The government’s plans for a 15,000 home garden city at Ebbsfleet in Kent have been thrown into doubt after the sudden departure of the boss of its development corporation
Less than a month ago, chancellor George Osborne used his Autumn Statement to announce £300 million of investment for the Ebbsfleet garden city – an increase from the £200 million the government had pledged back in the 2014 Budget.
It has now emerged however that chief executive of the Ebbsfleet Development Corporation (EDC) Robin Cooper has left his post after only five months in the job.
The proposed development at Ebbsfleet – billed as the UK’s first garden city for almost a century – is being masterplanned by a team led AECOM and including Stirling Prize-winning architect Maccreanor Lavington.
Cooper previously worked as director of regeneration, community and culture at Medway council and the EDC is expected to appoint an interim replacement in January.
EDC chairman Michael Cassidy said: ‘Robin has been involved in the setting up of EDC through its early phase of development as the first garden city for more than 100 years.
‘We now move into a focused delivery phase where recruitment of experienced project managers will be a priority. The interim CEO will be well-placed to oversee this part of the programme. We wish to express our thanks for Robin’s considerable efforts in helping us to date.’
Jonathon Hawkes, Labour leader at Dartford Borough Council, said he was concerned by Cooper’s departure, not least because of what he called Cooper’s ‘commitment’ to local people and affordable housing.
He said: ‘The new garden city has the potential to provide huge benefits for the local area – but as the plans are developed, local people want to know that their concerns will be listened to and their voice will be heard.
‘The news that the government now wants the new chair to be someone with “fewer close connections to the county” will do nothing to reassure residents’.