Your Councillors

Cobtree Manor Estate Charity Committee

January 25th 2018


Cobtree Manor Estate Update Report


Final Decision-Maker

Cobtree Manor Estate Charity Committee


Lead Head of Service/Lead Director

Dawn Hudd - Head of Regeneration and Economic Development

Lead Officer and Report Author

Jason Taylor –  Leisure Manager




Wards affected




Executive Summary


The information in the report is intended to give the Committee an understanding of the day to day work on the Estate and the issues that affect its management. It also provides a record of all that is achieved across the different parts of the estate.


The estate update covers the period from when the Committee last met in October 2017.



This report makes the following recommendations to this Committee:

To note the contents of the Cobtree Estate Update.






Cobtree Manor Estate Charity Committee

25th January 2018

Cobtree Manor Estate Update Report





1.1    This report covers the period from October 2017 to January 2018.


1.2    Cobtree Manor Park


Maintenance of the park over this period covers autumn and winter works.


Works to the park include:

·         Shrubbery maintenance – a winter shrubbery renovation plan is being undertaken by MBS.

·         The Forstal Road border to the east of the park – removal of dead shrubs, self-sown saplings and historic accumulations of green waste and fencing to allow planting of shrubs.

·         Border between the upper meadow and Golf Course, reduction of shrubs to allow space for the growth of Arboretum species

·         A large swathe of Laurel to the north of the woodland is to be reduced to improve sightlines and views of Arboretum trees.

·         Weed management

·         Tree works to dangerous and diseased trees - three native specimens lost to high winds.

·         A Green Flag application for 2018/19 is to be submitted by 31st January

1.3    Events


·         During half term three Autumn and Halloween themed drop in craft sessions attracted 56 participants.

·         25 children enjoyed a taster Bush Craft morning led by MVCP.

·         20 children participated in making rustic and natural Christmas decorations

·         350 runners dressed as Santa ran a 5km course around the park in early December accompanied by enthusiastic supporters and festively dressed dogs. Organised by Beginners to Runners, the event which also featured craft and Christmas stalls received two pages of coverage in the Kent Messenger.


1.4    Community


The Men in Sheds project continues to thrive with increased membership now standing at over twenty men and women.


On 12th December a delegation of more than a dozen staff members (social workers & volunteers) of Kent County Council, other authorities and a French organisation ACSW - Wattrelos Association of Community Centres, visited the Cobtree Shed to observe the set-up and good practice.


The Men in Sheds group is hoping to improve the building and facilities and are currently seeking funding for:


a)   Roof insulation installation c.£3500

This is required in order to remedy the current roof condensation problem during the winter months.

b)   Septic tank installation c.£7000

This is required to complete the installation of the flushing toilet facilities which the Shed members have been working on over the summer as part of the new rest room area.
Wood Store c. £1,000

To stand alongside the Elephant House to contain donations of wood for future projects.

1.5    Marketing and Publicity


·         MBC Communications and Marketing have produced a new interpretation panel for the corridor in the visitor centre featuring a timeline of the landscape.

·         The Cobtree website is generating regular enquiries about the park facilities and events.
Cobtree Manor Park is a now a member of the Association of Tourist Attractions in Kent.

·         The Park will feature in the ‘Visit Maidstone’ pocket guide for 2018.

·         Social media continues to generate positive comments about the park and café.


1.6    Visitor Numbers


There was an increase in visitor numbers of 18.87% in 2017 compared to 2016.

Quarterly comparison figures can be seen below and show significant increases in visitor numbers of 34% in the first quarter and 25% in the third quarter.


1.7    Car Park


Car park income is £16,325 above target to 31/12/17.

Average weekly income stands at £1,816 to date.


1.8    Café and Visitor Centre Update

This update is contained in a separate report.


1.9    Cobtree Manor Golf Course


There were 7,580 rounds played in the last 3 months of the year 2017 at the golf course. This is a drop of 682 rounds compared to the same period in 2016.

The course is currently very wet following the recent wet weather. This not only affects the roundage but also has a knock on effect on buggy hire and catering. The team at the golf course have worked hard to organise a number of successful events which have increased community participation as well as  generating revenue for the site. Some of the events that took place during the quarter are:

•             Dementia/Vulnerable adults  footgolf day with lunch

•             Tribute nights

•             Dementia/Vulnerable adults  footgolf day with lunch

•             Fireworks Night

•             Carvery Night

•             1st Dec shotgun start golf day for charity

•             Christmas lunches and party nights

•             Dementia/Vulnerable adults  footgolf day with lunch

•             Cinema evening

•             Big screen sports evenings/afternoons

•             Society and Charity Golf Daysays

The plans for the new club house and alterations to the golf course are still progressing, with Mytimes project group meeting fortnightly. Pre-application advice with planners will happen in March, and is currently being arranged

1.10  Kent Life Farm Attraction

Kent Life had a total of 38,257 visitors between October and December 2017. For the full year the visitor numbers were ahead of last year, with School visits up 10% on the previous year.

Kent Life was re-awarded with Visit England's Visitor Attraction Quality Scheme rose.



1.11  Incidents


1.11.1  Cobtree Manor Park Visitor Centre Break in November 7th 2017.


The Visitor Centre was broken into at approximately 11:20pm on 7th November. The alarms were activated and Police attended.

Calls were made by the alarm company to key holders and Jason Taylor, Leisure Manager attended.


Extensive damage was caused to the building:

·         All external lights removed or smashed,

·         Alarm ringer box smashed

·         Office door lock levered off and damaged and the door opened.

·         Office window shutter lock was cut off but the shutter did not sustain further damage

·         Plant Room and external Storeroom doors had been rammed by, probably, a 4x4 vehicle in reverse, destroying the doors and causing extensive damage to blockwork, piers, frames lintels and thresholds.

·         Power supply was partially disrupted causing stock loss from one freezer

·         The immersion tank was rammed, causing damage to the heating system.


The alarm company were able to track the access of the perpetrators to the rest of the building following the alarm being triggered.  It is likely that the location of the safe was therefore discovered but its new location prevented it from being either opened or removed. The external hard drive was stolen from the CCTV system located in the plant room. Visible tracks showed that the vehicle had driven through the park and across the golf course.


The main gate to the park was open when the police arrived after 11.30pm.

Sight and Sound Security’ who lock the gates at night confirmed that the gate had not been locked as their security guard had been called out. The gate should have been locked at dusk around 5pm.  A security guard was sent to protect the building overnight until it could be made secure the following morning.


The morning after the incident the Police CSI team visited the site but as it had rained it was not possible for them to collect any evidence.  The building was made secure and the café opened for business on 8th November.


Photos of the damage are shown in Appendix 1 and will be provided at the committee meeting.


1.11.2      Repairs


The exterior block work and cladding to the building have now been repaired.

All electrics have been made good but problems in sourcing a component for the heating system left the building with only temporary portable heaters throughout November and December.  Single leaf steel doors with anti-jemmy bolts are to be fitted to the store room and power room.


A new CCTV recording device has been ordered and is being installed with a secure box to stop access. A further quote has been obtained to update the existing cameras to HD and to add further cameras to include the car park.

A new external alarm box is to be fitted.


Upgraded lighting has been installed around the building.  An insurance claim for loss and damage has been submitted and is in process.


1.11.3      Elephant House Break in – 24th December 2017


The Elephant House/Cobtree Mens’ Shed suffered a break in over the Christmas period. The side door and the locks were forced and entry gained.


A number of power tools including drills, saws and grinders, batteries and hand tools were loaded into a wheelie bin and stolen. It is not thought that a vehicle was involved.


The Police were on-site on Christmas Day morning after being alerted by a dog-walker. They contacted the Shed Chairman and a member attended to secure the building.


The Police Forensics Team visited the site on 28th December to dust for prints, check for tool marks on the damaged locks, etc. but their investigation did not produce any useful evidence.


The Shed group have now battened the wooden side door internally and fitted industrial locks to the main metal doors.





This report is to note only.




It is recommended that the information in this report regarding the performance of the Café/ Visitor Centre is noted.



4.       RISK

This report is presented for information only and has no risk management implications.





Other than through social media no consultation has taken place since the last report.





Any comments from the Committee will be passed on to the relevant parties.









Impact on Corporate Priorities

The work of the charity links directly to its charitable objects and the corporate priorities of the Council.

Head of


and Economic


Risk Management

Risks to running the estate are

dealt with in the annual Estate

Risk Management Report.

Head of


and Economic



Financial risks are considered in the ongoing finance updates.


Paul Holland, Senior Finance Manager – Client


No Implications





·         Appendix 1 – Shows damage sustained to the visitor centre in the break in of November 7th 2017.