Verbal report of the Superintendent of Burnham Beeches, Stoke Common and City Commons.
The Committee received a verbal report of the Superintendent regarding changes to legislation governing the City of London Corporation’s Open Spaces. He explained that each open space within the directorate was governed by specific Acts of Parliament from the 1870s, so decisions relating to spending had to be reflected in those Acts. Amendments had to be agreed by Parliament via Various Powers Acts, which had been used in the past for specific changes. He advised that there was now a need to amend and update the Acts more generally to incorporate the motor car, increasing financial challenges, population increase, and anti-social behaviour.
The Superintendent added that the following issues could be addressed with a Various Powers Act amendment:-
- surplus vacant accommodation on the Commons could be let to domestic or commercial private tenants instead of remaining vacant or being demolished;
- business and Commercial contracts could be no longer limited to three year periods;
- fines that were limited to specific amounts across the Open Spaces Directorate could be increased in line with the national scale of fines to better act as a deterrent against anti-social behaviour;
- members of the public could not be ejected from the site under the current legislation so new powers would enable staff to do this and to temporarily exclude the public from small areas to encourage income from the film industry;
- damage to verges caused by vehicles could be addressed via a legal framework within the Acts.
In response to a Member’s question, the Superintendent advised that small areas of the sites would be reserved for filming for perhaps one week at a time and a local filming policy would be developed for each of the City Commons. The Superintendent also advised that each part of the Division may need its own local policy on such matters.
A member informed the Committee that the Tea Room building between Ashtead Station and the Ashtead Common offices were rumoured to be subject to a development proposal. Members noted that the City of London Corporation should object to the proposal if it came to fruition. Members suggested that there may be an opportunity to create a car park for the Common if the buildings were demolished and development of the site was necessary. However, members acknowledged that there was no existing need for a car park to the Common as it was primarily used by local people.
Members were advised that a Private Members’ Bill would be presented to Parliament in November 2015. Members were further advised that the Superintendent would circulate his presentation and a summary document on the matter in the near future and that their feedback in relation to the above issues at Ashtead Common would be welcome during the consultation process up to 15 April 2015 via the City Commons email address. A formal consultation process involving members of the public would then take place; details of which would be placed in literature at Ashtead Common and on the Common’s website.