This report first appeared in the Stratford-upon-Avon Herald, 17/3/2016 

The Annual Parish Meeting of Wellesbourne and Walton Parish Council in the Village Hall last week was well-attended with over 70 members of the public present. The meeting was accompanied by displays from local organisations which had benefitted from grants from the Parish Council in 2015, including Wellesbourne Youth Group, the Village Hall, Wellesbourne and Walton News, Chedham’s Yard, Neighbourhood Watch, Wellesbourne in Bloom and the Reminiscence Project.

The Chairman, Anne Prior, opened the meeting with two items of good news – firstly the South Warwickshire Clinical Commissioning Group has accepted the business case for the new medical centre and the decision on how much money will be made available will be announced in June. She did not know why it was taking so long. Secondly, the Inspector has declared that the District Council’s Core strategy is “sound” and this includes a statement that the District Council will support, and seek to enhance flying activities at Wellesbourne Airfield. It is hoped the Core Strategy will be in place by July, however she sounded a note of warning in that the Inspector had said the number of houses already planned for Wellesbourne should be regarded as a minimum not a maximum.

The theme of the evening was housing and the first speaker was from Orbit Housing Association outlining the work carried out recently on 68 properties in the Elliott Drive area to bring the energy efficiency of the houses up to grade C. The project was part funded by British Gas. Owners of former housing association dwellings were also encouraged to take part in the scheme, and most did. The work mainly consisted of external cladding but also included some loft insulation and cavity wall insulation where appropriate.

The second speaker was also from Orbit Housing and he talked about the extra care facility planned to provide 50 homes on the Redhill Nursery site. The project has been delayed because it necessitated a new electricity supply to the area. They estimate this delay has cost Orbit an extra £3-400,000 and which means that the plans will have to be revised to be a bit smaller, although still providing 50 homes.

The final speaker was from Stratford District Council and she explained the Council’s procedures for dealing with dwellings left empty for a long time. A home is deemed empty after 6 months and the Council starts investigating the reason for non-occupancy after about 2 years. The Council endeavours to work with the home owner to bring the property back into use and can even offer some funding for renovation if that is the cause for the delay. In return the home owner agrees to let the Council nominate the tenants for the first five years and these tenants will normally only pay 80-% of the market rent. It is estimated that there are about 600 empty homes in the Stratford District at any one time but of these at least 100 will be on the market, 50 undergoing renovation, and about 60 awaiting probate. The Council aims to return at least 25 to occupancy each year.

In the time for public questions, the topics raised included the possibility of yet more housing in the village leading to exacerbation of the existing parking problems and traffic congestion, and the limitations of the existing sewerage system which does not cope during spells of heavy rain. The Chairman agreed that pressure should be put on the public utilities to prove beyond doubt that they can cope with more housing development before planning permission is given.

Finally thanks were expressed to the Parish Council for its hard work in putting pressure on the medical authorities to agree the new medical centre.