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Podcast script - Wednesday, May 20, 2020

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Good Morning Chelveston, Caldecott and Chelston Rise it’s Wednesday 20th May and this is Adrian Dale with the daily podcast.

Now I am going to use today’s broadcast to answer a question posed by Pete Rawlins on Monday about why we don’t have a children’s play area. Wendy and Tricia had commented that attempts had been made to create one in the past. They reckoned I might know the answers. And indeed I do. But to answer the question, I need to delve a little into our development history so that you understand the background.

When Aitch was a young lad, this Village had been unchanged since 1905 when East View on Raunds Road was built, along with Apiary Cottage in Foot Lane. Prior to that it was Pretoria Cottages, built in 1900. The rest of the Village housing was largely farms, and farm workers cottages, with a few shops. Not much had changed. Nevertheless, with larger families, there were still enough children to fill the school. And a play area would certainly have been viable, had they been invented then.

Sawyers Crescent wasn’t built until 1949 as council housing for local families. Aitch’s family had been waiting to be rehoused for 18 years before they were built. But no further expansion of the Village took place until 1963 when Hillside was built. In the late 1960s various private bungalows appeared, Meadowcroft on Raunds Road, Rivendell on Foot Lane, Greenacres and 1 Kimbolton Road. But even with these developments, the number of children in the Village was declining rapidly and in 1967, the school was closed.

A few more in fill developments happened but nothing major until the new houses on Water Lane and the whole of Duchy Close were developed in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This was followed by Britten Close and the 3 houses either side of it.

These were desirable but expensive relatively developments and were purchased largely by professional people, several without families at the time. So still there were very few children and no need for a play area.

By the late 1980s many of these households had produced a family and suddenly there was interest again in community activity. The May Queen tradition was revived in 1986. Mum’s and tots was started at the Village Hall. A youth club was formed, with table tennis and badminton. Regular dances and events were held at the Village Hall. Lots of families wanted to come together.

But then inevitably, the children grew up and changed schools. Their interests were elsewhere. Community activities declined quickly as families focused externally. House prices were increasing and Chelveston was very desirable, so young families couldn’t move in. Even worse no one was moving out and so the residents of the relatively “new” housing were moving into their middle ages. Any houses becoming vacant were snapped up by young double income professional couples.

By the time we arrived in 1987, very little was going on. This was essentially a dormitory village, with people working and entertaining themselves elsewhere. There were certainly no young children, just a few teenagers, several of them being a little disruptive in their boredom.

Then there was a baby boom starting in 1990, as the young professionals (like us) hit their 30s. In the space of 6 years over 30 children were born in Chelveston and Caldecott, my lads included. Suddenly we had a new community again. Mum’s at Tots thrived at the Village Hall. There were kiddies parties and lots of play dates around each other’s houses.

And of course the question of a play area surfaced very quickly, just has it has today. All the parents were looking for places to walk with prams and to take young children.

In 1993/1994 a local land owner proposed the development of Duchy field at the top of Duchy Close. This would have included a new Village Hall and potentially a play area. The catch was 30-40 new houses which would have completely overshadowed the houses that many of these young professionals had forked out huge sums for. It would undoubtedly have changed the Village forever with such a large development coming in one hit. Both old Chelveston and new Chelveston united against it.

In order to fight the development, we had to undertake a Village Appraisal. We had to understand the demographics and what sort of amenities and housing residents wanted. So we did a very detailed survey and analysis. Richard Thorncroft and I were in charge of doing it.

The response rate was fantastic. 83% of households returned a questionnaire. The data revealed some fascinating insights into the wants and needs of residents.

Residents wanted a shop, a bus service, a play area and a circular walking route around the Village. Unfortunately wants and needs don’t always agree. The shop closed in 1987 as it wasn’t viable. The existing limited bus service was gradually being withdrawn through lack of use. The reality was that almost every family in the Village had two cars and they shopped elsewhere.

The demographics were very interesting. There were only 31 children under 11 across the Village. It would have taken at least 5 years to fund and develop a play area. But during this time, most of the kids would have grown too old to use it. And most surprisingly, the majority of residents said that they wouldn’t be moving out of the Village, even when their kids got older.

Even more interesting was that in 10 years, over half of residents would be retired or working from home. It was very clear to the Parish Council that the emphasis needed to be on developing facilities for the active retired and not for toddlers and young children. They would be in a minority (if there were any at all) between 2010-2020. The high cost of a playground could not be justified.

So instead the Council lobbied hard for a circular path from the end of Water Lane to Bidwell Lane. Only half of this got built due to budgetary problems at Northamptonshire County Council. However, fortunately, Ray Knight keeps the other half cut. This allows young and old to do a circular Village route in safety.

When the Airfield was being sold, the Council lobbied hard to get the ancient network of footpaths re-opened before sale. This succeeded; we now have the best network of paths in Northamptonshire.

And in 2010, the Parish Council established the new allotments behind Disbrowe Court. This project nearly faltered at one point because of funding challenges. I was managing the development project and I had just been fortunate enough to retire very early. I knew how important the allotments would be in the future, so I put in over £2,000 of my own money to ensure that we could get the project off the ground. Every time I see an allotment holder working their plot, I know this was the right decision.

In 2010, we then re-established the Village Hall as an Educational Institute, providing classes and activities for young and old. Before the lock down, we were packed out.

Looking back at our goals from 1994, I am proud that we have delivered an environment that is great for the active retired as we intended at the time.

But now things have moved on. The re-development of High Street, the building of Peters Close, new residents in Duchy Close and Pretoria Cottages have all moved us to the next phase in our Village history.

Even more significant was the reopening of the housing at Chelston Rise. This is a family friendly settlement and has permanently changed the demographic of the Village. No longer will we go through phases of having no children.

So now is the time to reconsider the Village priorities for the next 20 years. The “old guard” (like me) have delivered what was needed for today. Now we need to plan for tomorrow. Big projects take a minimum of 5 years to deliver so now is the time to start.

There are two vacancies on the Parish Council and many opportunities for residents to contribute ideas as to what is needed.

Back in 1994, I was not even a councillor but I had the chance to get involved and shape the development of this Village for the next quarter of a century. The results are there to see today, the allotments, the war memorial, Disbrowe Court, Peters Close, an extension to the Village Hall with a new car park and amenity field.

I am really not bragging, I didn’t do any of this alone, I was part of a team of residents that took control of their own destiny. That’s the beauty of living in a Village, you have the power to make a difference.

We now have a new generation of residents, keen to get involved, with great ideas. Some ideas have been tried before, but this time they might succeed. All that matters in my book is that residents know that they really can shape their own Village. It takes time, and energy but above all determination and creativity.

Those two vacancies on the Parish Council are there for people who want to make a difference.

If a play area is what is needed now and for the next 20 years it can be delivered. But it will take vision and hard work.

So over to you – I am off to cut some grass.

Thank you