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The Downs at Herne Bay in Kent are set to be registered as a village green. An inspector, appointed by Kent County Council, has recommended to the council that the land be registered.
The application was made by Phil Rose of the Friends of the Downs in September 2009. Because the landowner, Canterbury City Council, objected, there was a public inquiry starting in November 2011.
The inspector, Miss Lana Wood, decided that 43 acres of beautiful coastal downland met the criteria for a green, ie that they had been enjoyed by local people for informal recreation, for 20 years, without being stopped or asking permission. The total application area was 50 acres but she concluded that seven acres had been fenced off for engineering works and therefore were excluded from public use during part of the 20-year period.
Canterbury City Council claimed that the land was held under the Public Health Act 1875 and therefore had, in effect, been used with the council’s permission and therefore did not qualify as a green. The inspector concluded that the council had not proved that it held the land under that Act during the relevant period (1989-2009). Mr Rose produced evidence from 64 people, 36 of whom gave evidence at the inquiry, who had used the land freely.
The city council has until 4 January to raise any objections to the decision, after which Kent County Council will consider the inspector’s recommendation.
Says Phil Rose: ‘This is great news for Herne Bay. The Downs is the largest open space in town. For many years residents and visitors have used it for recreation, from flying kites to
‘Nearly 1,200 people completed detailed questionnaires in support of this application. We’ve spent hundreds of pounds and thousands of hours publicising the application, leafleting, collecting questionnaires and witness statements, answering the city council’s objections, researching the historical and legal background of the Downs, producing our statements to
support our case and working through the eight-day public inquiry,’ explains Phil.
This is a wonderful result for the Friends and shows that hard work and persistence pays off. We just hope that Kent County Council now registers the Downs as a green, to protect this wonderful open space for all to enjoy.