To adopt the Country Parks Strategy 2023-28.
Reason for the decision:
The Kent Country Parks Service manages nine country parks and three smaller countryside sites across the county. The current strategy ran from 2017 – 2021 and as such a new strategy was drafted during 2021/22, informed by an informal Members’ Working Group. The draft 2023 – 2028 Strategy was consulted upon from 4th October 2022 to 12th December 2022, following its endorsement by the Growth, Economic Development and Communities Cabinet Committee in March 2022. The results of the consultation have been received and incorporated into the Strategy as appropriate, and the 2023-28 Strategy is now considered ready to for adoption.
The Kent Country Parks Service:
· Receives 1.6 million annual visitors;
· Benefits from regular volunteering opportunities at five sites and over 10,000 volunteer hours per year;
· Delivers environmental education, Forest Schools and nature-themed birthday parties to 7,000 children per annum;
· Incorporates over 30km of accessible routes;
· Offers accessible Changing Spaces toilets at three sites;
The proposed strategy put forward three Strategic Aims:
1. Provide a Country Park network of well-connected high quality and biodiverse greenspace across Kent.
2. Sustain and manage visitor numbers to our Country Parks by always providing a quality customer experience alongside a comprehensive environmental education service, facilities, events, and activities that encourage increased or repeat visits especially amongst under-represented groups.
3. Consolidate the financial sustainability of the Country Parks through maximising self-financing and external funding opportunities.
Options (other options considered but discarded):
Not to revise the Strategy. This was rejected as Country Parks make a significant contribution to wider outcomes important to Kent County Council, including those in the strategic framework, ‘Framing Kent's Future 2022-2026’.
How the proposed decision supports Framing Kent’s Future 2022-2026:
The Country Parks make a significant contribution to all outcomes in the strategic framework:
Priority 1: Levelling Up Kent
· Providing apprenticeships and volunteering opportunities.
· Providing local opportunities for Kent residents to exercise outdoors through our network of trails, trim trails and both formal and informal walks and events.
Priority 2: Infrastructure for Communities
· The Country Parks are managed for biodiversity and actively seek opportunities for biodiversity enhancement. The Country Parks contain Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Local Wildlife Sites, and four of the parks are situated within the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
· The Country Parks offer regular conservation volunteering opportunities.
· Country Parks staff lead on the Kent and Medway Green Social Prescribing Forum and actively seek opportunities to link the Country Parks with Public Health initiatives as well as links with charitable organisations and partners.
· The Country Parks engage with Children and Young People through a range of school-based, educational activities, holiday events for families, toddler groups and more.
Priority 3: Environmental Step Change
· The Country Parks are linked to the Public Rights of Way network and promote these through signage and interpretation.
· The Country Parks management plans are linked to Kent’s Plan Bee and actively managed for pollinators.
· Country Parks staff take part in the Kent Nature Partnership’s Management Working Group and are actively seeking ways to maximise nature-based solutions through delivery of the Kent Environment Strategy.
Priority 4: New Models of Care and Support
· Country Parks staff collaborate regularly with other Kent County Council teams such as Community Safety, Active Kent and Medway and Public Health to establish a joined-up approach to prevention.
Data Protection Implications:
There are no data protection implications arising from the adoption of the Strategy.
Decision type: Key
Reason Key: Affects more than two Electoral Divisions;
Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Division affected: (All Division);
Notice of proposed decision first published: 07/03/2023
Decision due: Not before 5th Apr 2023 by Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services
Lead member: Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services
Lead director: Stephanie Holt-Castle
Department: Growth, Environment & Transport
Contact: Isabel Shaw; 03000 417665.
Growth, Economic Development and Communities Cabinet Committee was asked to consider and make recommendations to the Cabinet Member on the content of the draft Strategy in March 2022.
The Strategy was considered and endorsed at Growth, Economic Development and Communities Cabinet Committee on 14th March 2023.
Financial implications: This Strategy will be delivered through the County Council’s capital and revenue funding of the Kent Country Parks Service, and through the income that the service generates year on year. The Service in 2021/22 was 76% cost neutral to the authority and as per Strategic Aim 3, it will consolidate its financial sustainability over the course of the Strategy. Monitoring and performance will be through the Medium-Term Financial Planning process. The delivery of the Strategy falls within the following budget lines from the 2023/24 approved budget: • APPENDIX B - CAPITAL INVESTMENT SUMMARY 2023-24 TO 2032-33, Growth Environment and Transport (GET) Line 1. Country parks Access and Development: improvements and adaptations to country parks • APPENDIX E – REVENUE BUDGET SUMMARY, Growth, Environment and Transport (GET) Line 83. Growth and Communities/ Community (Assets and Services).
Legal implications: There are no legal implications arising from the adoption of the Strategy.
Equalities implications: The EqIA on the proposed Strategy determined that there is no indication that it will have an adverse equality impact on any of the protected characteristics. This will be reviewed as delivery against the Strategy continues.