GOOD news!

Well, I don’t know if I’m late to this, or early, or what, but the grapevine has been buzzing round Old Sarum today, to say the decision is back from the big planning inquiry – and it’s good news! My considered opinion on the matter was that we required divine intervention – well it looks like our prayers were truly answered this time! I’ve ferreted out the location of the full report and you can read it here.

I have only skimmed the report so far, and I’m sure there’s lots of juicy detail to be squeezed out when I have an hour or two to sit down and work it out, but the gist of it is that there will be NO BUILDING allowed on the country park open space (area 12), or on the swale land (area 11). These were the two areas I felt really hot under the collar about, so it’s a major relief to hear this! Interestingly, the inspector also threw out the appeal for areas 9a and 9b, although I imagine Persimmon will put in an altered application for that land at some point. Area 10 and the shops (local centre) have had their appeals upheld and Persimmon will be building there. I always thought area 10 was likely to get through; it would be daft to leave that chunk of space with nothing on it. And the shops – well I don’t know how it got to the appeal stage anyway, why couldn’t they just agree on that one? Everyone wants the shops!

So all round it seems like a successful outcome. Phew! I feel really grateful to the people who showed up at the inquiry to put the point of view of people living here, so if anyone reading comes into that category then THANK YOU!


The big inquiry has begun

The big inquiry into Persimmon’s outstanding planning applications for Old Sarum has begun, at the Red Lion in Salisbury. Having a toddler at home is brilliant, but it sadly excludes me from sitting through four days of proceedings. All I’ve heard so far is a third-hand account of the first day’s business. In a nutshell, it sounds like Persimmon have hired a professional bulldozer kind of guy, while Wiltshire have hired an incompetent doormat, who has failed to mention some important points and allowed his argument to be trampled by Persimmon. I’ve heard grumbles in the past about how Persimmon must have undue influence to get their plans past inquiries, but it looks to me as though the problem is actually with Wiltshire. What was the point of the planners making decisions on these applications, if they’re not prepared to defend those decisions robustly? Apparently the Residents’ Association were going to make a statement this morning, trying to cover the areas Wiltshire missed out.

My informant seems to think the only way we can win the day is through divine intervention – so let’s all get praying!

Up in the air

To start off, something amusing! The OldSarumFamily were heading out for a little walk on Saturday morning, when we noticed a man walking towards us along the Portway, his parachute draped over his shoulder, looking rather sheepish! He had obviously not been able to land in the proper place. Perhaps the wind was a bit unpredictable that day, as another sky diver apparently also landed unexpectedly!

I’m a bit confused about the state of some of Persimmon’s planning applications at the moment. As a household who commented on the plans originally, we get sent notification by the council of anything going on. There was a strange letter a few days ago, saying that there will be some sort of hearing about Persimmon wishing to appeal the recent decisions on Area 9a/9b and the Local Centre. Well, appealing 9a/9b is not unexpected – after all the planning committee turned them down. But the Local Centre was approved! Why do they want to appeal that? It looks to me remarkably like them sticking two fingers up at the community and trying to delay the provision of shops just because we don’t like them trying to over-develop the estate. I really hope Wiltshire Council can find a way to get Persimmon building those shops a.s.a.p. so we can achieve buying a pint of milk without getting in the car or on the bus.

And now for something really scary. Have you seen this? I had heard rumours a while back about the Airfield being threatened with development, but I never believed it could get anywhere. I mean, that airfield is not just a local landmark, it is of national importance, given its history. There is some kind of public consultation scheduled for later this month, supposedly to work out what kind of houses will be built there. Why are we not being consulted on WHETHER houses should be built there? One of the areas suggested for building is in the pig field where a plane crashed last year! One area will bring Ford considerably closer to Old Sarum – they are NOT going to want that! And any building whatsoever just sounds crazy to me. At present, we hear all the aircraft taking off and landing quite clearly, and that’s with a screen of industrial buildings between us and the airfield. Don’t get me wrong, I love the aircraft (as do the children), but I don’t think anyone would choose to live smack bang on the airfield! There are so many reasons why this would be a terrible idea. So what’s going on with this consultation? On the schedule for day one is a speech by David Milton of Wiltshire Council on the adopted policy. So they have decided this land is suitable for housing and we get no say in the matter? I feel like turning up with a placard outside the meeting!

September planning committee meeting

The weather forecast says cold and rainy for tomorrow, so that seems to mark the official end to summer! OldSarumGirl is settling in well at Old Sarum Primary School, and a new phase of life begins. We haven’t tried out the new little play area outside school yet. To be honest, I’ve heard the people living opposite have had a horrible time with noisy kids in the school holidays, and I feel a bit self conscious about letting mine play in there. It really is awfully close to the houses. It’s a shame to complain though, as it has taken a long time to wring anything like this out of Persimmon.

Some of Persimmon’s planning applications come up before the Wiltshire southern planning committee this evening. I see both are recommended for approval, so I wonder what will really happen? One application is for the shop buildings, which everyone is so desperate for. The other is a small area of housing in the north-east corner of the estate. The only objection to that seems to be the fact that Persimmon have already used up their agreed housing numbers. It kind of sounds like a technicality, until you realise that they have no practical way of compensating for over-populating the estate. They can’t do anything now to improve Sherbourne Drive. It’s completely useless as a bus route, people park on it and builders’ vehicles are still using it every day. More houses will mean even more traffic for the road.

The school could be challenged too. As we live in an older house, we are technically outside the catchment area. This year, there was space for OldSarumGirl so no problem. Another year that might not be the case. I can see it causing a lot of anger if those catchment rules ever start being put into practice. So much has been done to integrate the old and new communities, what a step backward it would be to segregate our children at school. More new houses means more children moving in and being put ahead of established families on the list.

I look forward to hearing the outcome of the planning committee.


*** Do read Wiltshire councillor Ian McLennan’s comment below!***

Being neighbourly

I was a bit worried about the state of the grass (or rather weed-infested bare earth) in the new Country Park in the last few weeks, but this week we went for a wander round and it does appear that grass seed was sown and there is a considerable amount of greenery shooting! The docks are a magnificent size though, I’m glad it’s not my garden to weed!

Near the park I noticed a clean-up-after-your-dog sign on someone’s front lawn, and was reminded of the recent post on the Residents’ Association site. I can’t believe people will let their dogs poo right outside houses, on the beautifully kept grass! Maybe it’s not very nice to have to pick it up, but if you don’t like it then why get a dog? I’m not a dog owner, but babies make quite a heap of poo too and I certainly don’t leave it lying around for others to walk in!

Not having our own dog, I didn’t realise that you’re actually allowed to put (bagged) dog poo in ordinary litter bins. For a long time the only litter bin I knew of in Old Sarum was the one in the playground on Partridge Way, but now there are plenty, shiny and new, in the Country Park. I hope a few more dog owners might start to act in a more neighbourly fashion with access to those.

Helicopter spotting

Recently I’ve been wanting to teach the children how to tell the difference between the kinds of helicopter we see flying past on a very frequent basis (in the same way they learn that we have robins/blackbirds/gold finches in the garden, not just “birds”). Trouble was, I didn’t know one from another myself, apart from the good old Chinook!

After a long quest on various aircraft-geek sites I’ve put together a printable sheet of the types I think we see most often. I’ve restricted it to generic names, rather than model numbers, as I really don’t know (or much care!) how you tell two models apart while they are zooming past. They are all shown as black and white silhouettes, because colours can be hard to see sometimes and also not guaranteed to be always the same, although I’ve added notes on a couple which have distinctive colouration.

I think these are all military helicopters, as they all seem to fly the same flight path usually, but I’m not overly knowledgeable on the topic.

We’ve stuck a copy up on the conservatory window, which looks out towards helicopter-land, for quick reference when they come into view. If you’d like your own copy, please go to the Community Rooms website who have kindly agreed to provide it for download.

In the news

It was nice to see some Old Sarum stories on the Salisbury Journal website today. I’m afraid I don’t follow football myself, but I’m bound to take something of an interest when the cheers at the Ray Mac stadium can be heard so loudly from my house! Well done to Salisbury City FC on their big win on Sunday!

Also, news of a new plane at the Boscombe Down Aviation Museum, reunited with the pilot who flew her last, and being restored for the public to admire here at Old Sarum.


P.S., do check out the interesting (disturbing?) news in the comment from Ian McLennan on my last post.

Care home finally given green light

The Wiltshire Council planning website has been in a kind of limbo in the last few weeks, and this evening it became obvious they had been making some changes behind the scenes. The new system is virtually useless when I try to do a blanket search for all applications in Old Sarum, and no longer has the handy “applications received in the last week” feature either. (OldSarumDad also says it is a shockingly hackable database that anyone could disable in a matter of seconds, but that’s off topic…) Hopefully I’ll be able to work it out before the late decisions come in on Persimmon’s clutch of applications here – I hate being left in the dark due to their incompetent system!

I am indebted to the Salisbury Journal website for informing us all that the care home by the axe head roundabout has been granted permission to go ahead. It has been stalled so long in the pipeline that the decision seems sudden, but I never really understood the reason for the hold up, beyond uncertainty over Equinox’s noise pollution having an impact on any user of the site.

I’m quite unsure how Old Sarum will look once this towering three-storey building is installed opposite Ramsbury Drive, but at least we know it is in response to a genuine need, rather than “employment” buildings that are doomed to sit empty year on year.

School place offered!

We’re all very pleased here, as OldSarumGirl has been offered a place at Old Sarum Primary School. It’s a great little school, fantastic facilities, fabulous staff, and an easy walk from home. I’ve heard on the grapevine that this year’s popular reception class teacher will be staying on, which is great news too, as we’ve heard such good things about her.

Taking OldSarumBoy out for a walk to see the diggers last week, we discovered the barriers are down at the new “country park” and we can now walk on the paths. I wouldn’t recommend walking off the paths, as it’s a bit of a mess – far from finished still. But another little snippet of progress, which is all positive.

Planning decisions stalled

I noticed a couple of weeks ago that the decision dates have been revised on some of the Persimmon planning applications, round to mid-April rather than mid-March. Those with dates that have already passed have not had decisions published.

I am enormously encouraged by this fact!

I think many people, including the Parish Council, were concerned by the way Persimmon split the applications, giving a false impression of small areas that could be considered in isolation, whereas in fact the whole is important. In particular attempts have been made to trade off areas against each other, such as adjusting affordable housing so one area has none (Area 12) and one has a disproportionately large amount (Area 12).

Recently, the Housing Officer has written to the planners to object to this juggling act, and to make the very reasonable point that affordable housing can mean family homes with three or four bedrooms, not just one-bed flats.

There has also been a slew of protest added to the MOD land application, following the Salisbury City Youth footballers discovering they had been left high and dry with nowhere to train under the new plans. I’m not sure of the rights and wrongs of their case, but I thought the sale of the fields had been agreed a long time ago, and would have expected Salisbury City Football Club to keep users of the fields informed of what was on the cards. Whether it is then their responsibility to provide an alternative I couldn’t say, but I don’t think it is technically an obstacle to the development being agreed. In any event, no decision is yet forthcoming.