Waterrow, Chipstable & Raddington
Parish Plan 2003
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THE CHIPSTABLE PARISH
Including Waterrow, CHIPstable and Raddington1. Introduction HOME
Birds-Eye View of the Parish – Jerry Dixon
The grant support for the development of an individual ‘Parish Plan’ comes with the introduction of the "Vital Villages" scheme, offering a range of grants and advice for rural communities on issues crucial for their development in the 21st century. It is run by the Countryside Agency, and supports the Government strategy to develop Parish and Town plans to:
"…set out a vision of what is important, how new development can best be fitted in, the design and quality standards it should meet, how to preserve valued local features and to map out the facilities which the community needs to safeguard for the future." Our Countryside – The Future (2000)
Parish Plans are not, however, something that is imposed upon a community by national, or local, government. Undertaking the process is voluntary, and it is up to those in the community to decide what is most important to them.
As it stands, a Parish Plan is a useful tool to identify those things which the community considers a priority, and can be delivered to a wide range of organisations and government bodies who are responsible for investment in and development of services to local communities. It is in everyone’s interest for them to compliment existing local strategies, for it to work with local plans, because it cannot override decisions already made. However, it is a very useful tool as it can be used by local councillors and community organisations to influence planning and other policy developments in the future and shows exactly what local people feel most strongly about.
This document is the Issues Report – the most detailed document associated with the Parish Plan process, and it offers the results of the 2002 Waterrow, Chipstable and Raddington Village Views Community Questionnaire, developed following a Village Views consultation event in 2001. It will offer an introduction to the Parish, raise awareness and publicise the good things about the area, as well as the things that could be improved. It is also the document that will identify the issues that the community have highlighted as most important to them and will help prioritise the issues that will be put forward should suitable funding become available.
This report has been developed by The Community Group (Waterrow, Chipstable and Raddington) with the support of Chipstable Parish Council in association a grant from the Countryside Agency. The writing of this report though has been undertaken in a completely objective way, by someone local to, but not living within, the Parish. The views expressed within it are not those of groups or of individuals within those groups. They are the views of the Parish community as a whole.
The Waterrow Community Group was originally set up in 1999 by an enthusiastic group of volunteers keen to work for the benefit of the community living in the village and the surrounding area. The Group was formalised with an agreed constitution in January 2001, and in 2003 the group was renamed the Waterrow, Chipstable and Raddington Community Group to reflect the parish area it serves. The objective of the group is to serve the local community, primarily by raising funds to meet identified needs.
In 2001, the Community Group recognised that there was a need to seek the views of local people to ensure that any funds raised met local priorities. This was also important in the light of a grant to Wiveliscombe under the Market & Coastal Towns Initiative.
In 2001 the Community Group organised the first ‘Village Views’ day. The purpose of the day was to gather the views of the local community whilst at the same time having a ‘fun day’, celebrating the area and what it means to its residents. The event was very well attended with more than one hundred people visiting the Church Hall in Waterrow to air their feelings and concerns, and to take part in a photo quiz, a balloon race and view stands set up by regional and local organisations of interest. The morning of the event saw a visit from the then Mayor of Taunton Dean, Cllr. Mary Whitmarsh.
The Mayor starts the balloon race!
Following the event, and with the assistance of the Community Council for Somerset and Taunton Deane Borough Council, the Community Group drafted an ‘appraisal’ questionnaire, which took as its basis the issues raised at Village Views. More than sixty questions were included which aimed at a comprehensive look at the community view on living in the parish and the surrounding area in the 21st century. ‘Community’ in this instance was defined as the villages of Waterrow, Chipstable and Raddington, with the addition of a number of dwellings which had an interest or involvement in the community even though not specifically within the parish boundary.
A total of 129 questionnaires were delivered by local volunteers to all 92 households within the parish and 37 outside the parish, with close connections to it. In order to ensure that a good number of people completed and returned the questionnaire, an incentive to respond in the form of entry in a prize draw was included and the forms were collected in person, again by local people. As a result of this hard work, 101 forms were returned, which is a very high response rate of 78%. Households within the parish achieved a response rate of nearly 84%. This is a very good response by any standards and added to the robustness of the findings.
The Community Council recommended the development of a Parish Plan and funding was sought from the Countryside Agency. £5000 was awarded to the Parish Council in December 2002.
It is recognised by the Community Group and Parish Council that this process has taken rather longer than was at first intended. This is in part due to the Foot & Mouth disease crisis in 2001, followed by a lack of ‘person power’ in 2002. As soon as those issues were resolved, the development of the Plan moved forward quickly.
This report is an important stage in the process. It will form the basis of an action plan that must be agreed by the Parish and taken forward by local people.
2. History and Background to the Parish
This report is not intended to be a dry, official document. It is a celebration of the Parish, its inhabitants and environment. The fascinating story of the development of the Parish is told on the Waterrow website at www.waterrow.org.uk and is summarised below.
2.1 Chipstable Parish
Chipstable is the one of the most westerly parish in the borough of Taunton Deane, and is probably one of the smallest with a population of around 200 people. It is set in beautiful undulating countryside, but is close to all amenities in the neighbouring towns and villages of Wiveliscombe, Bampton, Wellington and Dulverton. The area offers access to the beautiful Brendon Hills and is at the gateway to Exmoor and some of the most stunning landscapes in Britain. This may be one of the reasons that the area is home to many artists and craftspeople.
Chipstable, Raddington and Waterrow make up the Chipstable ‘parish’, and they may best be described as hamlets, their communities linked together by a network of small lanes, tracks and footpaths. This was and still is very much a rural community, with farms and cottages gathered on the undulating hills and in the green river valley.
There are two churches serving the community. One, All Saints in Chipstable, is an interesting medieval church, parts of which date back to 1530. There is also an historic church at Raddington – tiny and accessible only via footpaths across a field. Local people have described weddings where brides were carried to the church on their wedding day to avoid getting their dress muddy!The church hall is located in Waterrow and is still a focal point for community activities. It was built in 1908 to save a climb of around one and a half miles up to the church in Chipstable.
An interesting way of exploring the Parish is to embark on the five mile walk which starts by All Saints Church. At one time, part of the route one follows was used by Victorian schoolchildren to reach the school between Chipstable and Waterrow. The school building is still standing, and can be seen from the walk, but it has now been converted into a home.
This is still very much a working rural community, although in recent years the nature of the work undertaken has evolved to meet the changing demands of society. This is well illustrated by an examination of the historical use to which The Upper Tone river and some of its tributaries running down from the hills have been put. There is historical evidence of water mills at the Manor Mill, Pare Mill, Collards, Hurstone and West Bovey as well as a saw mill and a smithy at Chipstable. The Upper Tone itself winds down into the valley at Waterrow and flows on into the County town of Taunton.
There are still many flourishing small businesses, and a number of people now ’telework’ from home. The village of Waterrow has both a pub and a garage, but there is no longer a shop. The Parish remains totally unspoilt by over-commercialisation, but is very popular with tourists who take advantage of the award-winning touring caravan site, hillside wooden chalets and a wide variety of self-catering properties for rental. There are seven contemporary artists of local and national standing working from Hurstone Studios, Waterrow.
Waterrow is approximately a mile from the village of Chipstable and is a pretty hamlet on the edge of the Brendon Hills on the Taunton to Barnstaple road. As such it enjoys the most direct routes to the larger conurbations in both Somerset and Devon (and consequently a greater amount of through traffic). Its accessibility has probably contributed to the fact that it is home to the only pub and garage in the parish.
This is a settlement of long-standing importance, with evidence of iron-age, Celtic and Saxon occupation in the surrounding hills. It was also an important transport hub in the local area, with the pillars of the Brunel built viaduct still visible. That structure carried the Taunton to Barnstaple railway from 1873 until 1966 when it was closed as part of the Beeching ‘rationalisation’ of local railway lines.
The river in Waterrow was once the centre of a thriving business community – smithies (including part of the building which was to become the current Rock Inn) shops and workshops clustered around it. The Rock Inn evolved into The Rock House Inn during the mid 19th century. It was used as a coaching inn, and although it no longer needs to perform that function it is still an important gathering place for the local population.
2.3 Local Organisations
The local community is well served by theChipstable Parish Council which meets on the first Wednesday of every other month at The Church Hall in Waterrow.
TheCommunity Group (Waterrow, Chipstable and Raddington) as mentioned previously, is very active in the neighbourhood and has been responsible for a number of interesting initiatives since its inception three years ago.
There is also a localNeighbourhood Watch which was started in 1998, with more than 50 household registering to be part of the scheme.
3. Issues for The local economyHOME
3.1 The Importance of the Rural Community
As mentioned above, the Parish is still very much a working community, and it is important to its residents that it remains so, avoiding gradual urbanisation or development into a ‘dormitory’ village, used properly only at weekends or in the summer months. It is however, very definitely a ‘rural’ community, and at this point it might be useful to examine issues that are specific to this and similar areas within the South West region.
The Organisation fro Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has classified a rural district as one with a population density below 150 per sq km. Against this definition, the South West is one of the most rural regions in the United Kingdom having 24% of the population resident in ‘rural’ areas.
In The State of the Countryside 2001 the Countryside Agency states that the South West as a region has some 53% of its population living in areas it defines as ‘rural’. This is the highest of all English regions and well above the England average of 28.5%. Of the 45 districts in the South West region only 12 are defined by the Countryside Agency as ‘urban’.
‘Rural’ in terms of the South West region does not directly equate to ‘agricultural’ as only 3.3% of the region’s total workforce is employed in the agriculture industry and only 2.5% of GDP is produced by it. The South West has the second largest agricultural workforce in Britain but is less profitable and more labour intensive than in other significantly rural regions. However, in many local areas such as Chipstable parish, agriculture is a key employer, and the importance of farming and of the diverse and varied landscape to tourism and visitor numbers was never more clearly highlighted than by the outbreak of Foot& Mouth disease in 2001, which had a drastic impact on the farmers concerned and resulted in huge losses for the tourist industry.
3.2 Rural Need
The countryside is something seen by many as an idyll, viewed only through the car window or on television. Although many people living in the countryside have recently sought to highlight particular ‘problems’ associated with the rural way of life, there is little real appreciation of the issues that are having an increasing impact on rural communities. The real threats to rural communities come not from the loss of country pursuits but from economic restructuring, the change in markets for traditional products, migration from affluent urban areas and the increase in property prices.
There have also been social changes that have had a significant impact – such as the move towards ‘individualism’ rather than ‘community’, the ‘I’m alright Jack’ approach – and an increasing fear of crime in rural communities. There is a real danger that as the number of elderly people within a community like Chipstable increases and divorce and separation rates rise, social isolation in rural areas will become more acute.
There is little doubt that the residents of Waterrow, Chipstable and Raddington are dependent on cars as a means of accessing vital services. This was confirmed by the appraisal questionnaire. Those living in more remote areas and areas with poorer transport links feel that they are disproportionately affected by taxes on vehicles and fuel. There is little recognition by those in urban areas, whose most frequent complaint is that they can travel only short distances before getting stuck in a traffic jam, that many people in rural areas have to travel twenty miles or more to access a supermarket, bank or hospital. This may not create difficulties for those who have moved to the countryside with the proceeds of an urban house-sale to ‘escape’ the rat race, but the high costs of car ownership can be a major concern to those living and working in the area on relatively low incomes.
Communities like that within Chipstable parish have had to cope with numerous threats over recent years, most particularly:
·A declining agricultural sector
·Fewer employment opportunities and lower wage rates.
·Out-migration of younger people unable to find employment and affordable housing
·Declining availability of local services
There is no statistical evidence to suggest that the parish suffers any significant level of deprivation. There is little unemployment, housing is in generally good condition (if in short supply), figures relating to educational qualifications show that the schools which young people in the area attend achieve good results, and crime levels are generally low. However, there are members of the community that may experience greater difficulties:
·Older people – particularly those living alone (most often female) and relying on state pensions.
·Low-paid manual workers and their families – there is a reliance on low paid industry in rural areas, particularly tourism and agriculture.
·The parish appears to have a greater reliance on small business and self-employment, which increase the risk of rural economic disadvantage as they are less well able to cope with times of recession.
·The long-term unemployed and those on sickness related benefit
Employment in many rural communities is now limited to a local shop, pub or seasonal work on local farms. In the more fortunate communities, this may suit the needs of many of the residents. However, there are few opportunities for young people, who increasing move to urban areas to access employment, accommodation and transport.
A major problem in smaller communities and one which was raised at the first ‘Village Views’ day in 2001, is the lack of affordable housing. The rise in property prices locally and the reduction in the availability of social (‘council’) housing have resulted in a greater dependence on social housing, frequently less available in rural areas. This has resulted in the splitting up of the traditional rural extended family.
Issues specific to the Chipstable parish will be discussed later in this document with reference to the results of the appraisal questionnaire. However, there are some measures that are currently being discussed at a national level that might contribute to the future prosperity of the parish:
·‘Rural exclusion-proofing’ – that is the examination of Government policy before implementation to assess its relative impact on rural communities
·Tackling low pay
·Innovative ways of offering childcare
·Grants for transport or childcare
·Fuel duties from rural areas being used to support rural transport.
4. Research FindingsHOME
This was a very comprehensive questionnaire, especially for a relatively small parish. As discussed above, there was a very high response rate of 78%. Households within the parish achieved a response rate of nearly 84%. This is impressive and was due mainly to the commitment of those undertaking the survey, who delivered and collected the forms by hand.
However, when examining the results, it must always be borne in mind that at some points the number of people actually ticking the relevant box was actually quite small. This does not necessarily make the results less useful, and any problems with the results will be highlighted in the text, but for the purposes of illustrating this report with charts and graphs, only certain questions were suitable.
There were 64 questions on the questionnaire, each question giving up to six members of an individual household the opportunity to express their views. After looking carefully at the number of people in the different age bands it appears that there were approximately 200 people giving their views on the 101 forms returned.
The responses to the questionnaire are detailed below. Some questions are illustrated with graphs and some with charts. There were also a number of ‘open’ questions, offering people the opportunity to express their opinions in their own words. The report includes a number of comments from residents on issues relating particularly to the environment and the future of the parish. Of course, no-one can be identified by any of the comments used.
‘KEY ISSUE’ statements are also included in the text. These are particular issues raised that the community may want to consider as action points for the future, or may be issues that relate specifically to current national policy on countryside issues. ‘ACTION POINTS’ are suggestions for the Parish to consider as ‘early wins’ for the Parish Action Plan.
4.2 The responses
The majority of those answering the questionnaire (52%) described themselves as being a resident of Waterrow, 27.5% were from Chipstable and nearly 12% from Raddington. Nearly 11% did not consider themselves attached to any of the three villages.
Men were in the majority, and interestingly, generally completed the form as ‘1’ (the first member of a household) to complete it.
Only a very small number of residents described themselves as having any disability.
4.2.1 Population HOME
Question 3 looked at the age profile of the local population. The graph above shows that by far the greatest proportion (34%) of residents are aged 45-59. There are two and a half times as many people in that age group than in the next largest - ages 25-44. There are relatively few people aged more than 75.
KEY ISSUE:for the community over the next 10 years is the small percentage in the younger age groups. Only 32% of the total population are younger than 44 and only 12.5% are under 18.
The greatest proportion of the population has lived in the area for more than 25 years. However, there has been a significant number of 'new arrivals' with more than 25% of the residents arriving within the past five years.
People were asked their reasons for choosing to live in the parish. There were many options, and it was possible to make more than one selection, but the clear favourite was ‘Love of country life’.
The questions relating to employment are difficult to graph, but show the following key points:
·The Parish is heavily reliant upon self-employment. More people work for themselves than work for others. This is typical of rural communities nationwide.
·Nearly 50% of those answering the question classified themselves as ‘retired’.
·More people are employed in agriculture/horticulture/forestry than in any other sector (27%)
·12.5% work in a professional capacity (e.g. teacher, solicitor, doctor) and the same percentage work from home (The survey does not ask for details and some may have ticked this box as well as one of the others).
·12% say they work in the tourism industry. It is likely that these are the people running the many different types of holiday accommodation businesses in the Parish.
·41% of those answering Question 14 said that their main place of work was within the parish. (59% therefore worked mainly outside the immediate area).
Interestingly, no-one ticked the boxes relating to employment or self-employment in field sports. However, when the question was asked ‘Do you derive any direct income from the pheasant shoot?’ 16 people said they did, although only one person said they actually derived employment from it.
4.2.3 Services HOME
Connection to mains
The parish is not well connected to mains services. The graph below shows that although most people are connected to an electricity supply and to the telephone, only a small minority can rely on mains sewerage and connection to a gas main is a rarity.KEY ISSUE: for the community is the development of alternatives to expensive and inconvenient methods of heating their homes.
The graph also shows that a significant proportion of households would like to be connected to the mains services. However, such connection would be very costly and difficult to organise, so it is important that whatever actions are taken forward by the parish, they are realistic and achievable.
The Parish does appear to be quite energy efficient, however. 77% have loft insulation, more than 60% of households have double glazing, and 47% use low energy bulbs. However, there is considerable room for improvement. Allowing for the fact that many local homes are old and difficult to insulate, use of energy efficient appliances and awareness of green tariff electricity and solar heating is low.
ACTION POINT:An energy efficiency awareness day offering advice from experts on reducing costs and making the most of the services available.
Media and communication services
The wonderful diversity of the landscape around the Parish - hills, valleys, woodland – has a major drawback for those wishing to make the best use of new technology. Mobile phone reception is unreliable, and in some parts television and radio reception is also poor.
However, Question 48 indicates that almost half of all households in the Parish now have access to the Internet, with 40% regularly communicating by email. 17 households or businesses have their own website, and awareness of the Waterrow, Chipstable and Raddington website stands at nearly 50% - presumably the same people who have the necessary equipment to access it.
ACTION POINT:For those working from home, access to a good internet connection is vital. The towns of Wellington and Wiveliscombe are both actively working to get broadband capability extended to the area, something which would also benefit Waterrow Chipstable and Raddington, who might join those neighbouring campaigns.
More than 90% of those replying to the questionnaire would be willing to separate different types of refuse if facilities were available for recycling.
ACTIONPOINT: Consideration might be given to contacting Taunton Deane Borough Council regarding the development of a community recycling scheme. Often, people will more readily recycle if the waste is collected.
When asked whether they would be willing to pay a higher Parish precept (council tax) for better services, there was a 50:50 split between the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ votes.
The graph above clearly shows how important the countryside around the parish is to the people who live there. However, there was some support for particular measures that would further enhance the appearance of the area. The most popular ideas were to better manage woodlands and hedgerows, with an emphasis on traditional techniques. There was also considerable support for further tree planting and the preservation of old orchards and single trees with local significance.
"Hedges should not be kept short and tidy as this ruins wild flowers and endangers nesting birds and also looks ‘twee’. What townsfolk think the countryside should look like"
"There’s a lot of old trees, but not enough medium aged because no planting has been done. It must be done continuously to preserve the uniqueness of the area"
KEY ISSUE:It was noticeable from a number of individual comments on this question that there was concern that a ‘townspersons’ view of how the countryside should look might be imposed on the parish. This is not borne out by other responses – no-one wants to see the area changed to look like a chocolate box or calendar picture. It is possible that some people may respond to this question without a clear understanding of how the countryside is already managed, and the most effective and environmentally sound ways of doing so.
ACTION POINT:It may be useful to do some further work to raise awareness of the work that landowners and countryside organisations do at the moment, and to see whether there is further work that can be done.
The condition of country roads and paths is also crucial to the appeal of an area to both residents and visitors. Question 24 asked for people’s opinions on a number of different options for maintaining local roads, lanes and paths.
Unsurprisingly, the greatest number of people felt that the control of litter was very important. This is reinforced by a later question which asks about specific parts of the parish suffering from pollution.
ACTION POINT:Any action plan for the parish might include a competitive ‘community clear up’, where areas mentioned specifically in comments on the questionnaire – largely lay-bys and road verges – could be targeted.
However, there are diverse views on how the roadsides should be managed – a significant number wanting mown and tidy verges, and a similar percentage wanting them left for the benefit of wildlife.
There is genuine concern about the damage that is done to the roads by heavy lorries and agricultural equipment. Individual comments highlight concerns relating to road surfaces – many would like to see potholes filled in and general repair undertaken.
"More pressure on the Council to maintain surface conditions, drains and bank gullies"
"Heavy vehicles often destroy verges and spread resultant mud on the road"
Again there appears to be a split between those who feel that the country way of life should be respected at all costs, without the imposition of special measures that may better serve tourists than locals, and those who feel that there are sensible measures that could be taken which would make the area generally more attractive and less hazardous for everybody.
This links into the issue of access. Many people would like to see more and better access to footpaths and bridlepaths, with repairs undertaken to gates, stiles and bridges, and better access for those with disabilities.
ACTION POINT:An audit of local footpaths might be undertaken to assess where problems might arise, and those responsible for management encouraged to meet obligations to clear and repair.
Some concern was expressed in the survey that there might be some general loss of local footpaths. This is a problem that has been identified in other parts of the country. However, it is noted that some local landowners have been proactive and voluntarily increased the number of permissive paths in the parish.
"As the majority of public footpaths are across farm land, all these supposed difficulties are the normal workings of a farm. If you don’t like farm/country life, don’t move here."
There is also some concern over signposting, whether it be the replacement of current road signs considered ugly or the provision of more signs to direct people to parts of the parish. This again links into the question of access and the recording of local historical place names.
ACTION POINT:The Parish might consider lobbying the local authority to take action on signposting – ensuring attractive signs are sited at frequent intervals on public footpaths and bridleways, and placed to identify local landmarks.
Question 21 relates specifically to that question. If given the option, the chart above shows that the majority of residents would like to see more maps (30%) and leaflets (22%) describing walks and public access to the parish. A significant proportion (27%) would like to see MORE paths and bridleways.
KEY ISSUE:is the lack of publicity relating to local walks one of the reasons why people feel there should be more permissive pathways? Do people know what is on their doorstep?
ACTION POINT:Neighbouring towns have a range of local walks mapped and easily available, both printed and on a website. It might be relatively easy to undertake a similar exercise for this parish. If routes are already available, then it would be a good idea to better publicise them and make them available in neighbouring communities. It is understood that since the survey was undertaken steps have been taken to update available leaflets.
This has turned out to be a question that has caused much discussion amongst local people. The question was included only because it was an issue that was raised by a number of people at the first Village Views day, and is clearly important to people within a particular part of the parish. Although it seems too specific an issue to warrant much discussion, it does highlight the difficulties of bringing together two sides with completely different opinions on certain subjects. The Countryside Agency makes it clear that the primary aim of the Issues Report is to be objective – including issues which have proved difficult or have thrown up differences in opinion. It is not simply a matter of those who are for and against country sports. Neither is it an issue to be taken lightly (even though most people’s contact with pheasants is as the birds appear to throw themselves in front of moving cars). Many of the comments received on this subject relate to practical objections:
"Sometimes there are simply too many of them…"
"Feeding birds next to or on roads causing danger and problems"
However, some people took a different view:
"Income to local people outweighs damage to garden"
"Leave them alone"
KEY ISSUE:If nothing else, pheasants bring into sharp focus the different views on what it means to live in the countryside. There may be practical steps that can be taken to minimise damage to gardens and danger on the roads, and it might be fruitful to assess the real extent of the problem rather than ignore it.
4.2.5 Housing HOME
This is a question that relates not just to the type of homes needed in the area. There are deep-rooted concerns expressed throughout the questionnaire that any change will ‘spoil’ the parish, its community spirit and its essentially rural quality. Some people have a deep seated resentment of anyone moving into the area from a town for example, and there must be a recognition from those moving into the area that they cannot expect to impose their own views on how the parish works and looks. Housing goes to the root of this. As discussed in an earlier chapter, rapid rises in property prices have priced many young families out of the housing market, and as much social housing has been sold under the ‘Right to Buy’ scheme there is less and less rented accommodation to meet the needs of those on lower incomes. There is a real danger that many villages will lose vital services as younger people move away. This is not so relevant to the Chipstable parish, which has no school, shop or health facilities at the moment, but diversity is still important for any community.
Question 27 asked for people’s views on the types of housing most needed within the parish.
Clearly, there is only really any support for more housing if it is low cost and meets the needs of the local community. ‘Restricted to locals’ actually refers to the sale of property in the area being restricted to local people. This is an idea that was first discussed on Exmoor some years ago, and it is a plan that isfraught with many dangers. Of course, no-one wants the villages to just become a second home to people living in urban areas therefore leaving houses deserted during the week and in the winter, but to prevent people moving in to the area to live permanently would rob the village of much of its character. Many of the people now considered ‘locals’ might once have moved from other parts of the county or country. Again, it is diversity within a community – of age and background – that keeps its long-term future secure.
"Unless there were ‘incomers’ I believe a lot of the big old houses would be in ruins"
There appears to be little demand at present for sheltered or adapted accommodation, which is an issue under consideration in neighbouring Wiveliscombe, where many of the local services are sited.
Question 28 then played ‘devils advocate’ and asked for views on the affects of ‘new housing’ on the area. The question was phrased in such a way that ANY new housing was included (whether it be low cost, executive or social housing for example). The result was a fairly even split between those who felt it would spoil the environment and those who felt it might benefit the community.
KEY ISSUE:It is clear that it is the problem of access to affordable housing primarily for younger people within the community that is of most concern. The age profile of the area is disproportionately middle aged and if the community wants to stay vibrant it should aim to include as many people in the younger age brackets as possible.
"I would like to live near my family but we are not allowed to build on the property and it is too expensive to buy in the area"
"Local people cannot afford houses; too many London buyers keep prices up, cheap for them"
It has been recognised that ‘mobility’ is key to a persons ability to access the education, training, employment and support services necessary to offer them the greatest possible opportunities within the labour market and allow them to participate fully in the social fabric of the regions within which they live. That ‘mobility’ depends to a great extent upon the transport system available – its efficiency and cost.
A number of questions in the survey were devoted to how people get to work and access shops and healthcare.
93% of those answering the question are car drivers with access to a vehicle, and the use to which those vehicles are put are evenly split between business/work and leisure pursuits. A relatively small number of journeys are made to take children to and from school.
This profile of car use reflects the regional picture. The South West as a whole has the highest car ownership rates of any region in the UK apart from the South East. Approximately 2 million cars are licensed. (SW Regional Planning Guidance GOSW 2001). This likely to be a reflection of the geographical remoteness of some parts of the region, with the lack of public transport making the ownership of a car essential, although 20% of households do not own one at all.
Significantly, on average each person in the region travels approximately 11,500 km per annum. This is 10% above the national average. Only 7% of the distance is covered by public transport – 90% by car or other private vehicle.
This parish survey did not show significant support for increased bus services, although they would be generally welcomed. Very few people said that they experienced any difficulty accessing medical facilities (doctor, hospital, dentist etc), most of which are available in nearby Wiveliscombe and Bampton. The introduction of the ‘Wivey Link’ transport service for those with no transport of their own who find using public transport difficult will benefit the parish, as individuals can call on the service to take them into town or to other more remote villages.
The environmental pressures of increased road use are well known. Questions 37 and 38 relate to speed control and traffic problems in the parish.
The Parish Council has already taken the subject of speed control in the parish very seriously. The main issues relate particularly to the main Taunton to Barnstaple road through Waterrow, but the questionnaire did not distinguish between particular thoroughfares. 37% thought that the introduction of a speed limit was desirable, and a further 16% felt traffic calming (though not specifically defined) might be an option to pursue. However, a significant proportion (nearly 1 in 4) felt that none of the alternatives given were appropriate or necessary.
"Cars go too fast through Waterrow and in lanes – all lanes should be 20mph"
The most common complaint about the roads was not excessive speed, however. It was the condition of the road surface:
" Pot holes should be filled in. Heavy lorries erode the edges."
"Lack of response to complaints about the condition of roads"
4.2.7 Services and Facilities HOME
Question 45 asked people to consider what facilities they would most like to see on offer in the parish. The clear favourites were a regular farmers market and a riverside walk and/or a seat. More facilities for young people were not seen as particularly important, reflecting the older age profile of the parish.
KEY ISSUE:The success of a farmers market relies on a suitable, regular venue. The Church Hall is such a venue, but it may be necessary to upgrade access and other facilities before it could be used long-term.
ACTION POINT:At a time when it is crucial that local people can access local produce, this could be a cornerstone of the developing Parish plan.
The Church Hall HOME
A significant majority of residents feel that the Church hall is 'adequate' for the needs of the community. The question did not define 'adequate', so it is unclear whether people were basing their answer on size, position, facilities or other reasons. This is particularly important, as when asked how often they used the Church Hall in Waterrow, only 11 people said that they use it on a weekly or monthly basis. 70% of the population only use it occasionally and nearly 15% never use it at all. It is not clear however, whether this low usage is due to indifference or just a lack of interesting events/groups to take part in.
The facilities at Waterrow Church Hall are the subject of much local discussion, and the possibility of certain improvements was raised at the Village Views event. The questionnaire asked which improvements might be the most popular, and people were able to tick more than one option.
The chart above can only offer a guide to the things people felt were important, as it was possible to tick more than one box. Results show that better parking facilities and a new heating system are at the top of most peoples’ lists, along with better toilets, improved catering facilities and better disabled access. Fewer people felt that extra storage, play facilities or a meeting room were important.
A further question gathered information on the sort of activities that might attract people to the hall in the future. The most popular options were a farmers market, followed by a Garden Club, keep fit and a Film Club.
KEY ISSUE:for the community - it is well recognised that some of the facilities in the Church Hall are dated and access for people with mobility problems is restricted. However, there are complex legal issues surrounding any possible renovations to the hall and settling these would be a crucial first step to improvement.
ACTION POINT:a specific question needs to be asked of the community - would you use the Hall more if the facilities were better or more interesting events were held there?
Local people are concerned at the lack of police time invested in the community.
When asked to consider what measures might improve matters, the majority are clearly in favour of a greater police presence. However, a significant percentage feel that better consultation between police and local people would go some way towards meeting their concerns, especially as many people acknowledged that a good Neighbourhood Watch scheme was already in operation.
"The older I get the more vulnerable I feel"
"Only Taunton police at night could be dead by the time they answer!"
Despite people’s fears, evidence suggests that the Parish experiences low levels of criminal activity.
ACTION POINT:To reassure the local population, consideration should be given to applying for an extension of the Parish Warden scheme to cover the
The questionnaire did not indicate that there is much demand for the idea of a ‘community store’. Certainly, it would require a greater number of people to consider ‘daily’ use to make it a viable proposition, and a further question asking how many people would be willing to support the store by volunteering to help in it received a poor response.
The good shopping facilities in nearby Wiveliscombe tied in with the high levels of car ownership and use mean that a shop is not a priority for the parish. However, the significant support for the idea of a regular farmers market suggests that a monthly opportunity to buy local produce at a local venue would prove popular.
ACTION POINT:Some ‘market research’ could be done to see just how often residents would use a farmers market and how many people might be attracted from neighbouring parishes.
The Parish Council HOME
The survey showed that relatively few people have ever attended a meeting of the Parish Council.
KEY ISSUE:At a national level, the role of local democracy is being highlighted. It is crucial for any Parish that a Council is representative of the community. It requires a real commitment to local democracy. At election time, an effort must always be made to ensure people know that they can put themselves forward.
The Chipstable Parish Council is viewed in a positive light by residents, the majority of whom felt that the issues discussed did reflect local concerns. The fact that meetings are open to the public is regularly advertised locally, and Councillors make themselves available to parishioners who have issues they want to discuss.
The Church in the Parish is still seen as a vital part of community life, despite the fact that relatively few people said they attended regularly for Sunday worship. Less than 5% of those who answered felt that the building had no importance at all.
Of those people who said that they attended church services outside of Waterrow, Chipstable and Raddington parish, the majority said it was because service times were more convenient.
4.2.8 The Future HOME
As discussed earlier, the Parish Planning process is all about celebrating what the community has to offer and drafting an ‘Action Plan’ to ensure that issues raised by residents are addressed. Of course, there are some things over which local people can have only a limited influence, including local transport and housing policy, but that influence is important nonetheless. Certain action points have been highlighted in the text of this report, and it may be that some of those are adopted by the Parish for the action plan. However, it is important to examine the questions in the survey that looked specifically at how people want to see the area develop in the next months and years.
The vast majority of those answering the questionnaire want the area to stay as it is. The two largest categories could really be combined, as many clearly see the area as a working community and want it to stay that way - the question is phrased in a slightly misleading way. It was always very unlikely that many people would support the idea of the area as a retirement or commuter community.
KEY ISSUE:for the community - yes, the area is beautiful and residents love it as it is. However, as the rural economy changes and if younger people continue to move out of rural communities into larger conurbations it will be necessary to re-evaluate how the parish is developing if it is not to increasingly become home only to the affluent retired or semi-retired.
When asked specifically about potential future benefits to the community, the most popular new scheme would be one which enabled more economical purchasing of fuel (oil). Such a scheme would also have the benefit of reducing the number of heavy lorries on the roads of the villages.
KEY ISSUE:Given the relatively low response to the question relating specifically to the use of a local shop, a surprisingly high proportion of people thought a community shop would significantly improve the quality of life in the parish.
Some of the most interesting points were made in the open questions at the end of the survey.
One of the final questions asked what residents considered the ‘most important aspects of life in the area’. Responses were initially grouped together under broad headings (most frequently mentioned first)
·The peace and quiet and the beauty the area offers
·Friendliness of the people living here
·The joy of living in a traditional rural community
·The good community spirit
·Low crime rates
"The reason why people remain in the area is the same as that which attracts country loving newcomers. The richness of the environment was created and maintained by well established generations"
"Stunning countryside. Lovely people. Good local town – Wivey. Unlikely to have more housing. Quietness – no traffic noise"
"Relatively unspoilt, peaceful surroundings. Lack of pollution, strong community spirit and mutual aid"
"It is a quiet, rural community"
A further question gave people the opportunity to change one thing about the area. Again, the comments are listed under broad headings:
·Condition of roads and road surfaces
·Urbanisation/influx of people from outside the area
·Restricted light from overgrowth of trees
"Fill in potholes"
"Better roads and signposts"
"Somewhere for children to play…"
Again there was a general feeling that given the above, the villages and area as a whole were wonderful and there would be very little to change. A very few people chose to use the questionnaire to vent their feelings against groups or individuals, but on the whole the responses were constructive and good-natured. On the evidence of this survey, there really is a very good community spirit in the parish.
5. The Next StepsHOME
At the end of March 2003, there will be a second ‘Village Views’ day. At that event copies of this report will be available, and priorities for action will be presented. Residents will have the opportunity to express their views on which they consider to be most and least important. It will also be another ‘celebratory’ event’, with workshops organised by local craftspeople and experts on relevant topics. A party atmosphere will prevail, with refreshments provided by local residents. But the most important aspect of the day will be the gathering opinions to plan for the future. There will also be an opportunity to volunteer for ‘working groups’ – friendly gatherings with a serious purpose – to take forward one or more of the priorities identified by the questionnaire.
This Issues Report will also be circulated to outside organisations whose actions have an impact on the Parish. This will include The Countryside Agency, District and County Councils, the Community Council for Somerset, the Wiveliscombe Area Market Town Initiative, the South West Regional Development Agency and farming, countryside and wildlife groups.
Only after there has been time for a proper discussion of the Issues report and all those comments expressed at Village Views have been gathered in will an ‘Action Plan’ be drawn up.
The ‘Action Plan’
The action planning stage is when the steering group, along with those who volunteered for working groups, take the Issues Report one stage further – it becomes action rather than discussion. If there are still issues that are unclear, it might be that the first action is to arrange some more consultation or research. The Countryside Agency suggests that this is a good idea, as long as the group is clear about the reasons for that research and what it might achieve.
The Action Plan can include a ‘vision’ for the community. This is a statement that expresses how the community sees itself, what it considers to be important and how it intends to work to ensure that the parish continues to be an attractive, living and working community.
The Action Plan should set out clearly:
·What is proposed
·Why the action is needed
·How will the action be implemented?
·Who will be responsible for taking the action?
·When will the action be taken forward?
When the plan has been drafted it will be taken back to the community for any final comments and then submitted to the Parish Council for final approval as the Parish Plan. Although this is very much a community document, it is the Parish Council who holds the ultimate responsibility for it.
The Parish Planneeds to achieve certain things in order to be successful:
·It must address all the issues of concern to the community, even if there is some disagreement between different groups in the community
·It must be prepared by the community itself, led by the Parish Council
·Be based on information obtained through a community survey, consultation and participation and research.
·Be focused on action – clearly stating What? Why? When? How?
A number of comments made in the survey suggest that some members of the community have concerns about ideas from ‘outsiders’ being imposed on the area and taking it in directions they do not want to go. Parish Plans actually offer everyone the opportunity to properly have their say and take an active part in how their community develops.
Parish Plans: Guidance for Parish and Town Councils – The Countryside Agency
The State of the Countryside 2001 - The Countryside Agency
‘Village Views’ - Waterrow, Chipstable and Raddington Appraisal Questionnaire