Stalemate in Battle With Housing Developers?
Over a year ago, on behalf of their client Mr Crookes, FPD Savills submitted a planning application that involved relocating Minety village school in order to build between 70 and 90 houses, commercial premises and a new 'village centre' on the present school site and surrounding playing fields.
A new 'village centre' and making 'a contribution toward the cost of building a new school' were the planning gain (incentives) offered in exchange for permission to build houses on a greenfield site outside the village development boundary or 'red line' as it is known in planning terms.
Thanks But No Thanks
The unanimous view of residents is that they did not want a new 'village centre' nor did they want their quiet, rural village to undergo a massive expansion programme. These views were vividly expressed in over 450 and then almost 700 letters of objection received by North Wilts District Council to the first two iterations of the application. In response to these objections and also to serious concerns raised by NWDC staff involved in the planning process, both applications were withdrawn. The second was withdrawn late on 1st February - the very day is was to go before the Development Control Committee meeting - specifically rescheduled from Purton to Minety village hall to make it easier for villagers to attend. To support their objections, over 100 village residents did, indeed, attend this meeting - as it turned out unnecessarily - adding further fuel to their anger about this entire proposal.
Despite how consistently and repeatedly their own opinions had been expressed, villagers recognised that the views of staff and governors of the school would be a key influence on the likely go-ahead for this proposal. They also appreciate that some of the current school buildings and facilities would benefit from improvement. Hence, many villagers remained concerned that to the staff, governors and to the education authority, a new school building could ultimately prove an overwhelmingly attractive incentive - no doubt what the developers were hoping for! But anything other than guaranteed 100% funding would leave the education authority, school governors and village to fund the shortfall - a potentially massive and unscheduled financial commitment.
To give them the opportunity to clarify their latest proposals and the precise level of funding on offer, the school governors granted the request of FPD Savills to meet with both the governors and representatives of the Parish Council on 5th February. Following this meeting, the governors reconvened privately on 15th February to consider Savill's proposals and establish and agree their position.
It appears that in response to concerns expressed by residents and NWDC alike, Savills decided to significantly amend their proposals. Rather than offering to 'substantially fund' relocation of the school as per their initial proposals, their revised plan offered various options and stages with the initial phase involving relocation of the school playing field only enabling houses to be built on its current position. Subsequent relocation of the school itself and use of the land on which it stands remains but for implementation in a later phase.
On hearing of the revised plan, many residents viewed it simply as the 'thin end of the wedge' with the ultimate intention being to follow through with the original plan for 70-90 houses. The outcome would be massive profits for Mr Crooke, his chosen developers and his agents FPD Savills with no perceivable benefits to the village community.
In view of their concerns, villagers were delighted to learn of the outcome of the governors private meeting which was a unanimous rejection of Savill's proposals. A statement was subsequently issued highlighting the governors' areas of concern which included:
1) The impact of a housing development so close to the school, both during construction and in the longer term. The school site would become restricted.
2) The lack of firm financial guarantees and benefits to the school.
3) The quality of the proposed sports field and its location in relation to the school.
4) The future of Minety pre-school.
Without the support of the school governors it is difficult to see how even the revised application can progress. Even more pleasing to villagers is the news that the staff and governors of the school have developed their own plans to improve both the classroom accommodation and other facilities.
Consultation has already taken place with residents who live in properties adjacent to the school and, pending their support and approval, the governors hope to proceed with the implementation of their plans during this year's summer vacation.
However, with the potential profit to be made from development of the land owned by Mr Crooke behind the school, it is unlikely the story will end here. Bookmark this page to help check for future updates.......