Saturday, 16 June 2012

Update: Save Kingsmead Field – Results of Overview Committee Meeting

On account of the fact that the e-petition reached the critical 1,500-signature threshold, Canterbury City Council’s decision to sell Kingsmead Field for development was examined by the Overview Committee at its meeting on Wednesday, 13th June.  The Committee consists of 11 councillors drawn from all three political parties represented on the Council. After a long debate, two recommendations to the Executive were adopted. These are identical to those put forward by the Canterbury Area Members Panel:

1)   Kingsmead Field should not be sold for residential development, but should be kept as public open space;

2)  a full public consultation should take place about the future development of Kingsmead.

When asked whether the field had already been sold, the Chief Executive responded that there is “no formal legal contract in place”.  Apparently an outline contract is close to completion, but the Council can still back out of it.  

The Executive decision on the appropriation of the Kingsmead Field has also been postponed for five weeks.  This gives campaign leaders the opportunity to submit their application to award Village Green status to the site before the meeting takes place. Please put Thursday 26th July in your diary and attend the City Council meeting. A packed Guildhall that evening will show how strong feelings are about Kingsmead Field.  There is not likely to be much support to save the site in the Executive itself as all the councillors live outside Canterbury (with one exception, and he has been advised not to participate in Kingsmead discussions because he lives too close).

Once the accompanying maps have been finalised, questionnaires on the Village Green application will be emailed to all those who have offered to fill them in over the weekend.

The 14th June issue of the Kentish Gazette carries a full page article about Kingsmead Field under the title Campaigners accused of not grasping 'vision' - see page 9.  The 'vision' is that of the Conservative Group as described in its recent press release (see text below).  Our response to the press release is also given below.  It would be extremely helpful if you have time to write a short letter to the Gazette commenting on the Conservative Group vision. You can email it to:  kentishgazette@thekmgroup.co.uk 

On page 30 of today's Gazette there are some beautiful images of Kingsmead in the past with an article entitled The sad loss of city's green open spaces.  Thanks go to Clive Bowley from the Canterbury Society for submitting them.

For updates on the Save Kingsmead Field campaign, please check the website:  www.kingsmeadfield.blogspot.co.uk

CONSERVATIVE GROUP PRESS RELEASE

Kingsmead: The Bigger Picture is an Exciting Future
Thursday, 7th June, 2012

A press release on behalf of the Canterbury City Council Conservative Group

Before making a decision on the land at Kingsmead, we want to explain the overall vision for the Kingsmead Development Area.

The comments received and strength of feeling from residents has shown how there might be a misunderstanding between what we, as councillors, want to achieve in the area and what residents think we are doing.

There is increasing pressure to find housing development land while we intend to protect, as far as possible, green field sites in and around Canterbury. The land at Kingsmead is a former domestic tip site, so not ‘green field’. The Kingsmead Development Brief, presented to the Council by the Liberal Democrat/Labour administration in 2004, indicated that there could be a wide variety of uses for the various parcels of land – from housing to a primary school, for open space, a supermarket, and for leisure facilities. The area we are looking to dispose of was designated for a school and if that wasn’t needed, then for housing.

If the Council is to improve facilities such as the Kingsmead Leisure Centre, enjoyed by many, it has to raise the money needed. By developing this one parcel of land to raise funds, the opportunity arises to create more valuable, more enjoyable and more sustainable open space within the wider local area. The parcel of land under discussion is arguably the key towards making the Kingsmead area a more enjoyable and sustainable place to live.

The end result will be that Kingsmead keeps a mixture of uses, far better organised and more joined-together. This would be a real boost to the area.

Open space provision is important, and people are used to having this land available. We are not blind to the demand for open space and we intend to provide usable open space across the Development Area as changes are made.

If the Development Area were currently completely empty, nobody would create the mish-mash of usage we have now. Clearly the option of knocking everything down and starting from scratch isn’t possible. However, we will sit down with landowners and current users to reallocate where the pieces of the puzzle best fit. This will ensure that the overall picture is more logical, more sustainable and more useful for residents and businesses alike.

That is what we intend to do. But to redevelop the Kingsmead area, the money has to be generated from within. Selling a parcel of land in the Development Area for housing would begin the process of ensuring the whole area is redeveloped in a workable and joined-up manner, for the benefit of as many people as possible.

RESPONSE FROM SAVE KINGSMEAD FIELD CAMPAIGN


The recent press release from the Conservative Group about the proposed sale of the Kingsmead Playing Field (Kingsmead: The Bigger Picture is an Exciting Future) contains a number of serious inaccuracies and misleading statements which need to be challenged:

According to the definition given for 'previously developed land' in the National Planning Policy Framework, it is totally inaccurate to say that the Kingsmead Playing Field is a brownfield site.  The Kingsmead Playing Field has been a green field for over 60 years and throughout this period has been used for sport and recreation.

 The press release of the Conservative Group states that the Kingsmead Field was designated either for a school or for housing in the 2004 Kingsmead Development Brief.  This is wrong. The public identified open space as their top priority in the 2003 Kingsmead consultation, and the retention of open space was given as a possible option for the Kingsmead Field site in the 2004 Development Brief (page 36).

 The press release of the Conservative Group argues that the sale of the Kingsmead Playing Field is 'the key towards making the Kingsmead area a more enjoyable and sustainable place to live'.  This is a ludicrous argument.  How can residential development on the only public open space in the Kingsmead area possibly make the place a more enjoyable and sustainable place to live in?  It is also disingenuous to claim that the improvement of the Kingsmead Leisure Centre depends on money from the sale of the field.  The leisure centre could equally be refurbished with the proceeds from the sale of the old coach park or the SERCO site.  At present, the Kingsmead Field provides an outdoor playing field which is free for residents to use, while the Kingsmead Leisure Centre provides an indoor sports venue on a pay-as-you-go basis.  Both are critical aspects of recreational provision in the area.  It would be extremely short-sighted and ill-advised to sacrifice the one for the benefit of the other.  What message would this give to the younger generation about the value of exercise and sport in a year in which the country celebrates the London Olympics?

The press release of the Conservative Group asserts that the sale of the Kingsmead Field will permit the creation of a 'far better organised and more joined-together area'.  Given the Council's total failure to engage with the public over the future of the Kingsmead Field, it is difficult to believe that their vision for the future of Kingsmead will reflect the needs and priorities of the local community.

There are only two playing fields large enough for organised games of sport in Northgate:  the Kingsmead Field and the Sturry Road Community Garden.  They are at opposite ends of the ward and serve totally different communities.  Given the shortage of sports fields in Canterbury and the deficit of accessible open space in Northgate, it would be a scandal to build on the Kingsmead Playing Field.  The press release of the Conservative Group claims that there will be 'usable open space across the Development Area'.  Fragmented open space is no compensation for the loss of a playing field.

(The previous article on this subject can be found here.)