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Kendal common land scheme on track

16 March 2018

Work is on track to make common land at New Road in Kendal safer, more attractive and more accessible for the community.

We are currently undertaking an interim landscaping scheme on the common land at New Road to lay out paths and create grassed areas so that the common can be better used for its currently designated purpose for ‘air and recreation’.

The work, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of April, will lay the groundwork for the eventual long-term use of the site, which will be determined following a public consultation.

Test results received this week have confirmed the presence of contaminants in the sub-base of the site. This contaminated material is currently being removed and disposed of in accordance with regulations.

Site investigations undertaken prior to any works commencing on site showed evidence of contaminants in the layer below the top layer of asphalt. Further testing of the sub-base once the asphalt was removed has now confirmed this.

Lawrence Conway, our Chief Executive, explained: “When carrying out works to any piece of land it is good practice to test for the presence of contaminants, especially when the land’s historic use suggests the possibility of contaminants being present.

“We routinely do this when we are working on any land that we own, whether we are building a children’s playground, a car park or green open space.

“We commissioned a site investigation report on the land at New Road common, which highlighted the presence of contaminants in the ground beneath the surface, and these latest test results have confirmed that.

“The next stage of the work will be to remove this layer of ground and cap with clean material before a new top layer is put down.

“Whatever emerges as the long-term future of this land following the public consultation – whether that’s a safe, lawful, properly laid-out car park, or some form of open space for community use – as a responsible landowner we would need to carry out this decontamination work.

“I’d also like to reassure our residents that we have properly considered planning requirements in respect of the interim landscaping works and we have also secured the necessary permits for this work from the Environment Agency, which includes consultation with Natural England.’’

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.

The fair operators have been consulted on the layout of the site in the interim plan, which 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 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.

Mr Conway continued: “The council is committed to involving the community in decisions about the common’s long-term use.

“The interim scheme 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 following the public consultation.’’

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 £286,000 for interim ‘reinstatement and decontamination’ work to ensure the site can be better used for its currently designated purpose as common land.

Comprehensive statement from Chief Executive, Lawrence Conway.