Residents will be consulted about their views on the long-term use of common land at New Road in Kendal early in the New Year.
South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) has always stated that the landscaping scheme completed earlier this year would lay the groundwork for the eventual long-term use of the site, which would be determined following public engagement.
This engagement will gauge views on options including retaining the common land protections and keeping it as green open space, or applying to de-register the land as common to potentially allow an alternative use, such as properly regulated car parking.
To ensure residents are able to reach informed choices on the various options, SLDC is keen that a number of important factors are taken in to account, some that will not be available until the early part of 2019.
Central will be the results of an extensive parking-need study which will determine how much parking capacity Kendal will need up to 2025, along with considerations about the replacement Gooseholme bridge and how the use of land at New Road affects the Environment Agency’s flood defence plans.
The land alongside the river on New Road is currently designated as common land, which means it is protected for community use for ‘air and recreation.’ Following the closure of the site to vehicles the site was landscaped as green open space to reflect the existing designation.
The council has consistently said it would be prepared to consider alternative uses of the site, such as an enhanced green space or de-registering the site and possibly developing it as a properly laid out car park.
De-registration would require an application to government. Such a de-registration application may or may not prove successful, but if it was successful would remove New Road’s current common land protections to allow alternative uses in the future.
Any application to de-register would also potentially take up to two years to complete, would incur expense and would need to prove a number of things, including strong public support for the proposal. The council would also need to be able to offer a suitable equivalent piece of land as an alternative common.
David Sykes, SLDC’s Director of People and Places, explained: “Before we can start a meaningful consultation on the long-term use of the land at New Road, it’s important that our residents are in possession of all the facts.
“We want to understand whether our residents want the area to retain its common land status and remain as green open space, or would they prefer the council to consider de-registration to remove those protections to allow some other use.
“But in order to consider the options properly, our residents will need to know a few more details. Particularly relevant will be the results of the parking-need survey and the impact of the proposed expanded car park at county hall in Kendal.
“It will also be important to consider how compatible any proposals are with the EA’s flood defence proposals, which have just been submitted for planning approval, and consideration of how the county council’s plans for a replacement bridge could affect how the land could be used.’’
The landscaping scheme completed in May this year involved the removal of contaminated material from the sub-base of the site, followed by laying out of pathways, creating grassed areas and installation of safety barriers, seating and lighting.
The design took account of the use of the site by the fair, which has remained on New Road and which has used the site twice since the landscaping work was completed. The common has also been used by Kendal Business Improvement District (BID) to host a full-size replica Spitfire as part of its RAF centenary events in the summer.
David Sykes continued: “Cumbria County Council is currently considering options for a replacement bridge at Gooseholme, after it was damaged during the Storm Desmond floods of 2015.
“Options will consider making any replacement bridge suitable for cyclists as well as ensuring it meets all-ability access requirements.
“We will therefore need to consider making provision for an all-ability ‘ramped’ access approach in any options drawn up. This would influence how the land on the New Road side of the bridge could be designed and whether the consultation should also be asking about allowing cycling across the site.
“The parking-need study, which is due to be completed early in 2019, will show the predicted demand for public parking spaces in Kendal up to 2025, and how much additional parking provision may be needed.
“The information from the parking study will help inform decisions about additional parking need, how much that may cost and how New Road could potentially fit in.
“Once we have that information we can draw-up options and present all the details so that residents can make informed choices in the consultation.’’