Original article from Kent Live
When you think about new, freshly built, planned towns, Milton Keynes likely springs to mind, or perhaps Telford or Peterborough – but Kent has one of it's own.
Ebbsfleet Garden City, or Ebbsfleet Valley, has sprung up very recently, with the plans for the town only announced in 2014, and built largely on brownfield industrial land.
Set in a huge chalk quarry, not unlike the nearby Bluewater shopping centre, Ebbsfleet is set to be home to 15,000 new properties and 32,000 new jobs for residents by 2035.
However, it's still quite a way off completion.
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Currently, the centre of the town is almost non-existent; there are very few amenities, with two small Co-Op outlets, a handful of green open spaces, and a Marston's Hotel & Pub making up the lion's share of what's been built aside from housing.
As a result, it currently feels a little-bare bones, though the neighbourhoods that are there are diverse, well maintained, and picturesque.
There are four district areas that are being developed as part of the garden city, between the existing communities of Northfleet, Swanscombe and Greenhithe.
These are Ebbsfleet Central, Northfleet Riverside, Eastern Quarry and Ebbsfleet Garden & Swanscombe Peninsula.
Building work is still underway on a large portion of this – as can be seen from satellite images, where it is visible how much land has been cleared and prepared for construction.
As a result, there is a point driving into Ebbsfleet Valley where it currently simply stops.
What looks to be a four-way crossing leads straight into a construction site, just a hundred yards from the nearby community centre, car park, and primary school.
It is quiet too, which KentLive found on a visit to the area.
On a grey, late morning on Father's Day, the expansive landscaped parks and wide open streets were strangely empty.
Laurie Lowe, a tennis coach who works in the area said: "The social areas – the tennis courts, are usually very busy.
"I think because it's Father's Day it's a bit quieter than usual."
In spite of the odd sense of quiet surrounding the area, Laurie spoke well of the development.
"It's a very nice area – and I think people around here are starting to get to know each other a bit better too," he continued.
"I think maybe some of the open area could be utilised a bit better, though."
There is quite a large amount of open land, too – even going past the numerous parks dotted throughout the neighbourhood.
At the base of the hill the town is built on is a lake that has formed in the quarry – which is as picturesque as it gets when it comes to new housing developments – with woods on the quarry's cliff-edge dominating a skyline of green, natural spaces.
For all this open, beautiful space, there really isn't all that much too Ebbsfleet at the moment though.
The town is without quite a few things you'd expect of a more organic area – there are no coffee shops, no high-street or shopping parade, and whilst the houses are beautifully designed and nicely varied, it does still feel very new.
Plans for expansion are becoming more concrete however, as Ebbsfleet develops.
Today (June 20) it was announced that the Ebbsfleet Development Corporation has applied for planning applications to build a further 320 homes in the Northfleet area.
A huge school campus catering for toddlers, children and teenagers is also in the works, set to open up 2,200 places.
The proposal, dubbed Alkerden C of E Academy, is earmarked for Whitecliffe, and should have the first phase of construction done by 2023.
If permission is granted, it will combine a nursery, two-form-entry primary and eight-form-entry secondary school and will include a sports facility on site.
The combined schools and sports centre will occupy an 11.1 hectare site, making it one of the largest educational facilities ever to be built in Kent.
This accompanies the existing schools in the area – Ebbsfleet Green Primary School, which is set to open a new building in September 2021, and the already open Cherry Orchard Primary Academy.
With plenty of open spaces, a good deal of suburban housing and new school places on the way, Ebbsfleet's garden city may well be an ideal spot for young families – with the nearby Ebbsfleet international train station making it a well connected area.
A new tunnel to Bluewater and Dartford has also been approved.
The plans are designed to improve the road network and interconnectedness in the area, and would come in the form of a £12million tunnel, set to connect some 6,000 homes on the Eastern Quarry, known as Whitecliffe, to the county's main shopping attraction.