Common land consultation update
11 February 2019
A public consultation on the long-term use of common land at New Road in Kendal will now take place later this year.
We have decided to take into account a planning inspector’s decision on an application affecting New Road before proceeding with our own consultation on the future of the site.
The application, which was sent to the Planning Inspectorate just before Christmas by a member of the public, is asking for consent for works to lay a tarmacadam surface on the common land.
Councillor Graham Vincent, our portfolio holder for Economy and Assets, explained: “We promised more than a year ago that we would let people have their say on the long-term use of the common land at New Road once the Environment Agency (EA) had released details of its flood defence proposals and it was known how those defences are likely to affect New Road.
“Now that the EA has submitted its plans we are planning a full consultation to fulfil that commitment."
We said in December that the consultation would go ahead early in 2019, and that the consultation would include various options, costings and relevant information to allow residents to make an informed decision about how they wish that area of land to be used in the future.
Details about the impact of Cumbria County Council’s replacement Gooseholme footbridge, the proposed flood defences and the outcome of a parking-needs study would all be included.
Councillor Vincent continued: “The same week we confirmed the consultation would go-ahead in the New Year we were made aware that a private individual had submitted an application to government for permission to put tarmacadam down over the whole site.
“We believe that the application is fundamentally flawed. It offers no evidence of public interest in whether the land is returned to hard-standing or whether it should be retained as green space, something that would be tested in our consultation, and doesn’t consider or make any mention of the impact of the proposed flood defence works.
“In our response we have invited the Secretary of State to dismiss the application so that we can get on and carry out our consultation, which will present all the information people need to make a reasoned decision and will be a true test of public opinion.
“We would also point out that what is being proposed in this application would not lead to the land simply becoming a car park. The application to the Secretary of State seeks to lay hard-standing, but it is our view that it would still require a de-registration application to remove the common land designation were it ever to be developed as a safe and lawful car park.
“This de-registration option would have been covered in the consultation anyway, so much like last year’s parish poll we see this application as unnecessary, especially if it ends up going to a costly public inquiry.
“We have repeatedly said over the past year that all feasible options will be included in the consultation, including a potential car parking option, along with green space options, so residents can have their say over which they prefer."
The land alongside the river on New Road is currently designated as common land, which means it is protected for community use for ‘air and recreation.’ Following the closure of the site to vehicles on safety grounds the site was landscaped as green open space to reflect the existing designation.
We said we would be prepared to consider alternative uses of the site, such as developing it as a properly laid out car park or enhanced green open space. Some uses, such as car parking, would require an application to government to de-register the site – which may or may not prove successful - to remove its common land protections to allow the alternative use.
Any application to de-register would potentially take up to two years to complete and would need to prove a number of things, including strong public support for the proposal and that we could offer a suitable equivalent piece of land as an alternative common.
The landscaping scheme completed in May last year involved the removal of contaminated material from the sub-base of the site, followed by laying out of pathways, creating grassed areas and installation of safety barriers, seating and lighting.
The design took account of the use of the site by the fair, which has remained on New Road and has used the site twice since the landscaping work was completed. The common has also been used by Kendal Business Improvement District (BID) to host a full-size replica Spitfire as part of its RAF centenary events in the summer.
We agreed that this scheme would lay the groundwork for the eventual long-term use of the site, which would be determined following public engagement.