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Agenda item

Cobtree Manor Estate Update

Minutes:

The Leisure Manager introduced Mr Nigel Holman, the new Cobtree Park Manager, to the Committee.

 

The Leisure Manager then presented his report providing an update on activities at the Cobtree Manor Estate during the period 1 January to 29 February 2020.  It was noted that: 

 

Cobtree Manor Park

 

·  The wet weather experienced recently had impacted on visitor numbers and car park income, but the February half-term holiday had been busy and numbers had been increasing in late February.  Now, however, the spread of the COVID-19 virus was likely to have an impact on visitor numbers and income.

 

·  The Cobtree Park Manager had submitted the Green Flag application for the Manor Park, but judging had been suspended due to the spread of the virus.

 

·  The 2020-2030 management plan for the Manor Park was now in the final draft stage and there was an emphasis on sustainability, climate change and biodiversity.  The final version of the management plan would be reported to the Committee for approval.

 

·  Some key items of equipment were stolen when the Park Rangers’ container was broken into during the half-term holiday.  A report would be submitted to a future meeting of the Committee addressing alternative storage solutions.  In the meantime the Park Rangers had relocated to the Elephant House building and off-site storage facilities were being used.

 

·  The overflow car park area had not been used this year because of the weather.  Investigation of the area had also identified significant root damage to the trees caused by continued car parking.  The area was being rested for the time being pending the development of a plan that would balance the protection of the trees with the needs of Park users.

 

·  Quotations had been sought for electronic Park gates which would provide greater flexibility for the Park Team and enable savings to be made in future years.  Provision had been made in the current capital programme for security and the initial quotations indicated that the gates could be delivered within this budget.  A report would be submitted to a future meeting of the Committee.

 

Cobtree Manor Park Golf Course

 

·  The wet weather had also impacted on the Golf Course.  The number of rounds played was down on 2019 and the Course had to be closed for one week in January.  Offers and pricing were being used to reduce the impact of the closure.  The Golf Course development works had been put on hold as a result of the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

 

Kent Life

 

·  Kent Life had won a Red Rosette tourism award for its customer experience and customer service.  The operators had completed their annual maintenance work in readiness for 2020.  They had refurbished toilets and carried out remedial works on some of the buildings.  The Museum was still open, but school visits had been cancelled due to COVID-19.

 

Residential Properties

 

·  It had been identified that one of the residential properties might become vacant in the near future.  A report would be submitted to a future meeting of the Committee setting out possible options in the event of this or any other of the residential properties becoming vacant.

 

During the discussion on these items, it was suggested and agreed that:

 

·  Consideration be given to the use of grasscrete paving in the overflow car park area at Cobtree Manor Park and that any new storage facility at the Manor Park should be of sufficient size to accommodate a park utility vehicle and provide secure methods for storing equipment etc. inside.

 

·  The options report in respect of any residential properties that might become vacant in future should include an examination as to whether they might be used by the Borough Council as temporary accommodation subject to this being in accordance with the objects of the Charity.

 

Cobtree Railway

 

The Committee then discussed the next steps following the meeting with representatives of the Cobtree Charity Trust Limited and Planning Solutions, the operators of Kent Life, to discuss the viability of the proposed Cobtree Railway project.  It was noted that the Managing Director of Planning Solutions had expressed reservations about the viability of the project.  He would look at the figures again, but his view was unlikely to change.  There was also an element of misunderstanding on the part of the Cobtree Charity Trust Limited about the funding available to the Cobtree Manor Estate Charity as the contribution that the Charity would be required to make was not achievable.

 

It was suggested and agreed that the Leisure Manager should meet with the Treasurers of the Cobtree Manor Estate Charity and the Cobtree Charity Trust Limited to discuss their respective finances and the potential for collaboration on alternative projects at the Cobtree Manor Estate.  It was hoped that after these discussions it would be possible to come to a decision on the proposed Cobtree Railway project.

 

RESOLVED:

 

1.  That the update on activities at the Cobtree Manor Estate during the period 1 January to 29 February 2020 be noted.

 

2.  That consideration be given to the use of grasscrete paving in the overflow car park area at Cobtree Manor Park.

 

3.  That any new storage facility at Cobtree Manor Park should be of sufficient size to accommodate a park utility vehicle and provide secure methods for storing equipment etc. inside.

 

4.  That the options report in respect of any residential properties that might become vacant in future should include an examination as to whether they might be used by the Borough Council as temporary accommodation subject to this being in accordance with the objects of the Charity.

 

5.  That the Leisure Manager should meet with the Treasurers of the Cobtree Manor Estate Charity and the Cobtree Charity Trust Limited to discuss their respective finances and the potential for collaboration on projects at the Cobtree Manor Estate.

 

Supporting documents: