Cranbrook Town Council and EDDC at loggerheads over “country park resource centre”

“A bid has been launched by Cranbrook Town Council (CTC) to halt the building of the new country park resource centre.

The move comes a month after permission was granted by district planning chiefs for the 135sqm centre on land west of Stone Barton.

However, a report by CTC clerk Sarah Jenkins said East Devon District Council (EDDC) went back on an ‘understanding’ to adopt the country park resource centre, which its country park ranger would use it as a base.

However, EDDC cite the ‘economic climate’ and ‘availability of local authority funding’ as the reason it prefers to merge a number of facilities into a single building.

In her report, Mrs Jenkins said: “Under the section 106 agreement (private agreements made between local authorities and developers), the Consortium are required to provide a country park resource centre, hence the recent planning application.

“At the time, there was an understanding that EDDC would adopt the centre and their country park ranger would use it as a base. Since then, EDDC has decided that it does not want to adopt the centre.”

In January this year, councillors at CTC resolved to agree in principle that it would take ownership of the centre direct from the Consortium, once it is delivered.

They also resolved to enter negotiations with EDDC to determine the future role of the country park ranger and their future employment arrangements.

But in her report, Mrs Jenkins said: “The country park ranger has since left and EDDC has made the decision not to recruit a replacement ranger.

“Having been faced with the EDDC withdrawal, the town council has indicated to the Consortium and EDDC that it may not wish to have resource centre.”

At a meeting last month, CTC resolved to request the centre is not built and that the function of the facility and country park ranger be accommodated instead in Cranbrook’s future town hall.

Councillors also resolved to request that the section 106 funding for the country park centre be transferred to the town to provide other ‘much-needed’ facilities.

A spokesperson for EDDC said: “The section 106 agreement that secures developer contributions and obligations in relation to the country park resource centre and other infrastructure at Cranbrook was originally signed in 2010.

“At the time, it was envisaged that the town would be served by a number of individual buildings to accommodate civic and community uses.

“When the original legal agreement was approved, EDDC had been indicated as taking ownership of the country park resource centre.

“In the absence of having responsibility over any part of the country park, that now sits with Cranbrook Town Council, it was decided to offer the asset to the town council for adoption.

“From April 2018, Cranbrook Town Council adopted the country park in the town and is now responsible for its management and maintenance.

“A building housing the permanent offices of Cranbrook Town Council (as well as the library) is envisaged to be built on land immediately south of the country park in the town centre, a location where many of the functions of a country park resource centre could be accommodated.

“The community space element of the previously proposed country park resource centre could be accommodated in another community building and this could be part-funded by some of the monies that would have otherwise been spent on the centre.

“The Cranbrook country park ranger had been employed by East Devon District Council but the ranger left post earlier in 2018 and before the end of the developer funding for the position.

“A new legal agreement to pass the remaining funding to Cranbrook Town Council to enable them to employ a ranger to manage the land they have adopted is under way.

“In the interim there is currently no Cranbrook country park ranger in post.”

http://www.midweekherald.co.uk/news/council-launches-bid-to-block-build-of-cranbrook-s-country-park-resource-centre-1-5649550