CURRENT ISSUES - March 2019

Annual General Meeting

The Society AGM will be held in the Bonvalot Room of the Memorial Hall at 7.30pm on the 23rd May 2019.

The Society Award

The deadline for nominations for the 2019 Downton Society (Building) Award is the end of April. The winner will be announced at the AGM in May.

In 2018, the judging panel unanimously decided that 81 The Borough fully deserved the year’s Award. The owners had made a great effort to ensure that their extension was in keeping with, and added, to their immediate environment. Their architect had reflected local character in both design and use of materials and the work was skilfully executed by their builder.

In setting up the Award, the Society aims to be positive – to promote the idea that not all change or development is approached in a negative way. Whist opposing plans that adversely affect the Conservation area or listed buildings, the Society supports change that is relevant or appropriate to a modern community. A new build or renovation does not have to be a copy (“pastiche”) of what already exists, but it does need to add, rather than detract, from the streetscape and village experience.

We hope that this year, there will be more applicants for the Award. Submissions can be from any part of the Parish and range from minor replacements, such as windows, to a significant building project. For more details, see the Award section of this website.

Downton in Bloom 2020

We have a beautiful village but it could be even more beautiful!

The Society is exploring options for entering Britain in Bloom 2020, has been in contact with the RHS about procedures, and floated the idea with the Parish Council.

A small group  is being gathered to shape the practicalities, and to develop a   process that will  be  realistic and enjoyable for all involved.  Proposals will be put forward at the AGM on 23rd May; but if any member has particular ideas or contributions, now is the time to voice them.

Robert Willcox is co-ordinating the project and can be contacted at  robert@oneclickhealth.co.uk

Planning

The White Horse

There is concern about the future of the White Horse which has now closed for business.

This is, arguably, the most important historic building in Downton, dominating the Borough, and, although much altered, dating back to the 15th century. (For more information read the article under our Conservation button). Significant work needs to be undertaken on the building and while it is fortunate that the very fine medieval timbers are largely in a sound condition there are significant problems with later timber and some structural i speculation but are concerned that the owners, Ei Group plc (Enterprise Inns), faced with the renovation costs, and the difficulty of finding a suitable tenant, may seek to sell.

The Downton Society appreciates that the licensing trade is currently under pressure and that many breweries are shedding assets, but we feel that an innovative and welcoming new tenant or owner, could make a success of this perfectly located inn. There is plenty of room in the building to provide other services (post-office, delicatessen, restaurant, rooms etc) - what is required is enterprise and imagination.

This listed building may have to be modified but we feel strongly that it should remain a village asset. Attempts to change its core function as a community asset will be opposed, and, should it come to this, we would be seeking the full support of residents. We are mindful of a worst case scenario, but hope that the White Horse will once again become a popular village inn.

The Primary School extension - panelling

The Downton Society supported the need for an extension to the primary school, but has been vocal in its opposition to the red and white redeco panelling facing the Borough. Along with the Parish Council and residents, we objected at planning stage to the design and materials, and had an article in the Salisbury Journal reinforcing our views (see the Archive section). Concerns were focused mainly on surrender of part of the Memorial Gardens for a new building, inappropriate design in the heart of the village, where it is adjacent to listed properties and, importantly, location within a designated Conservation area. Local and national planning policy accepts that modern structures can be successfully built in conservation areas but states they must be of a quality and design that ‘contributes to’ their environment. In this location, the controversial school extension (likened by many residents to a fire station) is believed to detract rather than enhance.

We particularly regret that, earlier this year, Salisbury Civic Society (SCS) - which aims to “celebrate our heritage” and enhance the environment in Salisbury and South Wiltshire - chose to give a Commendation to the Downton School extension under their Conservation Awards scheme. They justified it on the grounds of effective use of internal space (which is admittedly beneficial to the school and pupils) but those living in the vicinity of the building feel strongly it has neither enhanced nor improved the character of our village. The Downton Society wrote formally to the Civic Society to express disappointment with a process which ignored informed local opinion and a decision which failed to support conservation policy. Our Chairman also attended the awards ceremony and discussed the issue with officers of the Civic Society Although the SCS still maintains that .... “the addition of some coloured modern plastic provides an effective new accent” ...we are optimistic that, in future, local conservation policy will not be ignored.

The Memorial Gardens

Members may have noticed that the shelter in the Memorial Gardens has had a makeover. After a year in which your committee considered various options – from graffiti resistant tiles to living eco-roofs – a proposal was put to the Parish Councll to share the costs of improving the shelter. It was decided that a simple refurb was the best option and the work is very nearly complete. A definite improvement we think.

Traffic

Traffic flow and parking in Downton remain problematic and although a Parish Council working group, in which society members were involved, found that there were few ways of improving the availability of parking in the village, we address this issue whenever a planning application is made for new development.

Meanwhile, the HGV weight limit of 7.5 tons continues to be flouted. Attempts to address this at various levels (including Area Board, ,County council and our MP) have failed. We feel strongly that, unless there is clear signage at major access points (especially from the M27) lorry drivers will be tempted to use the B3080 through the village as a short cut. A sign erected last year at the Cadnam roundabout doesn’t help – it highlights width restrictions at Landford but makes no mention of restrictions through Downton.

For those reading this who are new to the village, it should be pointed out that Downton Industrial Estate is excluded from the weight restriction (i.e. it should not be accessible via the B3080) . A significant proportion of HGVs flouting the ban have been linked with BidFood and, although the company advises drivers to use the A338, the delivery chain involves 2/3 different suppliers so is difficult to control. It is also argued that it is complicated to programme the weight limit (even into commercial SatNav systems) so there is the added problem of some drivers assuming that the Industrial Estate is within the weight limit area.

The Society has been battling this issue for close to a decade and have now written to the parish council – it will be discussed at the next meeting on 23rd April.

Footpaths

The Downton Society Footpath Group has walked parish paths and beyond for over 10 years. As well as organising a regular programme of walks, the Group has worked in partnership with the Parish Council Amenities committee to obtain grants and improve paths in the Southern Wiltshire area. The marked and improved circular path with newly installed kissing gates (via Charlton Mill) is now complete.

Proposed bridge

You may be aware of proposals to link the southern area of the village (Moot Lane) with The Borough by a footpath and bridge. We understand that Longford Estates, the owner of fields which the path will cross, has given approval in principle. The Downton Society supports the idea of the footpath and bridge subject to more detail and consultation. Funding to the tune of £4,500 has been received as part of developers community contributions (in respect of the Charles Church new housing) and this will cover a survey and design study to look at the viability, options for design and positioning etc.

Wiltshire Local Plan Consultation

In November, the PC responded to a Wiltshire Council document proposing changes to the Downton Settlement Boundary. These included extending the boundary to encompass recreational and amenity space such as the Moot Garden Playing Field and Memorial Gardens, the old cricket field, tennis courts and Downton football pitch, as well as Baptist and Catholic churches and the new Bishops Mead development on the Salisbury Road . The Downton Society’s Chairman was involved in the PC review group & is following developments. There appears to be nothing particularly contentious about proposals for Downton, but an independent Inspector will be considering all the Wiltshire settlement boundaries at a public meeting in Trowbridge on 11th April. We hope our PC will be represented.

In the longer term, Wiltshire Council (WC) is engaged in a review process to create a new Wiltshire Local Plan, which will guide the overall scale and pattern of development in the county up to 2036 . The new plan will replace the current Wiltshire Core Strategy. Development decisions will be made on the basis of evidence gathered on local economic issues, infrastructure and housing need, as well as ongoing consultation, but the Plan will also be subject to any new Government planning guidance.  At an initial briefing, which we attended in Salisbury it was shown that no additional housing was envisaged for Downton.   However, WC have since said that no decisions have yet been made on locations for future growth and development, as they will have to be reviewed in the light of the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF ) issued last summer. We will continue to monitor this, particularly in the context of the Downton Neighbourhood Plan, as it has become clear that  Plans will need to be reviewed every three years or so to ensure that they remain in line with government and local authority policy.

Copyright Downton Society 2019