14 December 2016

Is the final decision on the recommendations in this report to be made at this meeting?



Disposal of Land at Gore Court Road, Parkwood


Final Decision-Maker

Policy & Resources Committee

Lead Head of Service

Director of Finance and Business Improvement

Lead Officer and Report Author

Lucy Stroud



Wards affected

Downswood and Otham



This report makes the following recommendations to this Committee:

1.   To agree the disposal of an area of open space, with a total of 414 square metres, to the west of Gore Court Road as outlined in red on the attached plan as Appendix I.

2.   To agree that a replacement hedgerow is provided along the revised boundary with Gore Court Road.



This report relates to the following corporate priorities:

·         Keeping Maidstone Borough an attractive place for all – The disposal forms part of a planning application for a development by Bellway Homes.






Policy & Resources

14 December 2016



Disposal of Land at Gore Court Road, Parkwood





1.1     Bellway Homes have approached the Council to request the purchase of the area of land outlined in Appendix I in order to facilitate road widening as part of their planning application for a development on Gore Court Road.


1.2     A referred decision from Heritage, Leisure & Culture Committee was taken by Policy & Resources Committee, and the land in question was declared surplus to operational requirements at a meeting on 26 October 2016.


1.3     A final decision to dispose of the land is now to be taken.





2.1     The land required for widening Gore Court Road is a strip of Senacre recreation ground and part of the boundary hedgerow. The minor realignment of the road is necessary to enable access to the “Land North of Bicknor Wood” development site.


2.2     The strip of land was declared surplus because the disposal was deemed to have no adverse effect on the use of the recreation ground, and the loss was compensated by a minimum of 5.8 hectares of open space being provided on the new development.


2.3     The options for widening the road required either a loss of a strip of the recreation ground, to the west of Gore Court Road, or the loss of an element of ancient woodland (Bicknor Wood) and three statutorily protected trees, to the east. The decision referred to Policy & Resources Committee recommended that the loss of the land at the recreation ground was preferable on the basis that the impact on the amenity facilities was minimal, the removed hedgerow could be relocated or replaced and the statutorily protected ancient woodland would be safeguarded.


2.4     Bellway Homes have offered a capital receipt for the land based on the development value of the Housing site. This has been accepted as best consideration for the Council as this value can only be realised in the context of the development of the land north of Bicknor Wood.


2.5   Bellway Homes have commissioned an ecological appraisal of the hedgerow in order to ascertain the most suitable approach to its replacement or relocation, and this has been used to form the recommendations in this report.









3.1     The first available option to the Committee is to dispose of the strip of land and make it a requirement that Bellway Homes plant and maintain a replacement hedge.

This option will:


·            allow the widening of Gore Court Road without the loss of any ancient woodland or protected trees

·            enable a new, robust hedge to be provided, containing native   species characteristic of the local area, supported by ecologists

·            achieve a higher species diversity in comparison to the existing         hedge, by specifically choosing species that provide biodiversity benefits

·            support the current housing scheme at land north of Bicknor Wood

·            secure a capital receipt from the transfer of the strip of land to           Bellway Homes.


3.2     The second option available to the Committee is the disposal of the strip of land and a requirement on Bellway Homes to relocate the existing section of hedgerow along the new boundary. This option is not recommended because:


·             the advice of the ecological appraisal identifies the existing hedge as only of moderate ecological value

·             the existing hedge has been appraised as being only around 60 years old, so does not support mature species

·             the hedge does not support enough woody species to qualify as ‘important’ under the Hedgerows Regulations Act 1997

·             the species identified in the hedge were also considered to be unlikely to survive the translocation process.


3.3   The Committee could decide to retain the land and not dispose of it at all, leaving the land to remain as the boundary of the Senacre playing field and the existing hedge intact. This is not recommended because:


·             the road would still need to be widened for the housing scheme

·             consequently there would be likely to be a loss of protected trees and part of an ancient woodland

·             the strip of land has been declared surplus and is of little amenity value

·             the current housing scheme would be jeopardised

·             the Council wouldn’t receive a capital receipt.







4.1     The first option described above at paragraph 3.1 is the preferred option because:


·            it achieves the land disposal required for the widening of Gore Court                Road,

·            it will prevent the loss of ancient woodland and protected trees,

·            and it will create an improved hedgerow to part of the boundary of              Senacre recreation ground

·            it will create a capital receipt for the Council.


4.2   It is recommended that container grown plants are used for the          replacement hedge so that it can be planted at any time of year, and that         the hedge is subject to an aftercare plan as described in the ecology report.     The planting of an instant hedgerow of 1-1.5 metres in height would                   maintain the wildlife corridor function, and provide instant amenity and         screening benefits.







5.1     The ecologist carrying out the appraisal of the hedgerow consulted with private companies SJA Trees and Aspect Ecology, as well as officers at Kent County Council and Maidstone Borough Council. All agreed that the replacement of the hedge, rather than its relocation, was the preferable option, from an ecological point of view.


5.2     Public Notices were placed in the Kent Messenger newspaper on 4 and 11 November 2016, and the period for comments or objections, as dictated by statutory provisions, ended on the 25 November. No comments or objections were received in connection with this recommendation for disposal of land at Gore Court Road.






6.1     Should the Policy and Resources Committee recommend that the land be disposed of, officers will carry out negotiations with Bellway Homes, and Mid Kent Legal Services will be instructed to draft the relevant documentation.  This would include clauses regarding the specification and timing of planting of the new hedge, the process and timing for removing the old hedge and the establishment of a maintenance regime to ensure the new hedge flourishes.









Impact on Corporate Priorities

The proposed disposal of

the land identified will

support the Council’s

priority of planning for

sufficient homes to meet

the Borough’s needs.

Head of Planning

Risk Management

Not agreeing the

disposal could lead to the

risk of an agreed housing

development not coming


Head of Planning


Disposal of this land

supports the Council’s

overall strategy of

planning for new homes,

which will promote

economic development

and alleviate the

housing shortage in the

Borough. The value

realised through the

disposal proceeds will

support the Council’s

capital programme. This

value is only capable of

being realised in the

specific context described

in this report.

Director of Finance and Business Improvement( Section 151 Officer)


No implications.

Director of Finance and Business Improvement


Draft transfer documents will need to be prepared.

Mid Kent Legal Services

Equality Impact Needs Assessment

The impacts of the

proposal have been

considered and no

adverse impact on

groups with protected

characteristics is


Policy & Information Manager

Environmental/Sustainable Development

The proposed disposal

would allow the

implementation of agreed

development whilst

safeguarding ancient

woodland. Not agreeing

such a disposal would put

this ancient woodland and

associated protected trees

at risk.

Head of Planning

Community Safety

The proposed disposal will

not affect the safety of

current or potential users

of the remaining open

space and the resulting

realignment of the road

will benefit road and

pedestrian safety.

Head of Planning

Human Rights Act






Asset Management

The retained asset,

Senacre Recreation

Ground, will continued to

be managed in the same

way due to the minor

impact the disposal will

have on the remaining

open space.

Property and






The following documents are to be published with this report and form part of the report:

·         Appendix I: Site Plan.





·         Referred Decision.