Monday, 23 November 2020

Bloom bid knocked with refusal of garden revamp

PLANS to refurbish Rectory Gardens in Goring have been blocked by the parish council.

PLANS to refurbish Rectory Gardens in Goring have been blocked by the parish council.

Volunteers wanted to give the site a £2,000 makeover as part of the Goring Gap in Bloom project.

They hoped to install a new village sign surrounded by two curved wooden benches with a path leading to a gravel maze.

They also planned to resurface the footpath from Manor Road to St Thomas’ churchyard, plant new shrubs, put up another bench and tidy up the lawn.

But the parish council, which holds the land in trust, has turned down the scheme.

Chairman Alan Strong said it went against the intentions of landowner Sir James Edmondson, who gave the gardens to the village in 1939.

According to the trust deeds, the site must be sown with grass apart from the central footpath and its avenue of lime trees.

Stephanie Bridle, a member of the Goring Gap in Bloom committee, came up with the idea after Goring and Streatley won a silver gilt award in Britain in Bloom last year. The judges who inspected Goring said Rectory Gardens looked neglected and unattractive and Mrs Bridle, a former parish councillor, hoped the makeover would help Goring win gold in this year’s competition.

She approached the parish council, which backed the idea in principle and secured a £2,000 grant for the work from Oxfordshire County Council’s Big Society fund.

Mrs Bridle then commissioned landscape gardeners Noble Intentions, of Sonning Common, to come up with the design.

The parish council says it supported the proposal for new shrubs and a bench but was not told about the other additions until the volunteers submitted the plans last month.

Mrs Bridle says her committee told the council about them in private talks several months ago but Cllr Strong denies this.

Mrs Bridle said: “They talked as though they were hearing it for the first time but at no earlier point did they say they were not going to support us. In fact, their whole ethos throughout the process appeared to be one of support. We wanted to make that area much better for the village but for some reason they changed their mind.

“They were with us all the way — our project is what the Big Society is about after all. We’ve come up with it all by ourselves to improve the environment, not for any other reward.

“We wanted to create a community space because older people don’t play football or cricket and there’s no other place for them to meet. I think it was a really good idea but sadly it’s all gone pear-shaped.

“If the council would only take legal advice on the matter, I’m confident that they would be advised that it is okay to go ahead.”

Mrs Bridle said 98 per cent of residents supported the scheme when her committee held a public consultation in March.

She also said the council had sought legal advice in the Sixties when it was considering building a toilet in the gardens and was told the covenant was no longer enforceable. Angela Clarke, of the Friends of Rectory Gardens, supported the scheme, saying the gardens were “a wasted space in a prime position” which should be made more attractive.

But Richard Lester, whose cottage overlooks the gardens, said he was “rather horrified” at the proposals.

He said: “Lots of things have been attributed to Sir James Edmondson but he was extremely specific in his deed — he talked about the number of trees, how far apart they were to be and that the rest of the area was to be sown with grass.”

Cllr Strong said: “The council had to make a decision acting as trustees of the site. We are in the position of beneficiaries and had to take that into account. The reading of the trust deed is that the area should be left as grass and the Goring Gap in Bloom committee knew what was in the document.”

He said the parish council was only provided with the full project information days before the meeting where it rejected the plans.

Cllr Strong added: “The committee can always put forward revised proposals, provided that they are in line with the trust deed.”

Mrs Bridle said she would not be redrafting the plans.

STOKE ROW Steam and Vintage Vehicle Rally will take place at Larkstoke Farm, Ipsden, this weekend.

This is the 33rd year of the rally, which is run by the Stoke Row Steam and Vintage Vehicle Club, a group of enthusiasts.

The club was formed in 2009 to save the rally from vanishing and since then it has gone from strength to strength.

This year’s rally promises to be the largest yet as all entry sections are full.

There will be more than 25 steam traction engines and more than 20 model steam engines as well as a large number of military vehicles, commercial vehicles, vintage and classic tractors, stationary engines and vintage, veteran and classic cars and motorcycles. There will be a craft country marquee, a tea tent, a large market and food outlets as well as children’s attractions including a Punch and Judy show, a petting farm and fairground.

A brass band, pipe band and clog and step dancers will perform and there will be a licensed bar and live evening entertainment tonight (Friday) and tomorrow evening.

Saturday evening will see some of the steam engines and other vehicles taking part in their traditional road run to the King William pub at Hailey.

The rally is open from 10am to 6pm on Saturday and 10am to 5pm on Sunday. Entry is £6 for adults (£5 for concessions) and £2 for children under 16. Parking is free.

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