A campaign group will not have the backing of the council in its efforts to have The Downs in Herne Bay certified as a village green.
The Save Our Downs group has been urging the council to support the application, which if successful would mean that the area would be open to the public for free forever and that any development which takes place would have to be in the interests of the public.
A public inquiry is due to take place at the end of November to determine whether the 72-acre seafront area will be designated a village green. Kent County Council is the registration authority which will decide The Downs’ fate, but Canterbury City Council owns the land and will not be backing village green status.
Members of the council’s ruling executive met last Thursday and rejected the idea of turning The Downs into a village green. A report before them stated:
“If the land becomes a town/ village green then, whilst the inhabitants of Herne Bay may have special rights over it, the rights of the council and public in general are diminished. Herne Bay is a seaside resort. The council manages this land not only for the benefit of residents but also for the visitors the town seeks to attract. The interests of the two groups may often coincide, but sometimes they will not.”
Peter Lee, the council’s member for finance and the councillor for West Bay, spoke against village green status for The Downs. He said:
“It’s important that this land is retained for the whole community. It’s up to us to make sure that this area is available to the general public in perpetuity.”
And council leader John Gilbey added:
“This application is wrong and should never have been put in the first place.”
The week-long public inquiry into the village green application starts at St Andrew’s Church Hall, Hampton Pier Avenue, on at 10am on Monday, November 28. It will continue at St Andrew’s on Tuesday before moving to Christ Church in William Street for the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of that week.
Phil Rose is the applicant for village green status and a founder member of Save Our Downs. He believes the reason for the Council’s rejection of the application is largely financial.
Part-quoting the Council’s report during his speech to the Executive on 13th October, he said:
“If the Downs get village green status the Council will be unable to ‘lease the land, offer a concession, charge for use, and build on it’. Herne Bay residents have long suspected that this kind of asset-stripping was the real reason for the Council’s objection.”
Mr Rose added:
“Village green status has not and will not stop you doing coast defence work. It will not stop visitors from enjoying The Downs. Village green status is what residents and tax payers want.”
HB Gazette 20th Oct 2011 firstname.lastname@example.org