AT the November meeting of Abbotts Ann Parish Council councillors discussed the following.

St Mary’s Churchyard footpaths: The vicar, Rev Katrina Dykes, provided photographs of the footpaths, illustrating her concerns over their safety. They were slippery, the path to the ‘bier shed’ (the sexton’s shed) being the worst. She explained to councillors that undertakers use a cart, called a bier, to carry coffins. Cllr Andrew Hayter, the chairman, said advice was being sought on appropriate repairs. Katrina asked about leaning tombstones. The chairman said it was suggested that tombstones be measured every couple of years to ascertain movement: some extended as far below ground as above and were not wobbly. The churchwarden, Gordon Howard, said some unstable stones were reported to the clerk in July. A parochial church council member would attend the next burial ground committee meeting.

Test Valley Borough Council: Borough councillor Graham Stallard reported that the new Strategic Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment showed ten sites for potential development in Abbotts Ann, ranging from five dwellings to 100, offering 500 possible new houses. Each site would be assessed for suitability.

War Memorial Hall: Cllr Lorna Haigh noted that the gate had a padlock, which is thought to have been affixed by nursery school staff. Councillors agreed this was unacceptable. It was also unacceptable, for safety reasons, to have an internal bolt on the hall door.

Manor Farm: Cllrs Mike Cleugh and Sarah Dowding from Monxton Parish Council explained a proposal to build 15 houses on the Manor Farm site on Monxton Road, presently occupied by Alpine Group steel fabricators.

Mike said Alpine’s traffic was causing problems in Monxton and Abbotts Ann, and the head of planning at the borough council was prepared to relax regulations to permit new housing on the site sufficient to finance Alpine’s proposed move to the Andover Business Park. Mike said that, coincidentally, Abbotts Ann’s website showed a requirement for 15 new houses. He hoped the council would be supportive.

The chairman wondered if it might encourage further development, and was concerned about infrastructure since the site was outside the village. Sarah countered that it was not that far away. If planning policy were to be broken, she said, the project should enhance the environment. Houses could resemble converted farm buildings and there would be less traffic. Cllr Susie Bleeker ventured that, assuming one car per bedroom, vehicle movements would not reduce. Mike invited councillors to meet the architect and representatives from Alpine. Mike and Sarah then departed.

Cllr Mike Docherty said he fundamentally disapproved of helping a commercial business. The chairman commented that the Community Land Trust (CLT) being considered by Abbotts Ann was ‘not for profit’, and could not be combined with the Manor Farm proposals. Susie emphasised that the CLT was for housing within the village, for the village.

Adhering to their standing orders on the procedure for dealing with pre-planning applications, councillors voted by a majority not to meet Alpine. They suggested meeting Monxton councillors and the borough council’s head of planning, to gain more information.

Sports Field Committee (SFC): The chairman reiterated that the council could not grant the SFC a long lease for the sports field, allowing them to operate independently, until the SFC became an official body such as a charity or sports association. However, after 18 months of discussion, the SFC had made little progress towards this. Councillors were concerned about responsibility for site safety, and that the SFC had not published audited accounts despite raising money from the public. Cllr Dale Wells suggested the SFC be given notice to quit, and the premises be locked up. Cllr Tim Abram protested these were used by many groups: perhaps the SFC should be regularised as a parish council sub-committee. Councillors would meet the SFC again, possibly giving a deadline for the group to establish formal status.

The Green: Cllr Dale Wells reported that ‘having waded through treacle’, he now had an acceptable quote for fencing the new wildflower meadow.

Next Meeting: On 7 December at Burghclere Down Community Centre.

Rosemary Groves