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13/06/2006 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   

Friends of the Lower Lines First Meeting Tuesday, 13 June 2006, at the Sunlight Centre

Those present:

Cllrs Adam Price and Mark Last, Linda Miller, Mervyn Lamb, Catherine DeBont, Tina Lawlor Mottram, Geoff Harvey, Edmund Gulvin, Sheila & Maurice Eames, Keith Galvin, Martin Hall, (Medway Council), Chris White (Sunlight Development Trust).

The meeting was chaired by Cllr Adam Price.

Martin Hall from Medway Council gave a brief description of other ‘Friends of’ groups, including the local Hillyfields group. He stressed the need to have a clear focus on the role and responsibilities of the Friends group, to clarify what the objectives were and to avoid disappointment in the future by decisions made.

The group discussed first what they actually liked about the site at present and by implication, what they would like to keep.

TLM as a member of Medway Friends of the Earth (also CW and CDB) wanted wildlife and trees protected as much as possible maintaining the ‘wilder’ look of the park. Greenspace in the town is very attractive, she is in favour of turning site into a park providing wildlife and habitat are protected.

ML encouraged public use of the park. He felt that the park is just over grown, and not in need of major work. He liked the free access to the site at present, yet the plan suggested at the public consultation was too formal and it needs to be less uniform. He stressed the wildlife value of the existing park. He also questioned the survey that was produced by the surveyors onsite. He suggested that an independent survey should be done to establish the particular areas of importance for wildlife etc. He felt that this survey should be done before changes are made.

CDB felt that housing developments and building work in Gillingham are out of control. She wanted the park to remain as a wildlife area eg foxes. She also favoured a water feature as part of the park.

AP spoke about the Medway Urban Parks and Green Spaces Forum : a Medway-wide forum also open to residents and volunteers; Geoff Harvey is a regular attendee. The aims of the Medway-wide forum may help focus the Friends of Lower Lines when considering our own aims:

· Encourage awareness of Medway’s urban parks and green spaces for residents and volunteers

· Initiate and support action to improve these facilities and ensure the greatest possible access to them

· Raise awareness of any threats to our urban parks and green spaces

· Promote those areas as a setting for Medway’s urban renaissance

· Assist in raising standards in the quality and regeneration of these areas by helping to secure funding

MH spoke about the limited space available (and the fact that the park may be part of a greater area if the lottery bid for the Lines park is successful). He stressed the need to incorporate all the ideas from the Public Consultation meeting and make the space a balance of all the groups’ wishes. This meeting was to determine what the Friends group would like in the park.

LM favoured a mainly natural park with pockets of different activities, which would allow various groups to use the park simultaneously. She wanted an accessible park, which would benefit local people, like a little bit of countryside on our doorstep.

KG stressed the importance of the site from the heritage angle. It is a scheduled ancient monument, which stretches over 2 and a half miles between Chatham and Gillingham. He pointed out that the groups at the consultation meeting were in favour of opening the fortifications to the public, perhaps for cycling, walking and football etc. He wanted to ensure that this is maintained properly and also that information boards are available onsite for the public.

MH was keen to capture that others believed that the ditch bottoms should be accessible and that the heritage interest should not be regarded as a barrier to this happening. There is not conflict of interest between heritage and access / conservation. Someone then made a point that once the fortifications have been restored it will be much harder to damage them.

Many people present spoke about the possible damage that could be caused by this public use to the moat / fortifications. Many felt that more damage had already been done by the MOD in the past and that removing spray cans was a relatively easy task, considering the whole area has been overgrown and let go to ruin for so long.

MaL was on the planning committee that ensured that the park was an integral part of the planning permission to Mid Kent College. AP felt that this could be a dual purpose area, which could bring history to people in Gillingham. This group to drive what the consultants and the trust has to produce. The Friends of the Lower Lines group should maintain open access to all interested members of the community, and provide feedback from the community to the trust. They might suggest suitable community representatives for the trust.

The group felt that the Trust needs to be put in place, incorporating community members and that they must take heed of what the community wants. These representatives should be a means of dialogue and retain community ownership of the site. It was noted that young people also need to be represented.

S&ME felt that very little work needs to be done on the park apart from making it safe for public use. They favoured public access to the moats. They expressed concern that the status of these could be ‘delisted’. Assurances from the group that it was a very important historic site and this could not happen.

GH added that the group was very fortunate in that most groups like this are fighting a development and that we are actually being offered a park! The Urban Parks forum could offer a lot of advice. We are fortunate in that the Hillyfields FoG is so close by. Using the pool of knowledge that exists should make our job easier. He stressed the need to establish what the group wanted and then to put that to the trust etc.

CW was concerned about access to the park for all members of the community. The group agreed that local schools would have to be approached and that everybody should spread the word about the group in the community and encourage people to join. Groups such as scouts, cubs, guides, local residents groups etc should be contacted. To be discussed at the next meeting.

*Focus of the group*:

Draft objectives:

1. Safeguard the area for non housing

2. Inform and influence the area as a park

3. Champion for the cause

4. Integrate and sustain heritage, leisure and nature conservation interests

5. Ensure open access for the whole community.

Other points discussed included:

School resource – bio science!! Scouts group.

No bus link from here to existing CP – therefore a need.


 Aims must have historical content – reflect all interest

Maurice – MP reasonable about trees – JP?? Not so.

Teenagers / pensioners issues - include all by design

Disabled access – access for all.

Friend of Hillyfields – representative of the community – streets represented.

Constitution – half way there – embraces interests

Key people to target – communicate the aims. Encourage them to take part.

St. Mary’s island??

MKC

Need to vary the times of this meeting between evenings and daytime to ensure others can attend.

£6k – small grants are available from Medway Council, deadline 1^st September. Sunlight centre to assist with application.

Adam to receive emails from others interested in standing as chair.


 Dates set for next two meetings

· The next meeting will take place on Friday 7 July in the Sunlight Centre. Saturday social event to be discussed at this meeting.

· Open Day – Saturday 15^th July 2006

*Action required before next meeting:*

*1. Letter to Michael Parkes AP*

*2. Publicity design CW*

*3. Open Day – look for permission etc AP/ML*

*4. Delivering leaflets ME*

*5. Funding application via SC*

*6. Interest in becoming Chair, Sec, Treasurer etc to AP Anybody*

*7. Networking to involve local community All*

*8. Approach local schools (before meeting) CW*

 
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