50 years of the Society
Last year I reviewed the activities of the Society’s Committee under my chairmanship over the past 10 years or so. I have now been reminded by the Secretary, Dr Ivor Johnson, that this is the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Society. I believe it was formally instituted on 16 April 1962. One of its founder members was Bill Hope Jones who was our president until his death a few years ago. He continued to actively support the Society until he died.
Missing Records—can you help?
I have looked up some of the records of the Society which cover the decade of the 90s. If anyone else knows where the previous records are going back into the60s 70s and 80s then please do let us know. I don’t say they had an easy time of it in the 90s. There was the major planning appeal in relation to Buckland rings in 1987 and the ongoing issue of the siting of the hospital all the way through the 90s.
My reason for joining
It was the possibility of being able to push forward the development of the Hospital that encouraged me to join the Society’s Committee and to become its Chairman and very soon after, probably not due to any great effort on my part, the hospital was built and is a very splendid facility for the Town, whether one likes its location or not.
All change with the new millennium
Apart from the Hospital, things in the minutes in the 90s were some what routine. I don’t know whether it was the fault of the new Committee but, as I set out in my last Chairman’s speech last year, everything then happened. The Chicken Factory Site issue became active and has had a mind of its own ever since. Mr Prescott decided to encourage development on Brownfield sites and incorporated back gardens into the term Brownfield. That started a battle which lasted several years until the planners came round to our way of thinking following a public meeting, and the Government eventually modified its directives. previous meetings with envy. Possibly two or three letters to be discussed. These days not a day goes by without emails circulating amongst the Committee dealing with all these issues. We take the details them as read and discuss the wider principles at our Committee meetings. It is principles upon which an Amenity Society needs to operate. Its mission and message need to be clear. It is not an organisation for individual one-off issues important as they are. It has to look at the overall picture and argue to its strengths. That involves getting a good relationship with the planners and the local councillors, which I hope we have now achieved. That does not mean that we all agree all the time. As has happened this year we had surprise decisions not only from the District Councillors over Wetherspoon’s but also from the Town Councillors over Redrow. That does not mean that we fallout but that we put over our point of view to ensure that at the end of the daythe issue has been fully debated and properly considered by those bodies, do not agree with the current plan, but understandable. It is also understandable that a single issue organisation such as “Lymington Last Shores” using a website to attract support, fights on to get a much lower density. The Committee however feel that it has adopted a reasonable and responsible approach which prevents the Town from the risk of the 300 unit development rising to 4 to 5 stories.
On the issue of the ferries the Society has finally seen to a conclusion, in the recent public enquiry, its efforts toensure that the introduction of the ferries was carried out on the basis of all appropriate investigations being carried out by the authorities rather than the presentation of a fait-accompli by Wightlink.
On Wetherspoon’s we have been surprised and shocked at the Council’s decision to grant the application in the teeth of local opposition and have expended some of our funds in establishing whether there were grounds to challenge that decision. There were, but on a pragmatic basis when it was clear to us that the decision would be likely to be repeated if set-aside after a very risky and expensive judicial review, the right decision was not to go further. Jonathan Hutchinson would like me to say that if any members criticise that decision he would like to know whether they were one of the few members who responded to his request for their views in making that decision.
This is your opportunity to say whether the Committee is doing what you think is right. The Advertiser and Times suggested that we were raising a white flag over Wetherspoon’s. I have sought to justify our position in the local paper. If you have any views let us have them tonight.
The Committee have to act on your behalf. I sit on various committees and Ihave to say that this is one of the most active and well integrated committees that I am involved with and I am lucky to be Chairman of it. I hope you will continue to support it.
When the former Webb’s chicken processing factory closed down, the Lymington Society took the view that its unique riverside site offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to the town. We were therefore pleased to be invited by the New Forest District Council to contribute to the drafting of Supplementary Planning Guidance for the redevelopment of the site. From the outset we took the view that the site should not become another dense dormitory but should be developed in a way which opens the riverside to the whole town and vice versa, with buildings which reflect the Georgian character of the town rising on the hill behind it and the nature of the surrounding National Park.
The supplementary guidance, when completed, included a request to link the site to the town as much as possible and also to provide employment or at least commercial businesses on the site.
At that stage the government was pressing for high-density development and a proposal was put forward by the then developers for a mixed-use development with 205 private dwellings, 93 affordable dwellings and 10 live/work units; a total of 308 dwellings. In addition the proposal sought a 100 bed hotel (later changed to a care home), a restaurant, office accommodation and one retail unit. The proposal included a pedestrian bridge over the railway and a riverside walkway.
The plan envisaged ten large interlinked blocks of four storeys under steep pitched roofs in a style which, apart from its height, did reflect to some extent the visual style of the Georgian roofscape on the hill behind. This proposal was opposed by the Society as too dense, but the application was nevertheless granted on 8th June 2005, with certain conditions attached.
Redevelopment was held up by the recession, and the site was sold by Paxton Holdings to Redrow. Access across the railway line for both pedestrians and wheeled traffic, essential if the site is to be successfully integrated into the town but always an intractable problem, held up progress but seems now to have been solved. Meanwhile Redrow, engaged MJP Architects, a leading London firm whose buildings “aim to delight both client and users and respect and enhance the surrounding landscape or urban environment”, to look again at the site. Sir Richard McCormack gave a presentation to which both local Councillors and the Society’s committee were invited. Those present were impressed by the proposed new layout of the site, which included a direct link to the town by a bridge over the railway from the station, thus opening up the most important feature of the river frontage. On the other hand, we were disappointed that there was to be only a marginal reduction in the number of dwellings, and that the buildings would apparently be monolithic blocks with flat roofs, dominating and contrasting with the town behind, particularly when seen from the National Park across the river. The buildings have not yet been designed in detail but the concept has been available for inspection.
The Society’s view is that whilst the scheme may be an outstanding example of modern architecture in the right setting, an historic Georgian riverside town set in the New Forest National Park can not be that setting, and that Lymington’s traditional architecture would be either in conflict with the mass of the new development or overwhelmed by it.
Redrow intend to carry out a public consultation to test local opinion, which will be held on 14th August. While they are to be complimented on the fact of consulting the public, the Society is concerned that the potential result will be to demonstrate to the Local Planning Authority that the public prefer one alternative to the other, whereas we believe it likely that neither is likely to have substantial public support.
The Society’s position, which we think reflects that of most people in the town, remains that a dense development of four-storey flats, which will add substantially to the town’s population and congestion without any commensurate increase in its infrastructure, and that in the changed circumstances of 2010, neither the approved plan nor the current MJP proposal, is the best that could be achieved for the town or the National Park from this unique site. The Committee of the Lymington Society, hope that this background is helpful to Society members and to the wider public when considering their response to the consultation.
I hope there will be a large turnout of the public at the consultation. If anyone would like further information on this proposal from the Lymington Society please contact any of the committee members shown on the Society’s website.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I well remember my father as a parish priest scratching his head for a theme for his sermon. I do the same in a secular way every year for the Lymington Society Annual General Meeting. This year I received a call yesterday afternoon from a helpful committee member, which reminded me of the AGM today. At the time I was in the process of clearing out an enormous amount of excess papers and in my hand were Lymington Society papers going back 10 years which reminded me that I had been asked to become Chairman in May 2001.
Many of you will remember the previous Acting Chairman Leslie Dry, who in asking for new committee members in his Acting Chairman’s report for March 2001 said: “It is essential if the Association is to continue, to find new officers for the coming Annual General Meeting and I would urge members to offer themselves for committee service since the Lymington Society is really the only forum to defend the Town against the overwhelming pressures of development”.
How right he was and I hope you agree that that is what the Society has done in the intervening 10 years.
In my first report to the members in October 2001, I said: “I would like to see the Society being not only reactive to proposals but also constructive and, where appropriate, supportive of the council’s planning policies. If however, we feel the policies, or individual applications, are wrong, we will be vociferous in opposing them”.
In the next paragraph I said: “One of the major current planning it is the future of the Webb Site. This is something on which I think and I believe the Society and its membership can have an important voice”.
Enough of quoting from the past, but I think it is interesting to go back every now and then to see where one started from and see what has been achieved in the light of that. Here are a few milestones from the past 10 years.
There was the Society’s contribution to the 2001 Supplemental Planning Guidance on the Webb Site, sadly largely ignored by the granting of the original Webb Site planning permission by the then councillors.
There was the first public meeting by the then developers, Paxtons, explaining their proposals, at which Paxtons said that, if they had been encouraged to meet the Society and its membership before developing their plans, they would have taken into account numerous of the points made by the members and the public at that meeting.
There was the start of planning applications for flats in our residential roads. These lead to another public meeting at which the planning officers and councillors were present, and which started a sea change in their thinking. The situation has been like stopping a super tanker, and I think we are now beginning to see official opposition to further flat developments in residential roads, but I’m afraid not without some significant change to the character of those roads having taken place. Change which has not inevitably and irrevocably changed Lymington’s character, but which could have done if loud opposition had not been voiced initially.
There have been issues over the ferries in which I hope the Society, in holding a public meeting, laid the ground for a level playing field preventing Wightlink from getting away entirely with a fait-accompli, and in respect of which the debate still continues.
Coming more up-to-date: in the last year, there has been the recent cooperation with the council officers over Local Distinctiveness, where the efforts put in by our committee members have led to the character of the town being reflected in the Local Distinctiveness Guidance, which will now inform planning decisions, and planning inspectors who come to review those decisions.
Even more up-to-date, and there has been the part played by the Society in the issue over Wetherspoons and the wholehearted opposition by the community to a “destination” public house immediately adjacent to our parish church and churchyard. Our efforts, with others, led to a unanimous vote by councillors against this, and our efforts will have to be renewed again for the inevitable new application, lodged in these cases in the hope that our opposition will be worn down by having to go through the whole process again.
Through all these issues I have tried to encourage the committee members to be objective, and they have responded. We are not a campaign group. There are other such groups, for example the groups set up to oppose the Redrow development and the Lymington River Users Group set up to oppose the ferries. Our objective is to ensure that the planning process works fairly and, where we do not feel the right decision is being made, to oppose that decision; and not only to oppose that decision but to encourage the right decision to be made.
An example of this is the Wellworthy Club site, where we encouraged a better effort by the developers, which they responded to with an Art Deco development, but which unfortunately was just too much for the site. We hope that the third proposal now being built will reflect the character of that site.
I can’t say that the development at the traffic lights has been one of our best successes but at least one can say that the building merges into the remainder of Southampton Road to the north without being able to set a precedent for further similar redevelopment up Southampton Road. We wait to see the results of Colton’s redevelopment opposite, having said goodbye to the old landmark of Buckland House.
That leads back to the thorny subject of the Webb’s chicken factory site exactly 10 years on. I would like to encourage everyone now to call it the Redrow site, at least in recognition of the effort which that company have put into trying to improve on the original Paxton’s planning permission. I said earlier how Paxton told us that, if the powers that be had not kept the Society apart from them as developers, then a lot of the issues raised could have been taken account of in the original plans.
Council policy has changed dramatically since then, and we have been involved with Redrow in their proposals. However, unfortunately, in trying to do something better Redrow engaged an architect who told me quite frankly that he only designed in square blocks. If only they had run that one past the Society before going ahead! Having realised their mistake, Redrow very fairly carried out a consultation which led to a final application with pitched roofs in a very individualistic style, which, however sympathetic one tries to be, just does not look as if it should be located in Lymington.
I go back to my first quotation: “If, however, we feel the policies or individual applications are wrong, we will be vociferous in opposing them”. We have every sympathy for Redrow’sefforts but the end result has to be right for Lymington. With that in mind we think the right way forward is to call another public meeting to be held on 4 April for everyone’s views to be aired and we will be inviting Redrow and councillors and planning officers to that meeting. Don Mackenzie will be giving you more of the background details of the applications as a preliminary to that meeting.
(The public meeting referred to here did indeed take place, and is referred to elsewhere on the website- ed)
Of the 10th anniversary of the new committee of the Society can I again record the efforts of those who do so much on a daily basis and on whom I can entirely rely to carry out theirduties.
Peter Chitty, our President and wise head. It’s not what he says, but what he doesn’t say, that I rely on.
Ivor Johnston, our Secretary keeping the paperwork and the correspondence in order and hosting our monthly meetings.
Don Mackenzie, our press officer who fires us up when necessary.
Nic King, who has dealt with the planning for so long.
Jonathan Hutchinson, who has recently put in so much detailed effort on the planning side and makes a fantastic team with Nic King.
Derek Sheffer, who manages the accounts and the subscriptions and membership so quietly and efficiently.
Nigel Seth-Smith, who manages the website and edits the newsletter to a form where my office photocopier produces it at the touch of a button.
I am very thankful not to be in the position of Leslie Dry 10 years ago who indicated that without fresh blood in the committee the Society was at risk of being able to continue. We may need changes and fresh blood in the future but at the moment this committee is firing on all cylinders and reacting to every challenge. I hope you will continue to give it your support.
Clive Sutton, Society Chairman
Ladies and gentlemen.
As those of you who have had the patience to listen to my previous Chairman’s addresses will know that I tend to pick up the theme from the previous address and carry it forward.
Last year in asking the question: “What has the Lymington Society done this year which I can share with the members”, I reminded you of three recent headlines in the paper which the Lymington Society was connected with: “Chaos As High Winds Halt New Ferries”;” Landmark Homes Development on Wellworthy Club Site Refused”; “Builders Face Big Bill As Bid to Keep too High Homes Refused”. You can obviously all identify these headlines and how things have developed since then.
The theme that struck me this year at our last monthly committee meeting on 9 March was the amount of dedicated detailed work that the committee members put into the work of the Society.
Here is another list of meetings attended by Members of the Committee in the preceding month:
- 1st of February: Exhibition on Shoreline Management Plan — attended by one committee member
- 1st of February: Friends of Lymington Railway AGM — attended by two committee members
- 25th of February: Local Distinctiveness meeting with council planners — attended by four committee members
- 4th of March: Lymington Parking Study meeting — attended by one committee member
- 8th March: meeting with Natural England regarding ferries and mitigation of their damage — attended by three committee members
- 9th March: presentation by Redrow on their new development attended by five committee members
- Finally 9th of March: our monthly committee meeting attended by all committee members including our president Peter Chitty, although one member could not stay, but came to deliver the envelopes he had stuffed with the notices of this meeting!
Is there any other organisation or any other chairman which is as lucky to have such a dedicated group of committee members always ready, if not vying, to attend meetings on subjects which they have a particular interest in connected with the Lymington Society.
As a result of those meetings one can summarise the Society’s current situation.
On ferries we have responsibly promoted a situation where the ferries issue is going to be resolved with a full intervention of the appropriate authorities and not purely on the basis of a take it or leave approach by Wightlink, and with proper liaison with Natural England as to an assessment of the impact of the larger ferries.
On the linked aspect of the shoreline, so important to Lymington, we are closely involved with that subject.
On the railway line, we support the friends of Lymington Railway and will maintain a useful liaison that will benefit Lymington and potentially affect development in the future
On Local Distinctiveness, this meeting has been one example of our lead role in cooperation with the planners in an analysis which I will mention more on in a moment
On the Redrow Riverside site, as I shall now call it, an extremely useful dialogue with Redrow as to its plans.
Finally I can say that our association with the Pennington Residents Association continues ensuring that our representations on Pennington are co-ordinated, if not always identical, and I paid particular tribute to Chris Howe for his cooperation.
Expanding on the subjects of these meetings can I say that the old Wellworthy Club site, which is going to be such an important building at the gateway to Lymington, is edging towards an agreed development with the cooperation of the developers, who have put forward various schemes. We thought the last scheme was probably as good as it would get but had strong reservations about the lack of parking and the effect on traffic. The planners would like something better and we hope that the eventual scheme will do justice to that sensitive corner.
I say this from the point of view that the other sensitive entrance to the conservation area, the traffic lights, is now in process of development with the assistance of the first crane of that size in the Lymington area. As this can be seen from the Keyhaven marshes there is no escape from being reminded of this planning decision.
The second major issue this year has been the Council’s initiative on Local Distinctiveness in which they have involved the Society from the beginning.
I can remind members of a very useful meeting hosted by the Society with local councillors to ensure that we all got off on the right foot with this.
Local distinctiveness will create a new Supplementary Planning Guidance covering the whole area of the town not covered by conservation areas to identify locally distinctive characteristics, with which new development should be sympathetic and should comply. One can imagine that if that policy had been in place, so that inspectors had to follow it, several of the more prominent new buildings recently would not have been built in the way that they have.
On the subject of what the Society considers planning mistakes in the area of Avenue Road, I suspect the final local distinctiveness document will identify some of these and say that they should not be followed as precedents as they have been built out of character with their particular locations.
That brings me onto the biggest new development which will soon take place on the old Webb Site, now Redrow’s site. I recall this is one of the first issues I dealt with as Chairman, to be involved in the original supplemental planning guidance prior to the original planning permission, which conspicuously was not followed by the Council at that time. The position is that we are now fixed with the original permission that was provided by the Council, against many of the members’ better judgement.
Redrow’s could build on the basis of that permission, but as we learnt at presentation last week they have chosen to dramatically review the plans and come up with a much improved scheme.
Firstly specialist architects have been brought in and we were addressed at our meeting by Sir Richard McCormac of MJP Architects who is a former President of the RIBA.
The previous scheme had allowed for the road access with the condition of a rear pedestrian access somewhere across the railway.
The imaginative difference of the current scheme has been to make the pedestrian access across the railway the central focus of the site and a link with the Town. The bridge over the railway would be part of a graded access from the station car park, described possibly as “Station Square”, onto a high level entrance square of the development. The semicircular development radiates out from there with radial visual lines to and from theRiverside. On the Riverside, buildings will connect with the water and relate to it rather than looking away and inwards from it as the previous development did.
The development will, as presently considered, still be quite dense with up to 300 units but much broken up and protected by trees. The other committee members and councillors and planning officers, who were at the meeting, felt that this was an imaginative way to review the development, given that there is planning permission for a significant scheme at present.
Another feature which has pleased me particularly is how the Council have now involved local organisations such as this Society with the initial concept, rather than the exclusion which took place under earlier regimes. I recall how when we have called the previous developers to a public meeting to explain their plan, councillors said that if they had been put in touch with public feeling, they would have started their plan from a completely different concept.
Perhaps this is what we have now achieved. I hope that in due course the current developers, Redrow, will be able to attend a meeting to explain their plan to our membership as a whole and to take into account any feedback, as indeed happened at this recent meeting.
The climate of dialogue with the planners has really changed dramatically over the last few years, in response, I hope, to the reasonable and objective approach taken by the Society committee members to development matters.
Not least this has occurred in relation to the Town Council, who have been extremely grateful by the frequent presence of Jonathan Hutchinson dealing with planning matters. I think they would not mind me saying that when Jonathan goes to express the Society’s view on important issues which affect the character of the town, they wish he would stay to help them with the more mundane problems that as planning committee councillors they have to face!
On the question of cooperation, can I say that whilst in the past successive Town Councillors took the view that cooperation between the Town Councillors and the Society was incompatible with their public position, again we now have an extremely good working relationship with the current mayor Cllr Jan Hawker, who attended our local distinctiveness meeting.
I am afraid our current cooperation does not extend to the practicalities of ensuring that our AGM and an important Town Council meeting did not clash which is why the Lady Mayoress is not able to be here today, but I can assure our members that that is purely accidental and does not reflect on our relationship and she would be here if she could.
I am only the spokesperson for a Committee whose individual efforts for the Society are on a much more dedicated basis than mine. I tend to guide and encourage the Committee and where necessary pick up the pieces, but it is the other committee members who, all of them in their different ways, form the engine room of this Society.
I have named the committee members specifically previously and I will not embarrass them again but they are here today and can be spoken to informally afterwards. I will mention our thanks to Marion Jakes who joined us a couple of years ago as a committee member and took an interest in marshes and coastal matters but resigned recently.
The remaining members continue to offer themselves for re-election. I appreciate that new blood is always welcome but this committee works extremely well with all existing members having a task to do. I can assure you that it is in no way running out of steam or ideas and you would be well advised to re-elect its members rather than lose any of its wealth of talent.
Ladies and gentlemen I commend the committee to you for re-election in due course.