The hedgerows are a-blaze with Spring colour, the clocks have sprung forward, bumble bees are buzzing through the daffs and Easter is here. All-in-all, except for Storm Eleanor we seemed to have escaped the worst clutches of Winter without too many problems. And now, at long last, we can oil the secateurs, pinch out the sweet peas and plant out the newly chitted first earlies. Sadly, your green-fingered Clerk has had little time to weed his raised beds so far this Spring because the Council has been steaming ahead at full throttle with a whole wheelbarrow load of local issues.
Southampton Road Allotments
The Parish Council picked up some flak recently following the sale back in October by Longford Estate of the allotment site in Southampton Road to a developer. Regular readers will remember that I reported on this at the time. The Council had no say about the sale but we did secure a licence with the new owners on the same terms as that previously held with Longford. It is a very uncertain time for the allotment tenants as we wait for news of the new owners’ intentions. The Council fully shares those concerns. The land lies outside of the village development boundary where new housing would normally be refused, but, as we have seen at Matron’s Farm and Firs Road, this line on the map is being set aside by planning inspectors because Wiltshire Council has failed to allocate enough land to meet Government targets – villages all over the County are now prey to development that is chewing its way across open meadows and rural pastures. Rest assured, the Council will take a stand alongside the allotment holders on this issue. We want to see the allotments retained or improved in their present location and they should only ever be moved if that is what the tenants agree should happen.
Road Safety Issues at Alderbury and West Grimstead School
Following on from trouble at the allotments, we have a different but equally tricky situation in Firs Road. When the planning inspector allowed Vistry Homes appeal against Wiltshire Council’s refusal of planning permission for 50 new houses, he did not address concerns about off-site highway issues around the school. This means the developer is under no obligation to undertake any significant road safety improvements at the main school access. The Council feels the new development will increase the vehicle movements along Firs Road with all the extra safety risks that entails. The Council is working with Wiltshire Council, Vistry Homes Ltd, the School and the Football Club to see if there is any way we can improve the situation before the new homes are occupied.
As part of the work of Wiltshire Council’s Southern Area Board, a review of young people’s needs in the area has been undertaken by Community First from Devizes. The researchers talked to young people around Whaddon. The main thing that older teenagers want is a separate safe space where they can just hang out. Currently, the bus stop at the recreation ground is the main hang-out, which is not exactly ideal. The Council would like to provide a youth shelter in the Recreation Ground away from the play and gym equipment, but the costs are high – a recent quote came in at over £16k. The Council is expecting to receive some funds from new development in the village and when that rattles into the coffers, we will take another look because everyone seems to agree that we should try and deliver something that meets the needs of our local teenagers.
Wildlife Friendly Alderbury
The Council’s very own eco-warrior, Cllr Mel Lawrence, reported that the Wildlife Friendly Alderbury Volunteers had been out working hard to introduce wildflowers into the new orchard meadow at Waleran Close. The group scarified the ground where possible (it really was rock hard) and scattered wildflower seeds. The seeds will require watering for six weeks until established. Mel is attempting to organise a watering rota with the volunteers as the fruit trees also need a regular soak during their first year. Mel has been doing a fantastic job and the volunteers are all brim-full with enthusiasm and chomping at the bit for new projects. The plan is to undertake more wildflower seed planting in autumn when mechanical rotovating and scarification will be used. There are also plans for a mini forest in Spiders Island and re-wilding at Oakwood Grove, so plenty to be getting on with. And it makes such a big difference – it is so lovely to see the pear trees in full bloom on Waleran Close already with the apples and plums not far behind. A huge ‘thank you’ to Mel and all the wonderful volunteers.
PC Pete Jung from Wiltshire Constabulary attends our meetings and lets us know about any policing issues around the village. This month Pete drew our attention to an incident of anti-social behaviour involving a group of young people that had caused distress to an elderly gentleman. The Police were following up with action against the culprits. He also reported on an attempted shed robbery at Whaddon. The lock had been forced but luckily nothing was taken. There had been a spate of older model Land Rover thefts in the area. These venerable British classics are being stripped of valuable spare parts and the chassis dumped or burned. Pete warned owners to be vigilant which also applies to owners of fuel oil tanks as there have been reports of thefts in other parts of Wiltshire. He reminded everyone to report incidents using the 101 service or 999 for any emergencies. As always, it’s important to remember that Alderbury is one of the safest places in the UK and long may it stay so.
Wiltshire Councillor Richard Britton keeps the Council abreast of County matters. This month he told us that an appeal had been lodged against refusal of permission for permanent occupation of caravans at the Alderbury Caravan Park in Whaddon. He then invited us all to the Southern Wiltshire Area Board’s eco-themed event at Whiteparish Memorial Hall On 27th April at 6.30pm. And of greatest interest to everyone present, he confirmed that the Southampton Road resurfacing works were still in the local highway maintenance schedule, but no start date is agreed. Ominously, he informed us that consultants had been engaged to review the entire programme and their report was awaited.
Best Kept Village Competition
Well, we have decided to ‘go for it’ and throw our hat into the ring again this year. Taking up the challenge, the Council will be submitting an entry for the CPRE Best Kept Village Competition 2022 and taking on our deadly horticultural foes just over Pepperbox in Whiteparish. So, listen out for the call to arms when it comes as we get ready to wow the judges in June. Already we have launched a new digital village map and the Council has approved funding for much needed improvements to signs and noticeboards. Not only that but a budget has been set aside to add new kit for use by our lovely volunteers.
Village Maintenance update
Our hard-working Chair, Cllr Hartford has been busy beetling around the village attending to the never-ending list of urgent repairs and ongoing maintenance that is needed to keep things looking ship-shape. This month she reported that pavements in Whaddon had been resurfaced. Jet-washing before application of the new surface coating had caused a bit of a mess along the route with debris sprayed into gardens, drives and onto the road, but the surface now looked much better. She has reported the broken bollard at the junction of Firs Road and Southampton Road to the Parish Steward and the hedge at the bus stop on the junction of Clarendon Road and Southampton Road had now been very kindly and very tidily cut back by the homeowners. Finally, she reported that the Parish Steward had been out patching the worst of the potholes in the village.
It’s been a quiet month for planning applications. The Council supported a loft conversion and extension at Marldon in Clarendon Road and noted that an appeal has been lodged against the original planning refusal at Brackendale in Junction which is very disappointing news. After an incredibly positive and constructive planning process a good scheme had been achieved on the site, but now the developer wants to go back to the first scheme that was refused by Wiltshire Council – a decision strongly supported by Alderbury PC. Yet again our fate is in the hands of a planning inspector.
Dates for your diary
- Next Parish Council meeting – Wednesday 11 May (see our website for details).
- Picnic in the Park – Recreation Ground 1.00pm 11th June.