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Betteshanger local trust proposed

By Dover Express  |  Posted: June 03, 2011

Phil Medgett. Pictured at the Dover Hotspot is Derek Packham.

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A FORMER theme park security consultant from Deal is appealing for people to get in touch with him if they are interested in an alternative plan for Fowlmead Country Park and Betteshanger business site.

Dad-of-two Derek Packham says the South East England Development Agency (Seeda), which has the freehold for both sites, has failed to maximise the use of the land and criticises proposals for Hadlow College to create a training area at Betteshanger as "not in the community interest."

Instead, the 58-year-old says both sites should be taken on by a local trust and management team which will oversee the expansion of leisure facilities at Fowlmead and nurture cottage industries and local enterprise at Betteshanger.

The former Royal Engineer, who has overseen security, marketing and leisure projects across countries including Turkey, Hong Kong, Bahrain and Tunisia, has approached Prime Minister David Cameron, MP Charlie Elphicke, Seeda and Kent and Dover councils with his ideas.

The motorcycle enthusiast said: "These sites belong to the public. They are using public money, wasted by Seeda, which has done absolutely nothing to promote local enterprise and development at Betteshanger.

"I have heard it said that there are no alternative ideas for the sites but there are and I want to public interest in this idea.

"We could have a trust with charitable status, which will oversee a management team directly responsible for the development of free enterprise formulas and continued growth.

"Betteshanger could be used for local industry such as manufacturing, trike and motorcycle servicing, electricians, different crafts, shops with local produce.

"Expanded leisure facilities at Fowlmead could include go-karting, mini-bikes, off-road biking. If this is managed properly it won't affect the environment."

Mr Packham believes there is room for a museum and virtual education centre, which would keep alive the mining history behind both sites.

He hopes funding will come from government, European and lottery grants and private investors.

But the most viable plan for Betteshanger is the proposal from Hadlow College to set up the agricultural centre, creating more than 1,000 jobs, says MP Charlie Elphicke.

He said: "£20 million was wasted on Betteshanger by the previous government. I now want to see it filled with business and jobs for Deal.

Hadlow is the only concrete offer on the table, promising over 1,000 local jobs.

"If there is a realistic, viable alternative that should be looked at but we cannot afford more warm words. Our community needs more jobs."

The college is currently waiting to hear if it has been granted cash for the project from the Government's Regional Growth Fund.

Mr Packham can be e-mailed at crossbowobjective@btinternet.com

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