Parish leases Thakeham Glebe Field

The Parish Council has now concluded a 10-year lease on the Glebe Field, located in the historic Conservation Area around The Street.

We are delighted to be able to ensure that this beautiful space will remain a key green asset for our rural community.  Our Environment Committee is currently working-up ideas for best uses of the field.  The core aim is that it remains a quiet green open access area where local people can enjoy our natural native heritage.  But there are lots of potential options consistent with this, including managing the field as a wildflower meadow, planting  trees/shrubs to benefit pollinators (community orchard?) and improving the amenity value via non-intrusive seating and equipment (children’s play/adventure-trail/adult keep-fit?).  Accessibility will also be an important consideration.  We hope that uses can also include suitable community and private events (without causing nuisance to neighbours) to generate income and offset the rent.  We will also be working closely with St Mary’s PCC in this process.

The Parish would be delighted to receive ideas/proposals from the community for this exciting project – contact us.

The Background
The proposal to lease the Glebe Field was first publicly mooted in 2017 when Thakeham First School, which had hitherto used the field for sports, moved to Rock Road. The decision to go ahead was taken in principle, and heads of terms agreed, in early 2018 but it has taken until now for detailed legal terms to be finalised.  A summary of the key reasons why the PC has opted to take this lease opportunity is:

  • The Glebe Field has a special historical and cultural status in the Parish – as recognised by its designation as a key Green Space within our Neighbourhood Plan, which was extensively consulted and endorsed by referendum in 2017.  There are no other spaces in the parish where a similar case for protective use of PC funds would be credible.
  • Community benefits of the arrangement will include:

– Events venue – although we now know that the Abingworth football fields work as a venue for community events, the Glebe Field has successfully hosted past events and is likely to still prove useful.  The Abingworth football and cricket fields are not always usable for events during relevant club playing seasons, which will be a constraint going forward.  Under the PC’s control, the field will be available to support events organised by community groups and St Mary’s church (which would not be the case otherwise – however surprising it may seem, if left under Diocese control, St Mary’s PCC would have no expectation of use of this field).  Some income may be raised from events use, to offset the rent.

– General amenity and environmental benefit – the Parish foresees scope for low-cost management of the field as a wildflower meadow and planting of trees/shrubs to benefit pollinators, to the benefit of the ecology of central Thakeham more widely.  It will remain a quiet green open access area for local people and available for group (e.g. school) visits.

 

  • Planning-related: the lease secures at least a 10-year period of firm protection against damaging planning proposals, which would otherwise be at risk.  Despite some existing protection via Conservation Area and Green Space (Neighbourhood Plan) status, the national planning framework continues to drift towards weakening of those protections.  Central CofE Church Commissioner decisions frequently lead to glebe lands being sold for housing and other purposes.
  • Consequences of no control: without this arrangement, the Thakeham community would have no say in the Diocese entering into other potentially undesirable tenancy arrangements.  Alternatively, if the field is left untenanted, its maintenance will be at risk which may lead to vandalism and/or chronic difficulties with keeping the existing footpath clear.

Financial provision has already been made for this arrangement, within the current precept level.  The rental costs are stepped over the 10 years: commencing at £500 pa to increase to £750 pa on the third anniversary of the term and further increase to £1000 pa on the sixth anniversary of the term. Maintenance costs will depend on the exact environmental approach to be developed, but will be kept under strict control.  St Mary’s PCC have kindly agreed to share initial legal costs with the PC.