Our July meeting began with a presentation of new plans from West of England Developments for building 29 houses on around half of the open area of the allotments field. Of these, about 41% would be “affordable” and many would be open market but relatively small. This is consistent with the need for more smaller house in the village, as expressed by many residents and the Parish Council. Should the application be approved, ownership of the allotments would be transferred to the community and there would be enough money to finance the building of a new pavilion on the playing field. It was clearly stated however that development would only go ahead if there was strong support for it from the village as a whole. The developers will be holding a public consultation at the Village Hall on 4 September, when people will be invited to express their views.
Full fibre broadband
Mark Elliott from Gigaclear then held a brief Q&A on Gigaclear’s plans for extending their fibre broadband network into the village, from early next year. This is completely independent from BT’s network, and superior in that it takes fibre all the way to each house, so that distance from the cabinet is not an issue and speeds would be much higher for all subscribers. Initially this will mostly be of interest to those for whom BT fibre does not perform well or at all. Gigaclear has a range of subscription plans, but prices start from £41.30 per month for 50 mbps (upload and download). Prices are likely to drop however once the network is in place and open to competitive pricing. For many households, the existing wireless network from Rural Broadband Southwest should continue to be a good economical option.
Community Shop Plus
There was brief mention of the proposed community shop/pub, to the extent of stating that despite rumours, the plan is very much alive. The Parish Council has to accept some blame for staying silent and allowing understandable confusion to take hold, but there also appears to have been an undercurrent of misinformation and hostile rumour which threatens to divide us on an issue which is of importance to all of us together.
In brief the current position is this: the future of the Rose & Crown appears secure, which is good news. We do not have a public mandate to take on the Royal Oak as a community pub in competition with the Rose & Crown, but the survival of the Oak is important to many in the village and would be a desirable outcome. If it proves necessary to set up a community shop —and nothing has changed to make that less likely— there are strong arguments for locating it in the Royal Oak building rather than in the existing shop, though both options (and others) need to be explored. These are decisions not for the PC but for the Steering Team. A second meeting of all interested parties is to be convened on 23 July, so that the team can finally be launched, and start making independent decisions.
Since writing this, the meeting referred to has taken place, with the result that there is now a Steering Team of eight in place, chaired by Graham Gleed, with Sam Smith as vice-chair. This group is independent of the PC, and will soon have its own page on this website. At the suggestion of Graham, the name of the project has been changed from the rather clumsy “community shop/pub”, to Heart of the Village. The thinking behind this is threefold: it does not specify an outcome, it reflects a concern that public services should be preserved in the literal centre of the village, also the fact that the figurative heart of the village depends on an enterprise that is supported by the whole community.
The immediate task of the group is to conduct building surveys and cost the various options for how a community shop, café (and possibly pub) might be housed. Why are we still considering a community pub when the Rose & Crown is on course to be sold as a going concern? There are several reasons, but one is that if we don’t at least keep the option on the table, we close off several potential funding streams. Just as there was a lot of support when the Rose & Crown was threatened with closure, there are many in the village who would be very sad to see the Oak go. We are not committed to any one course, and at this stage it makes sense to leave all the options open.