I was at a wedding in Suffolk this weekend, and had interesting conversations with two farmers. After dissecting the impact that the Russian harvest was having on domestic grain prices, and the merits and demerits of forward-selling commodities, I raised with each the subject of the Community Right to Build. Neither had heard of it, but both were naturally intrigued. And both were highly sceptical. One had a very instructive anecdote to share…
In his village (which shall remain nameless) the neighbouring farmer owned a field, opposite the village green but just outside the development boundary. The village hall, at the other end of the village was in desperate need of repair, and also struggling on its tiny plot to provide adequate parking. The farmer proposed to donate a plot of land on his field for the construction of a new village hall, facing the green (useful for the village fete, bonfire night, etc) and with enough room for ample parking. Around the new hall he would build six houses. The land occupied by the old village hall could be sold off by the Village Hall Trustees, and the development profit from the three houses it would accommodate would be enough to pay for the construction of the new hall. The farmer would get a nice little development project, and the village would get a shiny new village hall with plenty of parking, right opposite the village green. It sounded almost too good to be true.
And indeed it was. The Parish Council took against the idea and refused to support it, so the plan stalled. The Village Hall Committee set to raising funds to re-build the hall on its existing site, and eventually managed to secure the money, in several chunks. The second phase of the re-build is nearly complete, but the village was without the hall for a year, and the new building will still have too little parking and be in the wrong place. And the farmer didn’t get his development.
‘What went wrong?’ I asked the chap recounting this sorry tale. His first response was depressing: ‘People don’t like to see others getting on, do they?’. He went on to observe, mischievously perhaps, that two Parish Councilors had homes facing the green and didn’t like the idea of closing in their view. ‘Did your neighbour do much work on sweetening people up,’ I asked, ‘going round and ‘tapping people up’, one by one?’. He hadn’t, it seems. Presumably he had thought, not unreasonably perhaps, that such a brilliant idea would sell itself.
PS: For a more optimistic story see ‘75% Support? Impossible, surely…’