Agenda item

Land at Castell Road, Dereham (Agenda item 7)

Report of Mark Kiddle-Morris, Executive Member for Assets and Strategic Development.

Minutes:

The Executive Member for Assets & Strategic Development presented the report which sought Members advice as to whether to formally object to an application made by Dereham Town Council for registration of Breckland Council-owned Slough Plantation and land at Castell Road as a new Town Green.

 

The land at Castell Road had previously been considered under the Active Land Management Programme where there had been strong opposition to this land being developed; however, the Active Land Management Programme had been put in place to ensure that the Council was gaining best possible use from the public land at its disposal in terms of value and use.  This land had development value but would only be realised if planning permission could be gained.

 

The land known as the Slough Plantation was a large wooded area adjacent to Castell Road which was a facility that was used by the residents as an amenity area.

 

The Executive Member urged the Cabinet to object to the application for both areas of land on the grounds that Breckland Council owned the land.  However, if the objection was unsuccessful, and the land in question qualified for registration as a Town Green, he recommended that Norfolk County Council, as the Commons Registration Authority, be asked to transfer all the land to Dereham Town Council at nil value for Town Green status.  Dereham Town Council would then be responsible for maintenance and the upkeep of approximately 3.3 acres of land indefinitely as no alternative use could be obtained.

 

Mr Abrahams was allowed to speak on behalf of the residents from the area.  He read out a number of letters who all used the land for dog walking, playing and school activities.  He mentioned that an 85 year old resident had understood that the Slough copse had been left to the residents of Dereham by the developers.

 

Linda Monument was in attendance as a District Councillor a Town Councillor but mainly as the Ward Representative. She explained that Dereham Town Council had been asked to submit the application for Town Green status by her constituents.  She pointed out that there were approximately 600 voters on this particular estate of which 10% of those had lived there for over 25 years.  The land, as far as she was aware, had been given to the former Dereham Urban District Council by the developer as open space (the estate had been built a few years before Breckland Council had been formed).   The land at Castell Road provided access to the Slough Plantation and would be difficult to manage if the access was lost; therefore to join the two areas would not be practical and was obviously needed by the residents.    There were many single storey dwellings on the estate that were owned by elderly residents and if Town Green status was not allowed Breckland Council would be putting at risk a facility that they had had since the dwellings had been built.  On the other hand, if such status was allowed, and Norfolk County Council transferred the said land to Dereham Town Council as recommended, it would be a financial burden but it would be far more acceptable than passing the land over to the adjoining land owner of the swimming pool site.

 

The Executive Support Member for Planning & Environmental Services stated that the site was thoroughly utilised throughout the year including a cross country running route by the school.  He felt that peoples’ livelihoods should be considered it should not always be about the money.

 

The Executive Member for Internal Services thanked the local Members for a very strong and adequate case.  He did take the point about it not just being about the money but the land should and must be used strategically to offer homes to those people who needed them. 

 

The Executive Member for Assets & Strategic Development said that he had no objection to the Slough Plantation becoming a Town Green as it was structural to the embankment on the swimming pool side. The Executive Member for Internal Services believed that this was not the first time that Cabinet had been asked to make an exception on a piece of land and therefore acknowledged his support to the Executive Member’s proposal.

 

The Opposition Leader stated that Breckland Council was happy to transfer play areas so this, in his opinion, seemed rather unfair.  In response, the Executive Member for Internal Services highlighted the fact that the Cabinet was discussing an area that was already designated as open space and another that had strategic importance.  The Chief Executive emphasised the point that Members were not being asked to decide the lands future use they were being asked whether it was appropriate to change the legal status.

 

Clarification of what was being recommended was provided to the Chairman of the Overview & Scrutiny Commission.

 

The Ward Representative felt that registering the land as a Town Green seemed appropriate but using part of it strategically to get the swimming pool site moving was not a good idea.  Trying to interfere with it was unfair and trying to provide for every resident was what the Council was supposed to do. In response to a question, she explained that the reason the land had never been registered as a Town Green before was due to the fact that the land had been entrusted to the Council as open space 40 years ago.

 

The Executive Member for Performance & Business Development thought that this was a conundrum but very fair.  He knew that this land was valued and used by the community but Breckland Councillors had a broader responsibility and reminded Members of what the Chief Executive had said – this was not a decision as to whether this land should be built on it was about whether the land should become a Town Green. 

 

The Chairman clarified that this was not a decision about whether the land should be sold or whether it should be built on – this was about protecting this asset as a Council.  There would be further discussion on this matter in the future, whatever the outcome.

 

Option 1

 

To object to the application (see report).

 

Option 2

 

Not to object to the application (see report).

 

Reasons

 

As a landowner, it was imperative that Breckland Council protected the potential value of this asset although it was aware of the wider community issues.

 

Following a majority vote, it was

 

RESOLVED that an objection to an application made by Dereham Town Council to register Breckland Council owned land at the Slough Plantation and at Castell Road, Dereham as a Town Green be submitted to Norfolk County Council, as the Commons Registration Authority, on the basis that such designation would impede the future potential value of the site. 

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