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1,100 sign up to save The Downs

Village green designation demanded for beauty spot

CAMPAIGNERS are preparing to do battle over the future of a Herne Bay beauty spot. More than 1,100 people are backing an application to give formal protection to The Downs by registering it as a village green, meaning no development would be allowed. The campaign was sparked by an application to build 40 beach huts near the Kings Hall.

Kent County Council bosses are now considering the request, and the accompanying 1,181 statements of support, but Canterbury City Council officials said they would oppose the request, because it would stop essential maintenance work in the area. Part of the area has already lost its designation as public open space, to allow the beach huts to be built.

Steve Lockwood, of the Save Our Downs Campaign, said:

“The whole campaign team has been amazed by the strength of feeling local people have about The Downs and how fired up they are to protect it. Village green status will protect this land forever so that everyone in the town can carry on using all of it just as we do today – freely and free of charge. It wouldn’t cost the council a penny to make The Downs a village green. It would be such a shame if the council chose to ignore local opinion and refused to give The Downs the protection that Herne Bay people want it to have.”

Supporters believe their application could be the largest ever considered by councillors because of the number of accompanying statements, and more than 95 per cent of people backing the bid are from Herne Bay. Campaign coordinator Phil Rose said:

“The Downs is a much-loved and well-used part of Herne Bay life, and has been for decades. The people who sent us statements have been using The Downs for a total of 27,750 years! The longest period of use that someone told us about is 86 years, and even the average is 24 years. This land has been close to the town’s heart for generations.”

He urged people to contact Canterbury City Council chief executive Colin Carmichael to urge him to support the application. But Cllr Peter Vickery-Jones, a member of Canterbury City Council’s ruling executive committee, said the decision would not be that simple. He said:

“Village green status would mean we could not carry out essential maintenance of the area without asking the Secretary of State for permission. It’s a technicality but it’s important. The Downs was never under threat but the campaigners have a bee in their bonnet and they are entitled to do this. We all want Herne Bay to thrive but I believe that has to be based on tourism and the only way to do that is to attract more people to the town by making it interesting. The beach huts would have helped to do that.”

HB Times 2010-04-08

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