New Road "myths" explained
22 March 2018
Our decision to close common land at New Road, Kendal, to vehicles, and carry out some interim work to create an open space for the use of the whole community, has created a great deal of interest and discussion.
This guide looks at some of the frequently repeated myths about New Road, and clarifies the facts about each situation.
MYTH 1: The council doesn’t own the land, it belongs to the people of Kendal
NOT TRUE. The land at New Road is owned by SLDC and is designated as common land. We must maintain it for use by the community for ‘air and recreation’, but we own the absolute freehold - so it is our land.
MYTH 2: Land at New Road has always been a car park
NOT TRUE. The land has been used for years for parking, but since byelaws were introduced in 1951 by the old Borough of Kendal (SLDC’s predecessor) parking has been unlawful and New Road has not been a designated car park.
MYTH 3: The council could have just put up a few barriers along the road and marked out proper parking bays to sort out any safety issues
NOT TRUE. If we had spent any money on the land to make it safe as a car park, without first de-registering it as a common, it would have been acting illegally. As extensive parking on common land is unlawful, spending money to allow such unlawful parking on common land would have been an illegal use of public funds.
MYTH 4: The council paid for the safety report so they got the result they wanted
NOT TRUE. The safety report was commissioned by us but was carried out by a highly reputable and independent engineering consultancy, with extensive experience in road safety audits and highway design . They have to act impartially and provide the highest standards of professionalism in the advice provided. Once we received the safety report we had no option other than close the land to parking to prevent further risk. To ignore that safety report would have been reckless and irresponsible. Advice from our insurers also confirmed that allowing parking to continue on the land, once safety risks had been identified, would leave the authority open to potentially huge liability claims if there was an accident related to the unlawful parking on the land.
MYTH 5: The council is carrying out the current works without proper permission
NOT TRUE. We have considered all consents required for the current interim work, which we maintain is covered by the 1910 Management Scheme for the land. This scheme allows the owner of the land to carry out works for the ‘protection and improvement’ of the common. We also have a permit for this work from the Environment Agency, which included consultation with Natural England. We are carrying out a landscaping scheme to the land; this does not require planning permission.
MYTH 6: The council plans to sell the land for housing
NOT TRUE. There are no plans to sell the land for any form of housing, or commercial development. If, following public consultation, the long-term use is decided as green open space then that would be in line with the current designation as common land, which means it is protected from development. If, following public consultation, the long-term use is decided as some form of lawful car parking then that would require an application to government to try to de-register the land as common, removing that protection.
MYTH 7: The council is kicking the fair off New Road when they have a Royal Charter
NOT TRUE. The fair will be remaining on the current site at New Road and there are no plans to prevent the fair using the site in future. The interim works to the common will be complete before the fair returns in May 2018 and the fair operators have been consulted on the designs for this interim work .
MYTH 8: The council has just introduced the byelaws on the land to force through its plans
NOT TRUE. The byelaws relating to New Road Common have been in place since 1951 having been created by SLDC’s predecessor. They are being used now to prevent parking because that parking was unlawful and has been found to be unsafe.
MYTH 9: The council won’t consult on the plans
NOT TRUE. Residents will be able to have their say on the site’s eventual long-term use. We didn’t need to consult before closing the land to vehicles because that was being done to prevent a safety risk. The work currently going on is only an interim scheme to deal with contaminants and make the common safer and more accessible for community use. We have always said we will be holding a public consultation on the final, long-term use of the land. The public consultation options would include a possible de-registration to allow it to be turned into safe and lawful parking, as well as options to keep it as a common and create some form of open space for community use, which could incorporate any other ideas that may come forward during the consultation process.
MYTH 10: The council won’t hold a public inquiry
NOT TRUE. We can't order a public inquiry into ourselves. Only a government minister can call a public inquiry if they believe there is significant concern about the way a decision has been handled. We have been open, transparent and democratic in this decision and has always acted in the wider community’s best interests. Therefore we believe there would be no grounds for a minister to call a public inquiry.
MYTH 11: The council closed New Road to force people into its car parks to make money
NOT TRUE. We closed New Road because of safety concerns. To try to minimise the impact of the closure we have introduced cheap ticket parking deals in a number of our car parks, which actually resulted in us losing car parking revenue when the cheaper parking was introduced after the closure of New Road to vehicles. Despite this we are continuing to offer the cheapest town centre all-day parking anywhere in Cumbria.
MYTH 12: The council isn’t listening to the people of Kendal
NOT TRUE. All decisions have been made in open committees where members of the public have attended to make representations. We held two public meetings to listen to residents’ views and as a result of issues raised at those meetings - and from separate conversations between residents, Kendal BID, officers and councillors - the package of parking measures was agreed. The decision to close the common to vehicles has been subject to investigation by our Overview and Scrutiny Committee, in response to requests for information we have released information packs, made safety reports public, put documents on our website, produced answers to frequently asked questions and responded to many requests from individuals.
MYTH 13: The council is selling New Road common to the Environment Agency for flood defences
NOT TRUE. In order for the Environment Agency to put up any flood wall alongside the road (if the proposed flood defences are confirmed) there would need to be an agreement drawn up to allow them to build a wall on part of our land, but that would not require sale of the whole common to the EA.
MYTH 14: The council is wasting money decontaminating the site
NOT TRUE. When carrying out work on any land it is good practice to test for contaminants, especially when the land’s previous use suggests the possibility of contaminants being present. We routinely do this when working on any land we own, whether that’s building a children’s playground, a car park or green open space. Tests on New Road showed there were contaminants in the ground beneath the surface and further testing has confirmed this. That contaminated layer is being removed, capped with clean material and a new top layer put down. Whatever the eventual use of the site 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 irrespective, so it is not wasted money.
MYTH 15: The council has no intention to provide a replacement car park
NOT TRUE. Since New Road was closed to vehicles two new sites for additional car parks have been identified. We are entering into an agreement with the ski club at Canal Head to enable them to open up their car park for public use and there is a proposal that, subject to planning approval, a new public car park will be developed on land we own off Parkside Road. Together this will create up to 86 extra public car parking spaces in Kendal. We are actively looking for other car park site options and is in discussion with a number of landowners.