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Interim work begins on Kendal common improvements

26 February 2018

Work has started today (Monday, 26 February) on an interim scheme to make common land at New Road in Kendal safer, more attractive and more accessible for the community.

The work, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of April, will deal with contamination on the site and installation of pathways.

This will lay the groundwork for the eventual long-term use of the site, which will be determined following a public consultation.

During the interim works there will be no public access across the common land.

The designs for the interim work have been drawn up to take account of the use of the site by the fair, which will remain on New Road, and the layout of the site in the interim plan has been designed specifically to allow the continuation of the fair.

Once the interim work is completed a second phase of the project will see options for the long-term use of the common land at New Road drawn-up. These options will be subject to public consultation, so residents can have their say on the site’s eventual use.

The long-term options for New Road will also need to take account of the Environment Agency’s flood defence scheme proposed for the town.

The Environment Agency (EA) is spending £24 million on defence infrastructure along the River Kent to protect homes and businesses from the kind of flooding that hit the town during Storm Desmond in 2015.

The EA has already unveiled a shortlist of options for the Kendal scheme, which involve building defences along the river in the town centre, including along New Road.

We are mindful that any long-term use of the land at New Road will need to take account of the EA’s plans for the area, so that it complements and links to the flood defence project.

The long-term options could still include turning the land (in part or whole) into safe and lawful parking, but that could only be achieved if the land could be successfully de-registered as common land and a car park design was compatible with the proposed flood defence scheme.

A successful de-registration would require an application to government and involve identifying a suitable piece of land to offer as a ‘swap’ for the common at New Road.

Other options, in line with its existing common land designation and therefore not requiring de-registration, would be for some form of open space for community use.

So far the EA has indicated there is no intention to take large parts of the common land at New Road to enable the defences, and that some sort of flood wall will be erected around the edge of the common closest to the main highway on New Road.

This could effectively enclose the common whilst retaining access for the public, increase the capacity of the river channel and contain any overflow when the river is in flood.

Public access to the common and slipway would be maintained and access points in the line of the flood defence would be closed off by suitable barriers at times of flood risk.

Lawrence Conway, our Chief Executive, said: “Work that has started on New Road Common today is only the beginning of the project.

“Options for the land’s long-term use must take account of what the EA is proposing to do with the flood defence scheme, which hasn’t been finalised.

“It would then be up to a couple of years before the flood defence work reaches New Road, so in the meantime we wanted to make the area more attractive, safe and accessible so that it can be enjoyed in line with its common land designation, for open air recreation for the community, and something that would prove to be a positive asset for the town in this prime riverside location.

“The work to decontaminate the site that we are doing now would also be required regardless of its eventual long-term use, so it is laying the groundwork for whatever emerges as the preferred option – whether that continues to be open space, or some form of regulated and lawful car parking.

“The council is committed to involving the community in decisions about the common’s long-term use. The work starting this week is simply to ensure that the site can be better used for its existing purpose as a common, until such time as we establish what that long-term use will be.’’

In September we closed common land on the south side of New Road to vehicles after considering information that identified safety, legal and insurance risks in allowing the unlawful parking activity to continue.

Full Council in October approved a budget of £286,000 for interim ‘reinstatement and decontamination’ work to ensure the site can be better used for its currently designated purpose as common land.

The interim scheme will include work to decontaminate the site and create safe access points from the two pedestrian crossings and from the footbridge that crosses to Gooseholme.

Comprehensive statement by chief executive Lawrence Conway.