Dartford Borough Council has extended its deadline for responses relating to the proposed erection of a fence at Fleetdown Football Club.
Dartford Borough Council has leased land at west Dartford to Fleetdown Football Club for many years and the club is popular in the local community.
The Club has a growing number of players and an increasing diversity of teams and has recently launched a Development Plan to help it meet the demands it is facing. It wants to apply for external funding to help deliver those plans but that depends upon demonstrating that it has a sufficiently long lease. It approached the Council in 2021 requesting an extension to its lease and the Council was happy to agree in principle on the basis that it would help the Club enhance its work with the community.
At the same time, the Club asked for landlord consent to erect a fence to prevent access to the pitch on non-football days with an aim to protect the playing surface and allow it to install match-day equipment, dugouts and club structures on a more permanent basis. We advised that the closure of any part of this public space, which has been held for the enjoyment of the public since 1937, would legally be defined as a ‘disposal’ and need to be advertised in the local press and subject to a consultation to allow any objections to be considered before a final decision be taken. Appropriate notices dated 17 March 2022 were placed in the local press and on the Council’s website. That consultation was due to close on 8 April 2022 and it is important to make clear that no decision has yet been taken.
The public consultation has followed the usual legal procedure but we are aware of concerns that some local people may have been unaware of it. The Council wants the consultation to be a genuine reflection of local views so in order to ensure all interested parties have their say, the Council is happy to extend the deadline for responses to 25 April 2022 and carry out more awareness raising, including writing directly to properties nearby to alert them to the proposal.
The Club is well regarded and contributes a great deal to the local community but the views and rights of local people, walkers and visitors are important to the Council too. The Council wants to see its amenity spaces being enjoyed for a wide range of activities and sometimes that means finding ways to encourage some uses but also protecting others.
Some of the representations received so far relate to the Club’s wider plans and we are keen that there should be no misunderstanding. Our consultation relates to an extension of the lease and a proposal to erect a fence and curtail public access that we considered to have a significant impact on the local community. It would not extend any rights to the Club to deliver other aspirations within its wider Development Plan, elements of which would require planning permission or the Council’s consent as landowner. However, no decision has yet been made and whatever your view of the proposals, everyone is encouraged to respond to the consultation to ensure that the Council’s Cabinet has a full range of views.
Representations can be made in writing to Head of Legal Services, DBC, Civic Centre, Home Gardens, Dartford, DA1 1DR or emailed to FleetdownConsultation@dartford.gov.uk by no later than 25 April 2022 quoting Fleetdown – ref: SC/LS(5)el.