A rather odd sensation that I don’t think I’ll ever get the hang of is banging my head against one part of the Council, whilst having a sensible conversation with another part. Hey ho.
CCC chants the mantra that registration (of the Downs as a village green) would prevent maintenance, presumably in the hope that an oft-repeated lie will somehow become true. In their objection to Kent County Council (the village green registration authority), they invoke a 135 year old, late Victorian Act of parliament to support their claim that it is actually impossible for the Downs to become a village green. Balderdash, as the late Victorians would have said.
Meanwhile, the Outdoor Leisure department has recognised The Downs is a “strategic open space”, being the only large open space in town apart from the Memorial Gardens. They are also keen to work with local “grassroots” groups, not least because such groups have access to sources of funding that are closed to the Council.
This has lead to an awakening of the idea of active co-operation:
Thank you for taking the time to chat through some joint working opportunities to enhance the Downs as we are keen to work with community groups. As you are aware the primary function of the Downs is coastal protection that may, from time to time, have to take precedence. However, we have already set aside some funding for some environmental enhancement for this strategically important piece of open space.
The aim of joint working would be to develop a management plan based upon survey work, community and partnership input and this could include issues such as: amend habitat – depending on the results of wildlife surveys, improved access, promotion / awareness, training for community volunteers or guided walks and much more no doubt. We see key partners such as yourselves, Kent Wildlife Trust, Herne Bay in Bloom, Natural England and many others will emerge.
The contrast between their stubbornness over registration and their enthusiasm for “joint working opportunities” is stark. Registration would cost them potential revenues from developers, whereas working with community groups can magic money out of thin air. Is that really all there is to it?