We had a quiet meeting this month though there are two big issues bubbling under the surface, and it seems to many of us that the future of the village lies in the balance while we wait for them to cook. One is the future of the Village Stores and the plans for a community replacement referred to elsewhere in this issue. The other is the planning application for housing on the allotments field.
Some of the immediate neighbours to this scheme are opposed, which is understandable, but 8 out of 9 parish councillors and many others in the village are strongly in favour, seeing it as an essential element in regenerating our village with its ageing population, an infrastructure under strain and too few small or affordable homes.
As things stand, is is understood that the planning officer is likely to advise refusal for two reasons, both of which we belief to be unreasonable: the site is outside the “settlement boundary”, and there is insufficient evidence of demand for affordable housing.
The settlement boundary (sometimes called the village envelope) is a line showing where housing development will be permitted by default, but there is a serious problem in defining it. If the PC asks the District to include land within a redrawn boundary, it is in effect writing a large cheque to the land-owner. We have been clear for some time that new housing is needed, but rather than inflate the value of one field at the expense of another, we invited all land-owners near the centre of the village to submit schemes. To date, the current application is the only response, and the fact that it received such overwhelming support at the PC should be seen as an implied request to extend the settlement boundary to include it.
The other reason Planning gives for opposing the scheme is the lack of evidence (according to them) of any demand for affordable and/or small open market housing. We have heard many accounts of people wanting to buy homes in the village and not being able to. If this scheme is to happen, it is essential that it meets the housing needs both of the current community and of those who have had to leave because there have been no suitable homes available to allow them to stay.
If you or anyone you know is in need of housing not currently available, whether affordable social rented homes, low cost starter homes for young people, homes for families to grow into, or bungalows for those wishing to downsize, please add you details to the petition in the Village Stores, or drop a line to Nick Sloan or to our district councillor Phil Stone so that we can pass on (anonymised) evidence of demand to Planning.
Although the housing scheme should be judged independently on its merits, it is worth pointing out that the much-needed improvements to the playing field will not take place unless they can be funded by the housing. Since both schemes were originally submitted, the developer has proposed some improvements to vehicle access to the playing field and pedestrian access along Willey Rd.
As mentioned previously, elections for both District and Parish councils will be held on May 2 this year. The notice of election will be published on 18 March. Nomination forms will then be made available, and must be submitted by 4pm, Wednesday April 3. Please consider refreshing the PC by standing for election.
It has been suggested to me that I did not sell the attractions of PC membership very persuasively in the last report. I do actually believe that being a parish councillor can be a very positive experience, not just for the satisfaction of helping to keep the village on course through difficult times, but because it gives you an insight into all levels of village life, and a relationship to the community that you might not otherwise experience. I have personally found it quite challenging but also very rewarding. Why not give it a go?
Not much time passes between complaints about dog fouling, and the subject came up again this month. As has been mentioned before, it is not only unpleasant but dangerous to children and farm animals. It was agreed that while most dog-owners are sensitive to the issue and always pick up, a minority stubbornly refuse to do so and are difficult to influence. One idea that has been tried in other areas is to spray dog poo with fluorescent paint to (literally) highlight the extent of the problem, and we are going to try this during the annual village litter-pick, organised by Graham Gleed, on 23 March. In the meantime can we please ask again that when you are walking your dog you take care not to leave the countryside more polluted than you found it.
A question had been raised about the use of droves by off-road bikers. The questioner pointed out that there are no footpaths in the parish that are designated as “Byways Open to All traffic”, so nowhere that off-roaders have a legitimate right to go. He is perfectly correct in saying this, but in further discussion at the meeting it was pointed out that the same applied to horses (no official bridleways) and that several of the droves that people habitually walk are not official footpaths. The general view was that providing the land-owner does not object, and providing that activities are not causing a serious nuisance, we should be taking a relatively lenient view of how people enjoy the land. Where a nuisance is occurring however, especially if it is frequent, off-roaders could legitimately be asked to desist.
We were very sorry to learn that our clerk Becky has decided to resign to make more space in her life for new ventures. It has been great working with Becky for seven years, and we wish her very well. This does create an opening for a new parish clerk, who we will be hoping to appoint in early May. If you would be interested in a very flexible part-time job that involves you closely in village affairs, Becky can supply all the details (email@example.com). Living locally would be an advantage, likewise some administrative experience, though training will be provided.