QUEEN'S CRESCENT GARDEN
A Significant Milestone in the Queen's Crescent Garden's Compulsory Purchase Process has been Reached!
Exeter City Council has completed the draft Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) of Queen's Crescent Garden against an unknown owner, it has been through a technical examination by Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), and is now being advertised in the Express and Echo and in the vicinity of the Garden. The Notice and additional information can also be found on the Council's website (click to view).
Over the next 3 weeks, by 24 June 2016, we must wait while any serious contester to the Order is given opportunity to register their challenge with DCLG. ECC has stated that: 'Should a good claim to the Land be forthcoming through the CPO process, then the Council would seek to negotiate by agreement and would ensure that it was clearly understood that the claimant would be expected to undertake future maintenance responsibility for the Land if the claimant retains control.'
It has been a long road to travel since 2011 when St James' residents were consulted during the early days of the neighbourhood planning process and the desire to create a much-needed heart to the Community was identified. The potential of Queen's Crescent Garden to help achieve this soon became recognised. The degree of enthusiasm to make this precious open space its own, transforming it from the sadly-neglected eyesore and haven only for anti-social activity that it had become over a number of years, into a beautiful space enjoyed and open for use by everyone in St James, became evident when the Community voted it top priority of a long list of projects designed to make St James an even better place to live and work.
With excellent support from Exeter City Council the Garden was protected with designation as a Local Green Space and in December 2012 Council Executive resolved to support the determination of St James' residents to regenerate the Garden by carrying out compulsory purchase, should it be necessary, in order that the Community could take legal responsibility for the land.
Since then the Council has carried out exhaustive research in an attempt to identify a current owner with whom, initially, to negotiate a purchase. With every avenue leading to a dead-end, it became clear that the only way forward would be a CPO against an unknown owner.
Meanwhile, the Project Group has undertaken each pre-requisite as advised by the Council:
• Exeter St James Community Trust Ltd was set up as a suitable body to become leaseholder following completion of the CPO.
• Legal advice was sought and Keith Biggs of OTB Eveling kindly agreed to negotiate draft Heads of Terms with ECC, at no cost, in preparation for the eventual drawing up and signing of a long term lease with ECC as owner.
• The commitment and competence of the Forum's QCG Project Group was confirmed through bidding successfully for funding in order to develop, with thorough community consultation, a suitable professional Masterplan for the Garden, supported by a Delivery Strategy that demonstrated the Masterplan was realisable.
• Planning consent was obtained for Change of Use from Private Open Space to Public Open Space.
In April 2016 Council Executive once again considered making the Compulsory Purchase Order, and Members spoke very supportively before unanimously resolving to give the go-ahead.
Should anyone with a good claim come forward before the 24 June, and object to the purchase, then a Public Inquiry would become necessary. However, should no objections be received by DCLG, it is conceivable that the lease might be signed by ESJCT Ltd later this year.
WILL WE HAVE AN ADDITIONAL REASON TO CELEBRATE AT OUR 'TEA in the PARK' EVENT ON 25 JUNE? LET'S HOPE SO!
(Click here to see Noticeboard for details)
QCG Project Group is very grateful to ECC for preparing the CPO and for undertaking all the work necessary to reach this significant milestone.
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