The welcome news that Felsted was voted the RCCE Village of the Year 2015, brought into focus the need to protect and safeguard the characteristics and features of our village and community.
We might want to cast our minds much further forward say, twenty years, and consider what we need urgently to do if we want to continue to enjoy every season in Felsted and to have our say in its future.
We have established a Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group (SG) to look at the major strategic issues around development and land use in Felsted with a 15 -20 year horizon. Once the plan is made it becomes part of the Uttlesford District Council’s development plan against which planning applications will be judged.
The SG is determined to ensure that Felsted has its say in how our parish develops and evolves whilst maintaining its identity as a beautiful, peaceful and historic rural community. That doesn’t mean doing nothing and resisting all development. The law says that isn’t an option. What it means is articulating a carefully researched and considered strategic vision for the parish so we get development where we want it to be and how we want it to look.
The Parish Plan offered a great start to addressing some of the issues. For example it identified some minor measures to reduce congestion and tackle bad driving in the village centre, but the Neighbourhood Plan (NP) needs to suggest more strategic solutions. The NP could suggest the historic village centre is remodelled to offer priority to pedestrians and to create a new amenity centre to draw traffic away from pedestrians. Perhaps a by-pass might be a solution or maybe a one way system would deal with the gridlock. Perhaps we should have both!
As a community we need to think about what we want Felsted to offer for residents and visitors. Do we want to encourage more rural businesses, like livery and equestrian centres by creating more and safer routes for riders? Perhaps we want to encourage cyclists to stop in the village centre by providing facilities for them.
And what amenities do we want in our village? As a community should we build and own a purpose built surgery and pharmacy? Should we plan to develop the village hall into an arts and rural crafts centre? And what do we want from a village shop and post office and where should that commercial activity be?
Where will our young people live? Do we want social housing, how much and where should it be?
Developing a Neighbourhood Plan is not about where we might like to see additional flower tubs in the village – as lovely and as welcome as they are – it’s about a vision for the parish.
In December 2014, Uttlesford District Council’s Local Plan – which offered some protection to Felsted – was rejected by the Planning Inspector on the basis that more houses need to be built in the district over the next two decades. This is a major setback and means that UDC will have to find more space for development. That puts Felsted at risk.
We have to act decisively and with vision to ensure that we produce a Neighbourhood Plan that delivers the future we want. We need your opinion. We need your support.
SG Chairman – Roy A C Ramm