It has been a while since our last communication, but rest assured we are still working hard on behalf of the community, as well as trying to fit in our full-time jobs during the busy period leading up to Christmas (which seems to affect the industries we all work in, in equal measure!).
We will soon be entering an important phase in protecting the golf course against development which will require you all to submit comments to the next stage of the local plan consultation; however, this time it will be in “support” of the plan, as it doesn’t include us. We will however be producing a detailed guide on how to comment, and what to say, to make the entire process easier, as there are some important points we need to raise that may help protect the land further. The local plan consultation is expected to start on Tuesday 5th November for 6 weeks.
Prior to then, we will be holding a community meeting to update you on what is happening and when; this is scheduled for Sunday 3rd November and we’ll provide more information soon.
In the meantime, Trevor Sandry (vice-chairman of Wychwood Community Group) has put together a chronology of what has happened in this crazy year since the plans were announced, so grab yourself a cup of tea and have a read. We feel it is important that the entire community are refreshed on each stage so far, so when it comes to the next stage, you are fully up to speed. Please just be mindful that there is significantly more going on behind the scenes which we can’t divulge in these communications, to prevent us showing our cards to Haddon Properties and their representatives too early, but just to say, with the full support of the community, they have one big up-hill battle on their hands!
A History of the Group, the key events and milestones…
Leaflet arrive through our letterboxes inviting us to a presentation about a proposed development, within 12 hours of this Andy Lamb had set up the petition site, which now holds over 1200 names, and within 24 hours every house on Wychwood Village had been leafleted to sign the petition.
Haddon Open weekend at Village Hall, introducing the proposed development.
A core of individuals start to emerge who are very vocal in opposing this development, the core of a committee starts.
Andy Bailey and Trevor Sandry organise the first residents meeting on the 19th, Ian Dews and Andy Lamb also involved.
A massive turnout (circa 300+ people) and a Chairman is named (Andy Bailey) and a committee is formed, those named above plus Paul Burt, who was vocal at the meeting and is committed to help the team. An email list is started, a petition formed, a website starts. We are on our way.
Alison Tipping comes on board as our Media expert and we start to make noises in the community, to the press, to Parish and Local Councils and to our MP.
Finally at the end of March Haddon announce the closure of Gortyshill Golf Club, with the loss of 8 local jobs. We know we are in for a fight.
Flyers go out to all local residents, including most of the CW2 area and the CW2 Wychwood Community Group is formally born.
The second Residents meeting is arranged, again extremely well attended, including Michael Jones, Leader of Cheshire East Council. Mr Jones is brash and outspoken and clearly states his opposition to the proposal and that if we don’t want it he will support us. A pledge he is keeping. A committee is voted in en masse, comprising Andy Bailey – Chair; Trevor Sandry – Vice Chair; Ian Dews; Andy Lamb and Paul Burt, with Tom Applegarth as Treasurer. Regular meetings start, key contacts are made and honed, residents are rallied to help with specialist skills and battle plans are drawn up.
Further media releases are made and the scale of the potential battle is known. We need funds and legal help and expertise to do this. Legal, Environmental and Fundraising Sub Committees are formed.
Cheshire East Council Local Plan is in progress and not being in this would seem to be crucial. Cllr Jones and his colleagues are regularly contacted to let them know we are here and mobilised to fight. Objections to the development are formally raised. Regular newsletters to the community start.
A formal letter of objection is hand delivered to Peter Hunt of Haddon Developments. We never did receive a reply.
Andy Bailey and Trevor Sandry met with our local MP, Edward Timpson and he is aware of our plight and will support our fight. Another ally on board.
A Strategic Planning Board public meeting is held at the Crewe Alex to review 25 additional sites that have been suggested as possible alternate developments for inclusion in the Local Plan. We have four speakers, Andy Bailey, Sonia Harris-Short, Jeremy Edwards and Jenny Moran (once again thanks to you all) and the Group makes a considerable impact on a packed meeting room. The Council and Haddon know we are serious, organised and ready for battle. A key event, well supported by John Cornell from Weston and Basford Parish Council and Janet Clowes, our local councillor, who have both been staunch supporters from the start.
This leads to the start of a consultation period looking at all of these sites and the Committee works hard to mobilise support from residents to raise their own objections to the plans.
The Social Committee is starting to take off and a Fun Day is organised for the 26th May at the Village Hall. Amanda Towns and Paul Burt lead the organising and a fantastic day is had by all and the fighting fund is started. Thanks to Amanda and Paul and everyone else who helped on the day and by donating raffle prizes. A Community is born I feel. We now have our own Bank Account and we are starting to feel as well as act as a professional unit.
The results of the consultation are in and the Committee, and you as residents, did us proud. The largest number of objections by far, well over 600, and a real statement of intent, that we are not going away, we will fight to the end and we know what we are doing.
We start to contact other local groups and councils and the network of contacts and supporters grows.
Planning for a further fund raising night starts, and generally a quiet month, we had a Pimms in the Park event, organised by Jenny Moran, who is now part of the Committee as our Secretary, then…
Travellers turn up on the Golf Course. A fantastic show of support from residents and despite some unpleasantness from the Travellers, a peaceful demonstration against the invasion. They were quickly removed, via an injunction and Bailiffs organised by Haddon.
As a group we started to further consider security and a telephone dialogue started with Haddon, which would lead to a face to face meeting in August. A Security survey was undertaken, thanks to Mark Kennedy for that, and presented to Haddon. We also looked into extra security, i.e. as per Wychwood Park, but the cost was just prohibitive. Some additional measures were introduced, thankfully the concrete blocks have now gone, but Security is still a concern. Local eyes and ears were crucial in seeing the travellers so quickly and we have to remain vigilant, as the threat remains a real one.
In the aftermath of the Travellers a meeting was arranged with representatives of Haddon, which happened at the end of August. They are still intending to put in a planning application, but do not know when. We wait and see.
The committee along with our Legal team, Sonia Harris-Short and Hannah Beavon, have been working on a formal constitution for the Group and this is now ready for formal presentation to the residents. Thanks again for all your help Sonia and Hannah.
On the environmental front much has been happening since day 1, and the team led by Evie Astbury-Field are keeping a very close eye on what is going on, the environmental impact of activities and the increasing wildlife, flora and fauna to be seen on the Golf Course and Country Park. The walks at the Fun Day in May and those organised in early September were fun, informative and another aspect of the growing Community we are getting. In addition to this the environment team has almost completed a Phase 1 habitat survey and logged every tree within the golf course.
Our media bandwagon rolled on too as we hosted the BBC Radio Stoke Breakfast Show from the Village Hall, with a number of residents interviewed. Many thanks to all who helped on this, Carol’s bacon butties and Gem’s brews went down a treat with all concerned. BBC NorthWest News also came down and did an interview with Paul Burt (our most “local” of the committee members) which was aired on that evenings BBC News. We have come a long way and the Media contacts keep proving useful.
Our biggest fund raiser to date happened, the Bond themed Casino Night at the Claret Jug, which was kindly donated for free by De Vere Hotels. It was a fantastic night, exceeding most people’s expectations and we raised considerable funds for the ongoing fight. Thanks must go especially to Paul Burt for the organisation (how can he get so many freebies and favours from people!!) Mark Kennedy for the Disco and everyone who attended. A great night, definitely to be repeated. Even the Claret Jug were impressed, certainly shows the benefits of being able to walk home after a night out.
Andy Bailey and Trevor Sandry had another meeting with Edward Timpson MP and he again was very supportive and would be talking to Nick Boles MP, Minister for Planning, on our behalf.
The draft local plan was also released in September and thankfully, as hoped and expected, we were NOT in it. This is great news and a considerable victory, but the war is far from over.
Further BBC Radio interviews took place, this time with Trevor Sandry, keeping us in the spotlight.
Bang up to date, Andy Bailey and Trevor Sandry were invited to a meeting with MP’s Edward Timpson and Nick Boles to discuss planning issues, which was again very helpful and insightful. The key element coming out is support the local plan, this will be the main element to stop any development going ahead on the site. There are a number of other elements and areas we are looking at to provide additional support to our case, but for good reason many of these are under wraps at the moment, until we can be sure of them.
In terms of the local plan another consultation is due to get underway, starting 5th November for 6 weeks and we would again request your help and support in backing the local plan as far as we can in not including any further development on the Wychwood sites.
To this end we will be organising another residents meeting for Sunday 3rd November at the Village Hall, to update you all on progress, talk about future Social events and to ratify the constitution and the committee that represents you. We will also be looking to change the name of the Group in the Constitution to the Wychwood Community Group, as this is what we believe we have evolved into.
Please look out for further details on this and the opportunity to meet the team, ask questions in an open forum and let us know how you can further help to stop this speculative, unwanted and unsustainable development.
I hope you find this useful and to it emphasises how far we have come, and also what may still lie ahead, supporting the local plan is key, as is helping the Parish and Local Council representatives in their fights against other developments in and around Weston. Village A around Crewe Hall is still very much on the agenda and will have a massive impact on us as a community and the infrastructure around us. Haddon will, I am sure, put in a planning application at some stage, but believe me we are ready for them, and with your support will defeat them.
I have mentioned a number of committed and community spirited people in the above update and I am sorry if I have missed anyone out, but it is great that we have all pulled together to get this far. Thanks and respect must go the rest of the Committee who, believe me, put in many hours of work per week for you, your families and the wider community, and because they, and I, love where we live and want to keep the Community that it is rapidly becoming.
Believe me it doesn’t stop here, there are still many challenges ahead and we will need your help to defeat them.