The Sway Way Forward
There are so many options before us that I felt I had to put them down in writing and try to prioritise them. Previously I have tried to persuade villagers to write articles, and now I am following my own advice! The following is my take on the way forward for our village.
Earlier consultation asked for our views on the type of Sway we wish to live in; the result was the Sway Village Design Statement published in May 2013. A Housing Needs Survey in November 2013 not only examined the type of housing we needed but included a section on what we wanted from our Parish Council. As a result of these consultations we have a fair idea of what villagers want; this information has been passed on to our Parish and District Councils and to the National Park Authority.
In October we were asked to respond to a survey of our requirements for the future of our Village Hall, and we are also informed that we may comment on the New Forest National Park Local Plan Consultation Draft, dated October 2016. As a result, there are to be two meetings at the Village Hall where our views are being canvassed; on 2 November we can see a display of the New Forest National Park Local Plan Consultation Draft, and on the 3 December, following a suggestion by the Parish Council, there is to be a display of options that are being presented to the Trustees of the Sway Social Club, as alternatives to the creation of a large complex building at the Jubilee Field. It is implied that the Trustees will consider whether any of these proposals fit in with the objectives of their Trust.
I have filled in the Village Hall questionnaire on line, and will be writing to the National Park with my views on the draft plan. So far so good you might think, but the underlying issues that are before us are significant and likely to affect the quiet enjoyment of our village.
At the moment we have seven ‘community’ buildings in Sway where we might meet; this is in addition to a hotel, pub and café. The seven are, roughly in order as you might walk through the village; the Village Hall, ArtSway, Youth Centre, St Luke’s Church and Rooms, Jubilee Field Pavilion, St Luke’s School, and the Scout Hut. We can discount ArtSway and the School as they are not on offer.
The Village Hall Committee will be presenting proposals on the 3 December seeking funds to do something useful and important; the hall is well maintained but needs work to stabilise part of its foundations and to improve its thermal insulation. The Chairman of their management committee has told of a wish to build an extension to accommodate the growth of Little Flyers, the nursery school.
The Youth Centre, held on a long lease by the Parish Council from the Church, has already upgraded its fabric to ensure it is thermally efficient, and it has planning permission to increase space for the use of Robin Nursery and a youth club. It failed in its bid to raise the funds for its new building.
Recently St Luke’s Church has had a significant upgrade and is now a modern space suitable for a variety of uses; it is not canvassing new uses but this attractive well serviced space is underused.
Jubilee Field Pavilion is owned by the Parish Council and whilst it is not old, it is getting to an age when an upgrade might be useful.
The Lease of the Scout Hut land ends shortly and the Scouts are considering relocating.
A permanent home is needed for our annual Carnival.
Now, in addition to the £500,000 or thereabouts, that the Trustees of the Social Club may contribute, it is possible that, should the development proposed in the NFNPA draft Local Plan go ahead, the village might be offered land to attach to Jubilee Fields and a pot of money to spend on facilities. This looks like a wonderful opportunity; more land at Jubilee Field, and a shed load of money. Opportunity however is often accompanied by Threat.
The opportunity offered to us at the August Parish Council Meeting to see a two-million-pound new building at Jubilee Field is balanced by the threat that the Parish Council will, as owners of the new facility, be required to underwrite its future running costs. The opportunity offered by the Draft NFNPA Local Plan for 90 small homes will have to be weighed against the threat of more traffic in and around Church Lane and Westbeams Road.
I have an open mind, and am grateful to my friends who so far have debated the issues with me, but after much soul searching over the past few weeks I have now made my choices for our future;
• I thank Ian Gale and his other trustees for coming up with a proposal for a new pavilion at Jubilee Field, but I want something smaller. I still want my social club with a snooker table but can we please have something ‘Sway’ size; and if it links up with the Football Club, that is OK with me, but can we please restrict our aims to those of a village and not exclude our annual village carnival. If necessary and they want it can we please have a new Cricket pavilion. Both pavilions to be simple structures with simple services.
• Assuming, that if you add together the spare space in all of the above facilities, we already have sufficient space for all our needs, can we please see all of these facilities work together to enable us to accommodate the growing need for pre-school care, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. five days a week, and 50 weeks a year. This requires leadership by our Parish Council and a willingness of St Luke’s Church, whose congregation has dug deeply into its pockets for a major upgrade, to offer the use of the church for community uses in addition to worship. It requires the three pre-school groups to find a way of working together to share joint facilities – not an easy task as no doubt the separate organisations have a different ethos. This is a great opportunity for St Luke’s to increase its footfall and engage with a wider community.
• Let’s acknowledge the contribution of Mr Moser to our village when he made three separate bequests, the Village Hall land to the women of Sway, the Social Club land to the men of Sway, and Stanford Rise Open Space (SROS) to the village of Sway. With the leadership of our WI and Parish Council, and the enlightened foresight of the Trustees of the Social Club, could we unite Mr Moser’s three initiatives? Unite the Village Hall with the Stanford Rise Open Space, re-clad the building with a thermally efficient system, and re-model it to take advantage of its position next to the open space. Perhaps the effective Village Hall Committee and the energetic Carnival Committee might get together and provide a permanent home for our Carnival and Fete.
• Let’s also acknowledge the energy and vision required to acquire the site of the Jubilee Field by Barry Rickman and Carole Gates; brush off their original plans and get back to basics for the field; I doubt that they imagined at the outset that it would take up such a large part of the Parish income, and that the sports clubs would attain such a high status that they are well regarded within the District and County. If there is a need for more sophisticated and larger facilities I believe that this is the role for our District Council, not our Parish Council.
• Ask the Parish Council to provide an annual grant to enable the Village Hall Committee and the Board of Sway Youth Centre Ltd to do more than keep their head above water. Both facilities are able to charge only sufficient to cover their running costs; there is no ‘return on capital’ or contribution to a sinking fund to cover future major maintenance of the structure or expenditure on updating the services. Both need grants or significant fund raising activity. In my opinion both organisations should receive grants from one of the Local Government organisations; County Council, District Council, or Parish Council. Young people are now too busy to do voluntary work and some of the older people who volunteer are no longer able to do the amount of work required to keep the facilities operational.
• To build the 90 houses, but acknowledge that this is a threat to those living in Church Lane and to a lesser extent to those living in Westbeams Road and Setthorns. This proposal will take many years to be built, but if it is, we need to consider the loss of amenity. Perhaps this can be reduced by leaving the existing hedge along the south side of the road. It might also be possible to adopt the idea of a one-way system down Church Lane with a complimentary ‘up’ lane on the other side of the hedge. Alternatively a new roadway can be two way and Church Lane could remain as an access road only. Safe crossing points, traffic calming, and a drop off point for the school would need consideration.
If all of these issues are to be resolved, our Parish Council will need to accept the challenge that goes with ownership and the keeper of our public purse. It has important decisions before it; will it:-
• Respond to the priorities voted upon by the community in the Parish Survey carried out in 2013, and provide guidance on trimming hedges and clearing ditches. If none of the councillors are willing to take this on board perhaps the Council can seek a volunteer who will provide them with a proposal.
• Respond to the NFNPA draft Local Plan Consultation Document that will be presented to Sway at the Village Hall on Wednesday 2 November between 1400 and 1930. Perhaps sponsor a master plan for Sway, that would identify the mix, size and tenure of the new housing, offer suggestions for the parking in the village centre combined with the safety of pedestrians and traffic management.
• Endorse or not the provision of a larger Jubilee Field Pavilion, and/or to grant a lease to an organisation set up to run it. Both options will result almost inevitably in increased Parish expenditure. Perhaps commission a leisure land use management consultant to prepare a master plan for Jubilee Field; this is well within the capability of a local firm of architects.
• Provide the Village Hall and Youth Centre with an annual allowance to enable them to build reserves so that they can meet the cost of major repair and maintenance.
Accept any surplus land from the development of 90 houses on the land fronting Church Lane
I wish the Parish Councillors well in their deliberations, and ask them to bear in mind that ‘Small is beautiful’, keep it simple, and let’s be happy with ‘Sway size’.