CURRENT ISSUES - NOVEMBER 2018

The Society Award

We are currently seeking nominations for the Downton Society Award for 2019.

In 2018, the judging panel met and 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 in the coming year , there will be more applicants for this Award. Submissions can be from any part of the Parish and range from a minor replacement such as windows to a significant building project. For more details, see the Award section of this website

The Primary School extension

By contrast, we are disappointed to learn that the Salisbury Civic Society (SCS) Awards panel is considering a Commendation award for the Downton Primary School new extension, which is notable for its controversial red and white external panelling.

The Downton Society, though supporting the need for an extension to the school, has always been vocal in its opposition to the panelling. 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 (full article in the Archive section) . Concerns were focused mainly on the location of the building - in the heart of the village, adjacent to listed properties and the Memorial gardens, and, importantly, within a designated Conservation area. Local and national planning policy accepts that modern structures can be built in conservation areas but states they must be of a quality and design that ‘contributes to’ their environment. In this location, the school extension (likened by many residents to a fire station) unfortunately detracts rather than enhances. In addition, the land on which it was built was given in trust to the village in memory of a soldier killed in WW1, so there is a strong feeling that both architects and planners should have been more mindful of local sensibilities.

We particularly regret that the Civic Society - which aims to “improve the environment and enrich (the) quality of life in Salisbury and South Wiltshire”- appears to be supporting a judgement that so singularly fails to do. Whatever justification might be given about effective use of internal space, those living in the vicinity of this inappropriately designed building feel strongly it has neither enriched nor improved the character of our village. The Downton Society has written to the Civic Society to express disappointment with a process which ignored informed local opinion and a decision which fails to support conservation policy.

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. The problem is largely down to poor signage and 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 new sign 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. not accessible via the B3080. A significant proportion of HGVs flouting the ban have been recorded as accessing BidFood and, although the company advises drivers to access the site via the A338, the delivery chain often involves 2/3 different HGVs so this just does not work in practice. Also,the weight limit is apparently too complicated to be programmed even into commercial SatNav systems and there is also the added problem that drivers assume that the Industrial Estate is within the weight limit area.

The Society has been battling this issue for close to a decade and is considering ways in which to make a final push for resolution.

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; but, at present, lack of funding, even for initial surveys, means that this project is very much on hold.

The Memorial Hall

Work to increase the size of the Memorial Hall to provide two meeting rooms (with wifi and audio facilities) as well as accommodation for the Pre-School is essentially complete.   Open Days held at the end of November were a great success and bookings for the new rooms are already being taken. Identifying suitable parking to meet the needs of the newly enlarged Memorial Hall which will be attracting additional visitors from the end of this year will become an important issue.

WILTSHIRE LOCAL PLAN CONSULTATIONS

In November the Parish Council responded to a re-submission document of proposed changes to the Downton Settlement Boundary. These include extending the boundary to encompass recreational and amenity space such as Moot garden and the Playing Field, Memorial Gardens and the Cricket Field, the tennis courts and Downton Football pitch, as well as the Baptist and Catholic churches and car parks, and the new development at Bishops Mead to the west of the Salisbury Road. A member of D Soc committee was involved in the initial review of the settlement boundary proposals and our comments were noted.

In the longer term, Wiltshire Council 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 new Government planning guidance.  At an initial briefing, which we attended in Salisbury it was shown that WC did not envisage additional housing for Downton.   However, Wiltshire Council 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 ) which was issued in the summer. We will continue to monitor this, particularly in the context of the Downton Neighbourhood Plan, as it has become clear that  NP’s will have to be reviewed every three years or so to ensure that they remain in line with government and local authority policy.