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We are delighted that Kent County Council (KCC) has decided not to sell its country parks, including Blue Bell Hill picnic site, near Burham on the North Downs.
Last February the society objected in response to KCC’s public notice announcing its intention to dispose of the land at Blue Bell Hill. The society argued that the site, on the crest of the North Downs, commands wide views over Maidstone and the Medway valley and is a popular viewing point, enjoyed by local residents.
KCC has decided to retain ownership of the five small countryside sites that were being considered for disposal, and these will continue to be managed by its Country Parks team. The five sites are Blue Bell Hill, Dryhill, the Larches, Parkwood and Preston Hill. This year the team will develop its new vision and strategy for 2017-2021, looking at how the council can sustainably provide country parks for public enjoyment and learning. It will be running a public consultation in 2017 to help inform the strategy.
We shall be keen to respond to the consultation; we believe that it is vital that KCC continues to own and care for these special sites. While it may do so in conjunction with other bodies such as Kent Wildlife Trust, the council, as a public body, must retain responsibility for them.
Blue Bell Hill is one of these special sites which was acquired by KCC with public support to protect it as an open space. It is rare to find an area of open grassland at the top of the North Downs which is open to the public for informal recreation, where one can enjoy the view and activities such as kite-flying, picnicking and children’s play. This open land allows disabled people easy access to park and enjoy the view.’
The site is crossed by the North Downs Way national trail and walkers use it as a stopping point. It is within the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is a site of special scientific interest.