A campaigner embroiled in a bitter battle with council bosses over the future of a beauty spot has accused them of "spending money like water".
Phil Rose, of the Friends of The Downs in Herne Bay, spoke out after discovering officials have spent about £50,000 fighting his application to register the land as a village green - and that figure could rise.
Meanwhile, the council is proposing to close Herne Bay Whitstable and Canterbury's Heritage Museum for winter in order to save £65,000.
Mr Rose, of Beacon Hill, said:
"There has been no consultation with the museums' friends' groups, nor with residents asking whether this is what they want. On the other hand, the council is happy to spend money like water when it comes to fighting the public wish to register the Downs as a village green.
Let's put that £50,000 in context. It's more than the council will save by not having Christmas lights. It's more than the council will make in decades by charging local people to keep a boat on the beach. It would keep the Herne Bay Museum open full-time, instead of part-time, for another two to three years."
Using the Freedom of Information Act, Mr Rose discovered the legal fees and officer time involved fighting the village green application had reached around £50,000. He also found that there was no upper limit to the expense that could be incurred. with a council lawyer telling him:
"When a decision has been made to contest a case such as this, then it will cost what it will cost."
Mr Rose said:
"After a lot of asking, the council has finally admitted that it has no record of asking members whether it should spend £50,000 on this - they just ran an 'open purse' policy. The council said it had to fight the application, as village green status would prevent coast defence work on the Downs. But Kent County Council's barrister said that this was a 'perverse' argument and that registration of the Downs as a village green would not interfere with any necessary coast defence work.
Meanwhile, just a few miles away, the council is having chats with Whitstable residents about making Prospect Field (also a coastal slope) a village green. Worst of all, Canterbury is happy to spend public money fighting what Herne Bay wants - £50,000 so far to deny us our village green."
Council spokesman Celia Glynn-Williams said the two issues should not be linked, adding:
"The council is now having to take some very tough decisions concerning its finances for the long term and the decision to move to seasonal openings for three of our museums was taken for sound commercial reasons and will generate annual savings in the future for the council of £65,000. The cost of the fighting the village green application for the Downs is a one-off cost that has largely already been spent."
She said officials still opposed the village green application because the land had sufficient protection under the Queen Elizabeth II Fields in Trust.
HB Times 22nd Aug 2013
Friends of the Downs home page