Sale of land between Chapel Lane and the allotments by the Golf Club

The aim of this paper is to inform residents of Bearsted and Thurnham in respect of this sale of land, and to encourage residents to attend Bearsted Parish Council’s meeting tomorrow at 7.30 pm at the Memorial Hall, with a view to enlisting pledges of financial support to gain control of this plot for the community.

Between Chapel Lane and the allotments next to the entrance to Bearsted Golf Club in the parish of Thurnham is a plot of land, K154412, of approx. 5.4 acres, which has been left untended since about 1980, so allowing the growth to maturity of many hazel trees, as well as some other larger trees such as oak trees. The gate next to the allotments was derelict, allowing free access to the land by dog walkers and others.
The site has access both from Chapel Lane, a private road and public footpath KH1120 and from the access road for the Golf Club and allotments, which is also a public footpath KH129. However, Chapel Lane is only one car’s width and has restricted access to Ware Street, under the railway. The other access route is similarly narrow and passes over a bridge of uncertain strength over the railway, with a tight right-angle turn at the top.
In 2017, the owners of the plot erected secure gates and sent in men and machines to clear and burn all but the biggest trees. They had cleared most of the site, by the time an emergency Tree Preservation Order 5013/2017 was issued on 17 November 2017. Recently, that Order was rescinded, but after an outcry, was re-imposed on Friday 19 October 2018.

Proposed Sale by Auction
The plot is now listed for sale as Lot 55 at Clive Emson’s auction on Monday 29 October 2018. The guide price is £150,000 - £155,000 + fees. The guide price is unusual, being more than the agricultural value, but much less than a site with potential for housing development.

Possible Purchasers
It is thought unlikely that a large-scale developer would make a bid for this land, because it is very unlikely that a multiple development would be allowed, due to the very restricted access, described above. It is possible that small-scale developer or an individual might see the site as having potential for a small number of houses, but the purchaser would still have formidable planning hurdles to overcome and might commit his money for no final return. If the present owners do not think that they can get a return from farming this land, then it is unlikely that another farmer would bid much for it as it is not alongside other farmed plots.
Effect on the Community of Different Purchasers
The efforts of a developer or individual to build would be governed and constrained by all existing planning laws and guidelines.
Occupation and use by others could result in various problems and be difficult to control, if they were to acquire ownership of the site, which currently has no power, water or foul water drainage. The site’s boundaries to neighbouring properties are not secure. Adjacent neighbours including the golf club and allotment holders may all be affected, as would the value of local property.
Ownership by one or both parish councils would preserve the site from unwanted development. Some management would be required but the site could, in time, return to mixed woodland as happened before. There is potential for further allotments and recreational use by other community organisations such as local Guides and Scouts.

Bearsted Parish Council is actively considering financial support for buying this site and will discuss the issue at its meeting in the Memorial Hall on Tuesday 23 October, starting at 7.30 pm. It is hoped that Thurnham Parish Council might also support it. Your presence at this meeting will be crucial in persuading Bearsted Parish Council to take this idea forward and act as the bidder.
What is required at this stage is to show support to Bearsted Parish Council and to encourage it to bid for this land. If they do commit to this project, then the parish council’s bidding power could be enhanced by individual donations to the cause (see below).
There is much to gain for the community at large, in both short and long term, if this land were to be acquired by one or both parish councils. Funding from individual households may be required to supplement the funds held by Bearsted Parish Council, but in the event that donations are required, it is suggested that households should consider the potential risk or loss of value to their property and environment, as well as the beneficial uses for the community, when deciding how much to pledge. It is hoped that many will feel able to pledge at least £300; some most affected or with deeper pockets will, we hope, wish to contribute significantly more. A commitment to contribute a specified amount, would only be activated in the event of a successful bid from Bearsted Parish Council for the land.

We must all move quickly, if funding and an agreed bidding limit needs to be in place in time for the auction on 29 October.
Action Requested
Please encourage Bearsted Parish Council to consider this course of action by attending the meeting on Tuesday 23 October.