Fact File: New Road Common, Kendal
The land at New Road is owned by us and is designated as common land. That means the land should be maintained for use by the community for ‘air and recreation’.
We received safety reports, including from an external independent road safety organisation, that identified safety risks associated with the use of the common land for unlawful parking.
These reports led to discussions with our insurers. The insurers indicated that, as we had been made aware of the safety risks, we wouldn’t be covered for any accident arising out of the unlawful use of the common land for parking and the council could be exposed to significant costs.
We sought expert external legal opinion from a barrister specialising in common land law. His advice was that the extent of the parking was such that it was interfering with the rights of the community to access the common land for its designated purpose for ‘air and recreation’.
Taking all these factors into account, it was concluded that the use of the site for parking was unsafe, uninsured and unlawful.
The council has a duty of care to do all we can to protect public safety on land that we own.
Faced with the safety, insurance and legal advice a decision was taken to close the land to vehicles to protect public safety. This was decided by Cabinet on 30 August and confirmed following further examination by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 15 September.
Fencing and access
The community has a protected right of access to the common to use it for its intended purpose and access has been maintained.
Initially temporary fencing was installed, with gaps allowing public access to two pedestrian crossings. The fencing is now being replaced by boulders. Again, gaps between the boulders allows free access for pedestrians, but they will prevent vehicle access. The boulders will remain until such time as the land is developed.
Consent is not needed to install a row of obstacles, such as bollards or large stones, to stop unlawful vehicle access to common land.
As the land is currently registered as a common it is unlawful to do any works on the land that could make it safer for parking, because that would be contrary to its common land designation.
That means we would be acting unlawfully if we spent money on any works - such as marking the site out as a car park, putting up barriers/fencing or establishing proper entrances/exits - to make the common land safe for use as a car park.
If we wanted to develop the land as a car park we would first need to apply to de-register it as a common. This would require an application to government. As part of that process the council would need to identify land of a similar size and in a nearby location to offer as a ‘swap’ for the land at New Road.
A de-registration option has already been explored and will be reviewed as part of the long-term options for the future of the land.
We realised the closure of the common land at New Road to vehicles could put pressure on parking elsewhere in Kendal.
Following representations from users of New Road, Kendal BID and others, a package of parking options was approved for existing council car parks to help alleviate these pressures, which are:
- Westmorland Shopping Centre car park closing time extended from 7pm until 9pm
- South Lakeland House car park to open 24 hours a day, seven days a week
- Sunday tariffs on all levels at South Lakeland House car park adjusted to 20p per hour, up to a maximum of £1 for over 4 hour hours
- Charging hours on South Lakeland House car park to change from current 8am to 6pm to 8.30am to 5.30pm
- £1 a day parking on Blackhall Road car park if ticket purchased before 7am, seven days a week
- Sandes Avenue car park be designated for blue badge holders and permit parking for market traders only on Wednesday and Saturday
- Sandes Avenue car park to be made 20p per hour, up to a maximum of £1 for over 4 hours on non-market day
- Visitor parking bays removed at South Lakeland House car park, to increase parking capacity
- Library Road car park changed from long-stay to multi-tariff
Future of site
Cabinet agreed at its meeting on 15 September that options for the future use of the land will be subject to public consultation.
The options will reflect input from the Environment Agency, which is looking at flood alleviation works in the New Road area as part of a major flood relief scheme for Kendal. The EA has already indicated that it would like to be involved in discussions about the long-term design of the site at New Road so that it can incorporate flood alleviation work.
Kendal BID and the business community are also keen to be involved in the discussions about the long-term vision for the site and the economic opportunities it offers.
Some initial works will be carried out to decontaminate and resurface the site to make it safer and more accessible as a common. This will just be the first phase of the project. Residents will be able to have their say on the final design and use of the site from options drawn up with input from the likes of the EA and business.
Our officers have been asked to revise plans for the fair to move temporarily to Gooseholme. The fair will now remain on the current site at New Road.