Your Councillors

Agenda item

Councillor Referral from Heritage, Culture and Leisure Committee

Decision:

That the officer’s original recommendations to the Heritage, Culture and Leisure Committee be agreed as follows:-

1)  That the open space strip of land with a total area of 414 square metres to the west of Gore Court Road, outlined in red on the plan attached as Appendix I to the Referral be declared surplus; and

2)  That authority be given to the placing of a Public Notice pursuant to Section 123 of the Local Government Act 1972.

Minutes:

Members considered the Councillor Referral from Heritage, Culture and Leisure Committee.

 

The Chairman set out the procedure for the Referral. 

 

The Chairman advised that she had not agreed to take the Referral on the basis of the decision made, but having watched the webcast she did not feel that Members had been given all the information they required on the night, and that some of the questions Members asked were not answered which may or may not have affected the decision.

 

Councillor Rachel Gray from Otham Parish Council was asked to read out her statement. The comments made included:

·  That the open space was used regularly by local residents walking their dogs and also for geo caching.

·  If the strip of land was removed there would be nothing but a wide road between the playing field and Imperial Park homes.  In essence Senacre and Imperial Park would coalesce.

·  Gore Court Road is wide enough for 2 cars to pass each other safely. 

Councillor Bill Greenhead from Downswood Parish Council read out his statement.  The comments made included:-

 

·  The facility is used by dog walkers and others wanting to exercise and was surrounded by an ancient hedgerow. 

·  Gore Court Road and Church Road would become dangerous for cyclists to use as the roads would be used by drivers trying to escape the gridlock of Sutton Road and Willington Street.

Councillor Gooch addressed the Committee as a signatory of the Referral.  Her comments included:- 

·  That the strip of land was only 0.4 hectares and had no strategic value to the Council. 

·  The existing fence and hedgerow would be replaced like for like and be a condition of the disposal. 

·  That the loss of the land would be compensated by the provision of at least 5.8 hectares of open space and in addition the disposal would generate a capital receipt.

·  The Planning Officer had advised Members that the Arboricultural Officer did not consider that the hedgerow met the necessary criteria under the Hedgerows Regulations 1997.


·  At the meeting the recommendations were put to the vote without any summing up of the pros and cons, without any discussion or presentation of the wider implications of the proposal and without any further reference to the information contained in the main body of the report. 

·  Specifically referring to paragraph 7 of the original report Councillor Mrs Gooch felt that the cross cutting issues and implications had  not been adequately presented to Members and as a consequence not adequately considered.  She emphasised that these were important elements in reaching a decision, hence the importance of referring this item to this Committee for reconsideration.

 

Councillor D Mortimer then set out the reasons why he had also been a signatory for the Referral:-
 

·  He was concerned about the lack of information and detail being presented and did not feel the item received the debate it deserved.

·  There was much emphasis on the previously approved planning application and local plan and little debate about the actual disposal of the land.  He therefore felt that Members were going down the planning route rather than considering the actual recommendation on the papers.

·  The actual issue for making the land surplus was not discussed but Members dwelled on the negative elements, rather than the major benefits of the new open space being proposed.

Councillor Lewins, also a signatory of the Referral, stated that she echoed the comments made by her fellow Councillors and felt that this was a very small slither of land and the loss of which would not be harmful to the community.
 

Councillor Newton, attending as a Visiting Member, addressed the Committee, he advised that in his opinion the item was thoroughly discussed by Members of the Heritage, Culture and Leisure Committee and that the Planning Officer had given Members a lot of information about the planning history to assist with the debate.

 

He advised that if the hedgerow was removed, it would take time to
re-establish the presence of wildlife. 

 

In the ensuing discussion, comments made by Members included:-

 

·  The issue was whether the quality of land to be provided was adequate and how quickly the new fence and hedgerow could be planted and erected

·  That alternative proposals should be sought to offset the ecological impact of the loss of this land

·  Could the hedgerow be put in place before the old one is removed?

·  Could football still be played on the new open space as it was on the old site prior to 2013?

In response to comments made by Members, the Planning Officer

advised that:-

·  The hedgerow and fence could be provided before the existing ones are removed to help with the re-establishment of wildlife

·  A development agreement could be put in place to ensure that the new open space is managed in an ecologically bio-diverse way

·  A football pitch could still be set up on the remaining open space

·  Certain caveats could be included for when the land comes back to this Committee for disposal

 

RESOLVED:  That the officer’s original recommendations to the Heritage, Culture and Leisure Committee be agreed as follows:-

1)  That the open space strip of land with a total area of 414 square metres to the west of Gore Court Road, outlined in red on the plan attached as Appendix I to the Referral be declared surplus; and

2)  That authority be given to the placing of a Public Notice pursuant to Section 123 of the Local Government Act 1972.

Voting:  For:  11  Against:  1  Abstentions:  2

 

Supporting documents: