands of new homes could be created in Kent, with the government planning to reduce planning restrictions over development alongside the route of the high speed rail (HS1) line going through the county.

A public consultation being launched by the Department for Transport next Monday (10 July) will set out the plans, which will include opening up 14km² for development. This could see between 30,000 and 35,000 houses being built on available land.

The proposals come a decade after the high speed rail route between London St Pancras and the Channel Tunnel opened in 2007. Currently, ‘safeguarding’ planning regulations restrict development alongside or close to HS1.

Such rules were in place during the construction and early operation of HS1 to ensure the line could be completed and run successfully. But according to government officials, 10 years after the route opened the need to maintain all the original planning controls close to it has gradually reduced. 

Plans to relax planning restrictions include reducing the safeguarding boundary next to the route from 60 metres to 30 metres, and removing 53% of existing land – equivalent to 14km² – next to HS1 from safeguarding restrictions.

The public consultation will end on 13 August 2017, with the government’s final report expected before the end of this year.

Commenting on the new proposals, Rail Minister Paul Maynard said: “HS1 has been a success story for 10 years now, providing a high speed link between London and stations in continental Europe.

“These proposed changes will have no effect on the high speed service for passengers. They will simply reduce the restrictions on developments close to it.”

Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation, welcomed the proposals. “Transport infrastructure investment is a catalyst for economic growth, unlocking land for housing and enabling employment.

“So, we welcome the consultation to reduce planning restrictions along the HS1 route, which will inform government on how the route’s capacity for regeneration can reach its full potential to the benefit of the entire South East.”

Rico Wojtulewicz, policy advisor at the National Federation of Builders, said: “It is difficult to discern how changes will impact the route of HS1 until the consultation process opens. It will be important that the proposed decrease ‘safeguarding boundaries’ promotes good place-making without stifling future infrastructure upgrades.

“Transport for London continues to demonstrate that infrastructure improvements deliver better places. HS1 could one day be that enabler for the entire South East.”