The Cabinet considered a report proposing the transfer of the freehold of Kingsford Forest Park to the National Trust whilst securing public access to the Park and protecting the special characteristics in perpetuity. The report set out the details considered by the Cabinet and the reasons for the decision. The proposal would contribute towards the Countryside Service FutureFit savings target and was in furtherance of recommendations arising from the Countryside Service Commissioning Review. It was also in accordance with the Council's Operating Model. The transfer would be subject to a number of terms and conditions.
In the ensuing discussion, the following main points were made:
(a) A soft marketing exercise had taken place and the National Trust was the only organisation to meet the required criteria
(b) The annual on-going cost to the Council of Kingsford Country Park was just under £30,000, which would be a saving after the transfer of all liabilities to the National Trust. The land was valued at £75,000 and would be gifted to the National Trust in return for taking over responsibility
(c) Clarification was provided by the Head of Legal and Democratic Services that, under the proposed terms and conditions, the National Trust would maintain free public access to the Park in perpetuity. Free car parking would remain for three years, and then be reviewable by the National Trust
(d) The timber yard would be disposed of separately to the current leaseholder at market value
(e) The proposal was an example of how working with partners to transfer a Council asset could maintain a local amenity and keep open green spaces available to the public to enjoy whilst providing a saving to the budget
(f) A member in attendance stated that the loss of the Forest Park was akin to selling the family silver and expressed concern that after three years car parking charges could be in place, thus discriminating against those who would not be in a position to pay. The transfer of the asset was not on a partnership basis but was full and final
(g) A Cabinet Member responded that the proposal to transfer the Forest Park was great news for the county's residents. It was not correct to suggest that there would be charges to enter the Park. Access would be free and also there would not be any restrictions within the open space due to the prevalence of public bridleways and footpaths which were free at the point of use. Car park charges would be a matter for the National Trust after three years, but he believed there was alternative parking available. By transferring the asset to a trusted organisation the Council reduced its ongoing revenue liability, the savings from which would help maintain support for the vulnerable.
(a) the transfer of the freehold of Kingsford Park to the National Trust be approved; and
(b) the authority to negotiate and agree the detailed terms and conditions of the transfer is delegated to the Director of Business, Environment and Community in consultation with the Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Localism and Communities.