(July 2001) Development at Sibford School Manor Site

Dear Editor,

Suzy Straw sent the Parish Council a copy of her letter to you and we would like to respond to the points raised.

1. We acted as soon as we knew of the application. We were informed on the evening of the Sibford Ferris Annual Parish Meeting on 23rd April by District Councillor David Green that an application had been received that morning and was being checked and processed by CDC Planning Dept.

We immediately arranged for an insert to go into the Ferris copies of the Sibford Scene which was due for delivery that week. The insert informed every one that an application had been received and an Open Meeting would be arranged, and would be advertised on the notice board and in the shop. The Parish Councillors received details of the application on 10th May and immediately arranged with the Architects to attend a meeting to explain the scheme and their thinking behind it. The earliest the Architects could attend was 15th May. We immediately drew up notices and displayed them on the notice boards at Lanes End, the Gower PC board at the Cross, the Village Hall, in the Post Office and in the Bishop Blaize. Given the time scale individual letters were not possible, and as every household in the Ferris had notification that a meeting was imminent, not considered necessary – we also hope that people talk to each other.

To have arranged a meeting one month in advance would be totally impossible – from the DATE of the CDC letter sending us details of the application, we have a statutory period of only 3 weeks in which to respond – that includes Parish Councillors considering the scheme, arranging meetings and obtaining parishioners views.

2. We have obviously got no control over the time of year any application is made, and it is a busy time for Parish Councillors too, and we felt the attendance at the two meetings was very good, and from all areas of the villages. There were approx. 45 people at the Architects meeting, and others, including I think Suzy, came to view the drawings but did not stay for the meeting. For the Highways meeting there were about 30 of whom approx. 10 had not attended the Architects meeting. To put that into perspective the attendance at the Ferris Annual Parish Meeting was 6. The proposals are actually for 5 flats and 4 dwellings in the existing stone buildings, to demolish the existing brick buildings and construct 10 new dwellings. Suzy is concerned that the houses are too big and to close together. All the developments of 2 or more dwellings we have had in recent years have been of the 4/ 5 bedrooms, 2 en-suite 2 bathroom type of house. It is therefore something of a relief to find that this development contained 1 x 1 bedroom unit, 10 x 2 bedroom units and 3 x 3 bedroom units (the remainder are 4 x 4 beds, and 1 x 5 bed) – this we feel will give a better demographic balance of households and be more in proportion with the rest of the village.

As for being close together, the new houses are made up of 3 x detached, 1 pair semi detached, 1 pair linked to the Manor, and 3 in a terrace.

This again we feel, with the conversion of the existing buildings reflects the original character of the village, which was basically a series of terraced cottages with individual farmhouses between.

We do not feel the houses have been crammed in, and are much preferred to a series of detached or semi-detached houses spread over the site. It is a more sympathetic plan than we see on most village development sites. As for burglars, these villages have had their fair share in recent years.

3. Yes these houses will be purchased by newcomers, ALL new housing is generally too expensive for local people. We are trying to get some ‘affordable’ units into the scheme, but whether these will be for rent or to buy we do not know. Developers will always build more expensive homes than ‘affordable’ homes – there is more profit in it – and until the Government makes a directive to change that, it will remain. When the Conservative Government started to sell off the Council rented housing stock, they stipulated that the money raised could not be used to build replacement rented housing – this remains the same under the Labour Government.

As we see it, the only long term affordable housing is likely to be by Housing Associations / District Councils, but they can do very little because of the cost involved, and to make homes affordable the land has to be given or bought at agricultural prices ( £2,500 – 3,000 per acre rather then building land prices (in Sibford £400,000 / acre).

Personally I would like to see villages with affordable rented housing of sustainable construction and low energy / eco friendly design to give low impact / low maintenance properties.

However we have to be realistic and whilst planning policy remain as it is, developers will work within those rules and guidance.

4. We agree, which is why we arranged the open meeting with the Highways to discuss pedestrian and vehicular safety issues.

5. We agree, and how they will cope with the drainage pipework crossing the geological fault.

6. We agree this may be an issue, it was discussed at the open meeting, and it is part of our initial response.

7. We agree and although the fields between the villages are specifically mentioned in the CDC Local Plan as ‘not to be built on’ we would like this point reinforced, and also that there be no further dwellings built in the walled garden or area behind. We understand from the meeting with the Architects that the Developers would be likely to accept a legal undertaking on this.

Last two paragraphs – we agree, which is why we are trying to arrange further open meetings with the planning officer and the developers when they have had a chance to consider our initial observations on the proposals. This is likely to be in late June or early July –


John Simms, for and on behalf of Sibford Ferris PC.