[S]outh Lakeland District Council is working with the Environment Agency to ensure that any investment in work to improve common land at New Road in Kendal fits with the EA’s critical flood defence scheme for the town.
The Environment Agency (EA) is spending £24 million on defences infrastructure along the River Kent to protect homes and businesses from the kind of flooding that hit the town during Storm Desmond in 2015.
This week the EA unveiled a shortlist of options for the Kendal scheme, which involve building defences along the river in the town centre, including along New Road.
South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) is looking to improve the land it owns at New Road, but the council is mindful that any final scheme will need to take account of the EA’s plans for the area, so that it complements and links to the flood defence project.
As a result, the council’s New Road project will be undertaken in two phases.
First, to make the New Road Common more accessible, safe and attractive, some interim work will be carried out, starting this month, to deal with contamination on the site and install pathways and partial landscaping.
The designs for the interim work have taken in to account the use of the site by the fair, and the fair will remain on New Road. The layout of the site in the interim plan has been designed specifically to take account of the fair.
The second phase, once the EA’s flood defence scheme is finalised, will see options for the long-term use of the common land at New Road drawn-up and then be subject to public consultation, so residents can have their say on the site’s eventual use.
Those long-term options could still include turning the land (in part or whole) into safe and lawful parking, but that could only be achieved if the land could be successfully de-registered as common land and a car park design was compatible with the flood defence scheme.
Other options, in line with its existing common land designation and therefore not requiring de-registration, would be for some form of green open space for community use.
The EA announced details of its preferred flood defence options this week. Work is likely to begin on the first part of the EA’s flood defence project by the end of the year, with the whole scheme taking up to three years to complete.
The public has been offered the opportunity to comment on the shortlist of flood defence options at community drop-in events.
The EA has indicated there is no intention to take large parts of the common land at New Road to enable the defences, and that some sort of flood wall will be erected around the edge of the common closest to the main highway on New Road.
This could effectively enclose the common, increase the capacity of the river channel and contain any overflow when the river is in flood.
Public access to the common and slipway would be maintained and access points in the line of the flood defence would be closed off by suitable barriers at times of flood risk.
The EA has confirmed that if this emerges as the final design then an area suitable for community use could be developed between the line of the flood defence and the river.
Councillor Giles Archibald, Leader of SLDC, said: “The EA scheme is a vital project to protect homes and businesses from the misery of flooding.
“It is clearly very important that we take account of what the EA is doing with the flood defence scheme before embarking on final public realm work so close to the river.
“Although we don’t expect to know the final EA scheme until after this consultation period, the indications are that some sort of flood defence wall will be built alongside the carriageway on New Road.
“That doesn’t prevent us from looking to do something with the common as long as it is designed to withstand the impact of possible future flooding. We are committed to involving the community in decisions about the common’s long-term use, but we will need to take account of the flood defences when considering those long-term options.
“We will also be able to continue with our plans for an interim scheme on the land that should be completed this Spring.
“Our aim is still to make this land a safe and accessible community asset, in line with its common land designation, by carrying out an interim scheme that can then be developed further with the addition of the flood defences and future public realm improvements.’’
In September the council closed common land on the south side of New Road to vehicles after considering information that identified safety, legal and insurance risks in allowing the unlawful parking activity to continue.
Full Council in October approved a budget of £286,000 for interim ‘reinstatement and decontamination’ work to ensure the site can be better used for its currently designated purpose as common land.
The interim scheme will include work to decontaminate the site and create safe access points from the two pedestrian crossings and from the footbridge that crosses to Gooseholme, with partial landscaping works so it can be enjoyed for open air recreation.
A significant proportion of the cost of the first-stage interim scheme relates to the decontamination being carried out. This decontamination process would be required regardless of the eventual long-term use of the site and will therefore lay the groundwork for the final use of the land.
It is expected that these interim works will start this month and be completed by the end of April 2018.