Like all Parish Council we have our routine and regular business but in the year now closing the by far major topic for consideration has been the Draft Wiltshire Housing Site Allocations Plan.

In respect of Yatton Keynell, 7 sites had been identified (although the draft included what is now Blacksmith Close as a potential site). These were progressively filtered down until in the final iteration, site 482 – Land East of Farrells Field was finally put forward in the Plan.

This was not the first time development of this site had been proposed and we knew that Charles Church (Persimmon) had an option on the site. They had approached us some 3 years ago to gauge our views on a proposal they tabled which amounted to about 30 houses. At that time we could see no justification for this additional housing; the school was at capacity and the doctors’ surgery had put in plans to extend the premises to accommodate the numbers of patients already registered.

Nevertheless we were not at all surprised to see this proposal in the Plan and we had to consider it afresh. Understandably, it provoked a strong response from the residents and neighbours of Farrells Field and we had an obligation to listen carefully to all sides of the argument. We consulted School Governors and Jubilee Field Surgery to assess their positions. Very interestingly we were advised that the 2017 intake was well under the ceiling and the future projections suggested that the additional children anticipated from another 30 houses could easily be accommodated.

Similarly the Surgery felt able to accommodate another 90 to 100 patients without any undue pressure

Anticipating a larger than normal attendance, we held our August and September meetings in the Barn Function Room. I genuinely hope that everybody felt they had been given a fair opportunity to be heard even if we did not all agree with each other. If all the arguments were distilled down, the main objections related to the adequacy rain and foul water drainage, fresh water supply and vehicular access through Farrells Field.

We knew that a previous commercial development had proposed a new access and that this did not give rise an objection from Highways. We therefore saw merit suggesting that should any new housing be approved, the vehicular access should be directly to and from the B4039 with, perhaps, pedestrian only access through Farrells Field.

I raised the alternative direct access with Baroness Scott and she was very supportive. She confirmed this in public at the September meeting and has notified Officials in Wiltshire Council accordingly

On this basis the Parish Council saw no reason why the site should not remain in the Plan whilst recoding our reservations over the drainage, water supply and most strongly in respect of vehicle access.

Staying with planning. As by now everybody will know, a plan has been submitted to develop 4 houses on the site of Phillips Garage. WE had no objections to the plan subject to assurance in respect of access to the drainage ditch and the footpath connecting the development to the exiting pavement. But many in the village have reflected on the loss of a much valued business in the community but of course we all understand that Richard wants take things a bit easier. Although I confess I don’t know anyone else who could just nip home over the road for his elevenses and lunch every day.

Our other recurring issue has been the status of the churchyard over which we have been in correspondence with and held discussion with the PCC. Technically there are two churchyards in question as the extension behind Church Cottage is a separate entity. To be brief we know that there were 4 Orders in Council closing the original churchyard. However, there is no record of the responsibility for upkeep being passed over to the Parish Council as required under the relevant Act. The extension cannot be legally closed because it was opened in 1920 on the authority of the then Secretary of State and there are no means on the Statute Book for it to be closed.

What creates the greatest ambiguity is that in our researches showed that the old churchyard continued in use up to 1921. Furthermore when the extension became full in the 1970 there is physical evidence of new burials taking place in the 1970s. In our view, this renders the status of the churchyards as at best highly ambiguous and the Parish Council does not accept that we have any responsibility for maintenance of the fabric of the churchyards. There has been a voluntary and longstanding undertaking by the PC to pay for grass cutting and we propose to continue with this. This is consistent with a NALC paper from 2014. There is a point of view that because the church is an amenity in the village, enjoyed by us all, we might from, time to time provide a financial contribution toward any major restoration work. We have indicated that we will give this consideration but a more recent NALC paper covering this subject will now have to be factored in.

WE currently have vacancies on the Parish Council. Cllr Sam Hayward resigned in protest at the granting of outline planning permission for Chippenham Gateway. This is a speculative development of sprawling warehousing and industrial estate that according to Wilshire own Core Strategy is to be avoided. Nevertheless a group of the same Councillors who agreed the Core Strategy completely ignored it an approved the development. A huge opportunity to develop a site for multi-purpose, innovative and high value added businesses wasted by our elected representatives.

Let me conclude by thanking everybody who sits on the Council for their commitment to the task and especially to Ian our splendid clerk is always on top of the brief and that we run so smoothly is thanks to him. My thanks to Jane who we accept is now extremely committed to her duties in the House of Lords and elsewhere in London but who is still readily available for consultation and advice.

Finally it was brought to my attention by a former member of this august body that the Parish Council is responsible for ensuring that the integrity of the plague pit in the churchyard is not compromised. I confess that hitherto I was unaware of this obligation. I am however, pleased to report that I have remedied this deficiency and have now dutifully and diligently attended to this matter and can confirm that it remains undisturbed.

Alistair Parker

14 May 2018