It all began with two simple sentences in the minutes of the 11 Jan 2017 (agenda item 2) report made by Dymchurch Parish Council.
The two simple sentences said:
This led to an FoI by a local parishioner who uncovered that DPC did not just have one set of plans with ten houses but a second set of plans; which shows thirteen houses, on the land at Dymchurch recreation ground. So why two sets of plans for what purpose and to what end? And how much did both sets cost to draw by the architects?
In an Assets & Amenities Options Report at agenda item 7 page 8 sent out in the Dymchurch Spring Newsletter 2018 it states:
Land value has been identified as a seven figure sum, with houses sold at an estimated average of £350,000…
So would people who live and work in Dymchurch find these houses affordable?
Anyway, the fact that DPC were even considering the option to build annoyed the parishioners and The Friends of Dymchurch Recreation Ground (FDRG). So they applied to Kent County Council (KCC) for the recreation ground to be registered as a Village Green. Dymchurch Parish Council though sought advice from KALC who informed DPC that should the application be successful it would prevent any development on the recreation ground. So Dymchurch Parish Council registered an objection to the application on the obvious ground that all residents should have been formally consulted before the application was submitted.
So what do DPC do? Yes they run a local consultation. However, they were beaten to a consultation by FDRG. Their consultation received 960 responses.
DPC’s consultation went out in April 2018 with an abbreviated options plan about the Housing Development on the Rec; which conveniently omits the estimated average house price of £350,000. We wonder why? Anyway DPC had 541 papers returned. The results are as follows:
The results of Dymchurch Parish Council’s consultation were verified by an independent person. And guess who that Independent Person was – step forward former Councillor
Peter William Simmons (pictured)
yes he who was found wanting regarding his expenses claims and he who failed to mention to the monitoring officer just four months after his expenses investigation that he had become a Company Secretary. That Peter Simmons.
Anyway on the 23rd May 2018, KCC’s Public Rights of Way & Access Manager, Chris Wade arrives in Dymchurch came to adjucate and rule on whether Dychurch Recreation Ground could or could not become a Village Green.
Mr Wade made clear as did KCC’s Regulation Committee panel, chaired by Cllr Andrew Bowles that the application by The Friends of the Dymchurch Recreation Ground to turn Dymchurch Recreation Ground was unanimously rejected. It was done so on technical and legal reasons.
The recreation ground was given to Dymchurch Parish Council in 1927 and as such the public use the Recreation Ground “by right” rather than “as of right” – a key difference, and the reason the application was rejected.
In the simplest possible terms, “by right” means there is an implied right for the public to use the land.
Chris Wade, the county council’s public rights of way and access manager, said: “There is little doubt the application site was originally acquired, and indeed continues to to be held, by the parish council specifically for the purpose of public recreation.
“Therefore, any recreational use of the land has been ‘by right’ and not ‘as of right’.”
However, Cllr Martin Whybrow (pictured) questioned whether the public had access to the recreational ground “as of right”.
He informed the meeting held in the Dymchurch Village Hall, Peter Sloper room : “Is the gift to the parish or the parish council? Further on in the minutes of 1927, I think there is absolute clarification.
“The spokesperson of the playing field committee states ‘the committee wishes to hand over the playing field to the parish council as a free gift to the parish’.
“As such, I would contest the 1927 minutes actually throw doubt on the ‘as of right’ recommendation because it seems to me that the intent was very clear that the gift was to the parish, not the parish council.”
However, in an unusual step KCC Cllr Andre Bowles made it very clear to Dymchurch Parish Council that they ought to listen to residents’ concerns.
He added: “As someone who has been a parish councillor for 39 years, I would urge the parish council to proceed with caution and not take any action which they don’t have a clear mandate from the majority of their parish.
“I will certainly be avidly looking at the election results in Dymchurch in May 2019.”
Now here’s a twist to the story. In March 2013 Andy Jarrett (pictured) then of Better Places Ltd, not the Council, undertook work for Dymchurch Parish Council regarding the Pavillion on Dymchurch Recreation Ground according to the March 2013 DPC minutes, he was paid £3000 for his work.
In the DPC minutes of the 7th Oct 2013, Mr Jarrett is retained by DPC to seek funding but in the end no funding was forthcoming, so we understand.
So Peter Simmons, Andy Jarrett and Dymchurch Parish Council a weird mix. Anyway, lets hope DPC listen to their parishioners and do not build on the recreation ground.
The Shepwayvox Team