There had been a lot of concern before the August meeting about a planning application at Meare Green Farm, to use the ‘Malt Barn’ as a venue for celebrating wedding ceremonies, and quite a few residents attended the PC meeting. The application had referred to the possibility of erecting a marquee for up to 28 days a year, and there were fears that this would lead to repeated noisy parties in an essentially residential neighbourhood. In fact the right to erect a marquee on your own land is already a general right and was not in itself being sought, but it is true that having a licensed wedding venue (licensed to perform weddings, not licensed to sell alcohol) would provide a far greater incentive than most of us have, to put up a marquee on a regular basis. In the event the PC agreed to oppose the application because of the potential for ongoing neighbourhood disharmony, but the TDBC Planning Committee will have the final say. (Several people mentioned that there was no opposition at all to private parties at the farm.)
There was, as always, a longish agenda of minor items, but little of general interest. A question was asked about any progress towards a community shop. This is a complex issue and very much of interest, so it is worth a brief recap.
Since the PC first asked the Forward Strategy Group to look into this last year, an independent steering team has been formed, has met twice, and has agreed to rename the project Heart of the Village. Meanwhile the shop is very much still in business and very much available for sale as a going concern, likewise the Royal Oak.
The Heart of the Village project is therefore still only a contingency plan. It is going ahead with conducting surveys, researching finances, and generally building the foundations for assessing the most viable options to present back to the village if and when the project needs to go live. HOTV should also have its own page on the village website soon.
There is a wide range of options under consideration, including but not limited to buying the Royal Oak building (to house a community shop, café, possibly a reincarnated pub and more) to buying the shop or housing the shop in the village hall. All options deserve serious consideration, setting potential flexibility into the future against cost and difficulty.
While we are all concerned for the future of the village, there are differences of opinion as to how ambitious we should be with this project. My personal feeling is that we should think big, and particularly that the actual centre of the village needs to be kept alive with as much commercial activity as possible. Future generations will not thank us if we allow it to dwindle to an unfocussed residential backwater.
One final thing: there will be a presentation in the Village Hall on Tuesday 4th September, open from 3pm until 8, to show plans of a housing development that is proposed for the allotments field, and to invite public comments. This presentation is being handled by the developers and not by the Parish Council, but many members of the PC have been saying for some time that a limited amount of development, especially of smaller houses, is what this village badly needs, so I would strongly encourage anyone with the future of the village at heart to get along to the village hall and contribute their views.