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...25-YEAR LEASES FINALLY SECURED ON PARISH LAND...
It is with the GREATEST of pleasure that your independent Parish Council can report that Leases for the period 2007-2032 have now been secured on the Parish Land north of Norway Drive (including the amenity field, tennis courts, Parish Hall grounds, and the Bowls Club) and The Cherries recreation area. These Leases have finally been renewed following eleven years of negotiations since the previous term expired in 1996. Completion of the documents took place on the 19th November 2007 between Slough Borough Council's Legal Department and our solicitor acting on behalf of Wexham Court Parish Council. Those of us who had been involved in the recent years of work on the Leases breathed a huge sigh of relief when the signed and sealed documents were finally in our hands (particularly the Clerk, Chairman David Davies and former Chairman Henry Egan, assisted by Councillor David MacIsaac and also some Members of the Borough Council BILLD Group).
Despite last-ditch attempts by the Labour Group to deprive Wexham of what we are rightfully entitled to, we have also been granted an 'Agreement for Lease' on a 1.5 acre wedge of land remaining from the Care Homes development, the Lease for which will be finalised when building is complete (see previous updates below for further information). An official report from the auditor upheld the decision of the Borough Council to Lease this piece of land to the Parish, but the Labour Group continued to argue that the value of the land was too high to justify 'giving it away'. However, this argument was negated in light of the fact that the small wedge remaining had little value in terms of prospective further development. The Labour Group also failed to recognise that the Parish Council had submitted no official objection to the Care Homes on the grounds that we had been promised a piece of the land for recreational use, and the future income which would be obtained following the ultimate closure of the existing Wexham House would far outweigh any possible loss of income to the Borough in respect of this area.
The conclusion of these Leases, together with the Agreement for Lease, is a massive achievement for the Parish Council and all this land is now protected from development for the benefit of our residents - the people of Wexham.
We would like to extend our sincere thanks and gratitude for the commitment and patience of the people who supported our cause to its conclusion, including the various Members of the Parish and Borough Councils and, of course, our solicitor Claire Rhodes. Those of us on the Parish Council team have also been praised for our commitment and advocacy in pursuing this achievement.
On the 29th November a meeting was attended by the Clerk & Chairman with the Wexham Bowls Club signatories to present to them their sub-Lease. Parish Council Chairman Dave Davies is photographed here (right) presenting the sub-Lease to the Bowls Club's President, Jim Paterson, and the photo below is a group shot of all the signatories involved. The Club operates independently of the Council, hence the necessity for a separate document the terms of which are linked to the Head Lease.
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LAND NORTH OF NORWAY DRIVE, PREVIOUS INFORMATION UPDATES...
History of events, 2004-2007:
During 2004 the independent Parish Council and local residents engaged in battle with Slough Borough Council in an attempt to protect the last remaining piece of natural land in Wexham Court. The SBC Administration, which was Labour controlled at the time, had planned to sell the common land north of the Norway Drive amenity land and south of The Lodge to make way for developers to erect housing. In addition, they were insisting on a break clause being included in the Parish Lease for the public amenity land to the north of Norway Drive, which would mean that the entire area could be subjected to development at some time in the future.
These plans were stopped in their tracks by an application for 'Village Green Status' which was submitted in 2004 by our WCPC Chairman at that time, Henry Egan, on behalf of the residents whose rights to use and enjoy this land were being threatened. If Village Green Status had been obtained it would have offered permanent protection to the land for the foreseeable future.
Official objections to the Village Green were put forward by Slough Borough Council, one of which was none other than our very own ex-Parish and Ward Councillor, Joan Jones!! Local residents have stated that one would have thought that, as a past representative of the people of Wexham, Mrs Jones would have offered her support to her fellow constituents. But, alas, it appears that this was not the case.
A Public Inquiry took place during December 2004 in relation to the Village Green Application. The Parish Council was represented by barrister Richard Wald and our solicitor Claire Rhodes, whose brilliantly presented case proved beyond all doubt that the land had been used by local residents for several decades for pastimes such as nature-watching, dog-walking and other recreational activities. In addition, there was clear evidence of collaboration in the preparation of some of the opposition statements. The majority of the people who had attended the Inquiry as witnesses, including the opposition, felt that the case had been proven in favour of the residents of Wexham despite Slough Borough Council's claim that it was private land. However the final report of the Inquiry Inspector was not in our favour, and we believe that he was mistaken in his interpretation of the evidence provided. Sadly, this resulted in the application being rejected.
Wexham Court Parish Council was bitterly disappointed that the attempt to protect the land had failed, especially considering the vast number of hours over several months that the Chairman put into the submission of the application, legal documentation, preparation of witness statements, etc, assisted only by Cllrs Dave Davies and David MacIsaac, and the Clerk. However, the battle continued to preserve a piece of this land for continued use by our residents.
Following local elections members of the new SBC Administration (BILLD group) suggested a 'Compromise Proposal' which it was hoped would be of some benefit to all concerned. This involved the building of Extra Care Homes for the elderly on the land south of The Lodge, together with a pledge to include a remaining 20% portion at the westernmost end of this land (adjacent to Wexham Road) in the Parish Lease for public use. Whilst the Parish Council was disappointed that a greater proportion of the land could not be saved, we accepted that the development of an elderly care complex was far more acceptable than the massive amount of social housing that was originally proposed for the entire site. We also had to consider the future of our existing leased amenity land (including the mown amenity field, tennis courts, Parish Hall & Bowls Club grounds, and The Cherries recreation area), and the best way to protect this was to maintain a calm approach to negotiations with the Borough Council in relation to the Compromise Proposal.
An open evening was arranged by the Parish Council on the 29th November 2006, inviting local residents to come along to the Parish Hall and view the Phase I plans (residential homes for the elderly) which had been submitted in the public domain. Representatives of SBC and Hanover Housing Association (the chosen bidder for Phase I) were also available to answer questions and the evening was well attended.
A similar open evening was later arranged in regard to Phase II of the development for the nursing care home (chosen bidder Care UK). Both stages of the development were subsequently approved by the SBC Planning Department and work commenced. Upon completion of the development (estimated Spring 2009), we were advised that the remaining piece of land would be leased to the Parish and made available for resumed public use.
Update September 2007 - Roman and Bronze Age remains discovered during excavation of the site
An archaeological dig was carried out at the Care Home site prior to building commencing. This was required as part of the planning conditions for the development of the site, as a result of traces of very old remains being found. The work confirmed that Roman/Saxon and Bronze Age buildings once existed there.
As part of the ongoing work, and before the foundations were started for the new facility, Thames Valley Archaeological Services, headed by Dr Steve Ford, and Slough Borough Council invited local residents and businesses to an Open Day at the site on Saturday 8th September 2007. Wexham Court Parish Council offered free use of their Community Hall, wherein a display of artefacts was provided. This included items that had been found on this and another nearby site.
The archaeological team marked out various areas where ancient buildings had previously stood, and this was photographed and documented for posterity. Visitors to the Open Day were shown around the excavations, and were able to do some washing of artefacts and ask the archaeologists questions. The event was well supported with a steady flow of interested observers throughout the day.
Sadly, the discoveries made could not prevent the planned development taking place, but at least the local people were given a chance to witness some of the history of the site prior to it disappearing beneath the footings of the new buildings. My sincere thanks to Dr Ford and his team for bringing us this opportunity.
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