Monaghan Mushroom Site Update – 22 November 2023

Fellow Parishioners

I would like to begin by identifying myself to Thakeham Parishioners who do not know me, and to also explain one of the roles I’ve agreed to perform as a Thakeham Parish Councillor to hopefully help the Community.

I recently joined the Parish Council as a co-opted Councillor. Despite living in High Bar Lane for nearly 32 years I must admitted that I took a somewhat apathetic approach to issues the Parish has faced over the years.

I’ve regularly attended events like Village Day & the Halloween Fireworks, but apart from looking after our daughter on occasions to allow my wife to become a Thakeham First School Governor, I was a very passive Parishioner.

Earlier this year I read on the Thakeham Parish Community Facebook page a post in response to comments that fellow Parishioners had made about a Planning Application to develop the field next to the High Bar Lane playpark.  That post outlined that to help the Community address such issues, the Parish Council (TPC) would welcome applications from Parishioners to fill the large number of Councillor vacancies. After idly mentioning to my wife that I thought I might apply, she encouraged me to do so (I’m not sure if she was motivated by thinking it would get me out from under her feet for a few hours each month).

Since joining TPC in June, I’ve become a member of the sub-committee that looks at Planning issues that are relevant to the Parish. TPC doesn’t have any powers to compel the Horsham District Council (HDC) Planning Department to act in a certain way, but TPC is always asked to comment upon every Planning Application relating to Thakeham, whether that be surgery to a tree or developments like the one currently open for consultation on the land behind South Hill Farm. We always like to visit the location in question and ascertain more information from the property owner where that is possible and if appropriate to speak to neighbouring householders that might be impacted by the Application. This process helps to ensure that the response TPC makes to HDC is relevant, meaningful and because of the expert guidance we receive from the Clerk, legally compliant.

As all Parishioners know there’s a lot going on with Phase 3 of the Abingworth development, and although TPC greatly appreciates the regular insights provided by Parishioners and the Abingworth Residents Group (ARG), I was asked to take on a lead responsibility for “Keeping an eye on the Abingworth development”.

Prior to becoming a Parish Councillor when discussing the High Bar Lane application with my neighbours, comments were often made that this application would be nothing compared to any potential application to develop the Mushroom Farm. I didn’t comment as I only deal with facts, and I hadn’t seen anything to say a developer had bought the site.

Like most Parishioners who walk through the Mushroom Farm to/from Town House Farm, the erection of the Heras fencing in the Spring did make me think something had changed but my research of freely available published materials, notably Land Registry entries and Companies House filings hadn’t revealed anything. I must be honest and say that at that time I was only looking at the Post Code for the Mushroom Farm and Companies House filings for Bellway.

I identified a ‘charge’ filed by Bellway, but with no further details regarding potential ownership of the site. I discussed this with the Parish Council Chairman, Caroline Instance and the Clerk, Andrew Brown. Caroline and Andrew raised this in a meeting with the local Bellway Manager.

As all Parishioners will know a few months ago Strutt & Parker signs appeared outside the Mushroom Farm advising that the site would soon be available to buy/rent. The Parish Council sought more details, but initially drew a blank.

In parallel to these activities, on my own time, I’ve continued to regularly look for updated Land Registry and Companies House filings. Consequently, I identified on 1st November that the Land Registry entry for the Mushroom Farm had been updated to confirm that the property had been sold for £16,400,000 on 30th March.  I then broadened my Companies House searches to include Thakeham Mushrooms as well as Bellway and identified that Bellway purchased the Mushroom Farm at the end of March.

TPC realise that we need to maintain a respectful working dialogue with Bellway as there is still a lot to liaise with them on, not least the Allotments which TPC know are of great importance to many Parishioners.

Our communications and research are always ongoing and once anything official is announced that the parish council are allowed to act on, TPC will hold a public meeting for all Parishioners to comment and contribute to how the Parish should proceed.

TPC doesn’t act secretly, Parishioners are invited to attend all meetings – I would encourage you to come along. By doing so you can hear what TPC are doing for the Community. We’re all Parishioners and all affected by the same issues, whether that be Planning or for example the Environment, and TPC want to ensure we’re an effective voice that speaks for the whole Parish.  There are still vacancies for Parish Councillors and if you have a little time and want to help the Community, please think about approaching The Clerk for details of how you can become a Councillor.

If becoming a Councillor doesn’t float your boat, there are lots of things that you can do as a Parishioner. Firstly, keep an eye out for Planning Applications and make your views known to HDC, it only takes a minute to fill in the comments form – whether you approve or object, and it’s very worthwhile because if more than 8 objections are received the Application must be discussed at an HDC Planning Committee Meeting (which like TPC Meetings are open to the public).

Secondly if you have issues and concerns about Bellway’s activities on the Abingworth site, raise them with TPC or the management committee, but also feel free to voice your questions directly to Bellway (http://www.bellway.co.uk).

Also very importantly don’t hesitate to raise issues with our elected representatives at District and County level, as well of course to our MP Andrew Griffith. Those Parishioners who attended the ‘Question Time’ session TPC organised on 28th September will have heard Mr Griffith reiterate his views on development in our Parish and broadly within his constituency, and it’s important he hears what comments Parishioners may have about the Mushroom Farm.

Keith Abbott