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"Deeply Damaging"

How English Heritage described the development of The Elms in 2012.

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"Important Open Space"

How South Oxfordshire District Coucil classify The Elms

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Rectory Homes Submits Planning Application for Elms Park

Planning Application Received for Elms Park

In an unexpected turn of events, Rectory Homes submitted a planning application on the 21st July 2014 to modify the public park known as Elm Park.  The application includes opening up a entrance to the park on the west side, into what is currently private land and moving the multi use games area (basketball court) away from the boundary with the Elms.

 

The full application can be seen on the SODC website here: http://www.southoxon.gov.uk/ccm/support/Main.jsp?MODULE=ApplicationDetails&REF=P14/S2310/O

It should be noted that Elms Park is public land, overseen by Thame Town Council.  Rectory Homes has no right to undertake any works on the land although it is possible for any person to submit a planning application for any land, even if they don't own it.

The following image taken from the planning application clearly shows that the application is for the public land and that the private land next to the Elms Park is now referred to as The Elms Park Residential Development.  We question how a private company with no right over Elms Park can attempt to leverage a park which is rightly the land of the Town and its people?

elmsparkresidentialdevelopment

 We are currently in the process of analysing the application in it's entirey but the following objections are immediately obvious:

  1. Opening up a new access on the west side goes against recommendations of the Neighbourhood Action Group put in place in 2008, these recommendations which were primarily to reduce escape routes and facilitate policing of Elms Park , were very effective in reducing crime and anti-social behaviour which was a major issue at that point in time.  This could quite easily rear its ugly head again with this abundant access to private land in The Elms.
  2. The application proposes the trees line that forms the boundary between Elms Park and The Elms be removed.  The trees are referred to, rather misleadingly, as "young ornamental shrub / tree belt";  There are actually a number of native mature and established trees and what has effectively become a hedge row that supports important wildlife habitats.  It should be noted that all trees within the Thame conservation area have automatic Tree Protection Orders on them.  Legally many of these trees cannot be removed without the agreement of the Tree Officer.  Furthermore the benefit of destroying these trees is solely for the housing development.  There is no benefit to the park and it's users, who are the people of Thame.
  3. The 'landscaping' with mounds can serve little purpose other than being a way of waste spoil disposal and will destroy the important medieval ridge and furrow land archaeology which is still visible today. (see footnote 1 for clarification).
  4. The application clearly shows the proposed housing development within The Elms Park Residential Development.  They are clearly a mass of housing right up to the boundary with the park and facing onto the park.  It is our opinion that the developer is hijacking Elms Park to compensate for the over-development of The Elms site.  The promotion of this as beneficial to the town by offering a few questionable improvements to the park is purely a smokescreen.
  5. There has been no public consultation with regards to the wants and needs of the local community, the people who will actually use this park.
  6. The movement of the Basketball Court (MUGA) serves no purpose other than to the benefit of any houses that are built on the boundary between The Elms and Elms Park.

ecology-report-page

Further to these objections, you should consider the following points which may help you to see this application in a very different light.

  1. This is clearly stated to be in conjunction with the application for the Elms Park Residential Development.  There is currently no such application so is just plain false.
  2. The plan is clearly designed to ensure the potential homes to be built on The Elms Residential Development site have their values maximised.  The proposal moves the basketball court away from the boundary with the houses for example.
  3. Without these proposed changes to the park, Recotry's plan for The Elms will not be so viable.  This is purely to help them push their plans for housing development on private land through.

Couldn't The Park Do With a Revamp Though?

Whilst we are not against the park having a makeover, this is not the way to go about it.  No consideration has been given to the people that the land rightfully belongs to (i.e. the residents of Thame) and it has clearly been designed to maximise profits instead of usability for the town.

But we couldn't do this without the money from Rectory..

Not true in the slightest.  There is more than enough money available to do renovation works on the park based on a proper consultation.  Where do you think all the money from Music in the Park goes?!

Historic Considerations

There are 2 main historic considerations that you should be aware of.

  1. Elms Park used to part of the private land at The Elms.  At the end of World War 2 there was a severe housing shortage in the UK and the government at the time implemented the ability to compulsarily purchase any land that had an access point to a public highway in order to build much needed houses.  The then owner of The Elms, Mr Leonard Purser, decided the best way to protect the land from such a possibility was to divide up the land and gift half of it to the residents of Thame in the form of a public park.
    The council at the time signed a conveyance which included many clauses, all pointed towards one thing - the protection of the land of Elms Park and The Elms to keep it safe from development and misuse for the benefit of the residents of Thame.  This conveyance is a legally binding contract and could well be breached if development is given the go ahead, leaving Thame Town Council open to legal action from the people of the town, whom they represent.  
    Don't forget, although The Elms has always been private land, it has been used very regularly by the community for a multitude of events and attractions, many paid for directly by the Pursers and their descendents.
    What you should take from this historic interlude is that if it wasn't for the quick thinking, generosity and community spirit of one of Thame's most famous families, Thame would never have had Elms Park.  Now, 60 years on, The Elms has been taken over by a ruthless business which is attempting to maximise the financial benefit it can gain from an historic piece of land which includes dictating to the residents of Thame what their parkland should look like and be used for.
  2. There is significant evidence to show that the grassland at Elms Park has ridge and furrow land archaeology corresponding with the burgage plot orientations of the twon of Thame.  This is an extraordinary snapshot of the history of development of a modern town dating back through the ages to Medieval times.
    Any work such as that proposed in this planning application will destroy this evidence for good.  It is probably one of the very few remaining examples of this phenomenon.

 

Click here to object to this planning application - you do not need to be a resident of Thame to object.

 

Footnotes

1. Mounds - it is quite clear in the application masterplan (their words not ours!) that to the North of Elms Park there are areas labelled 6 (long grassland) but clearly with shading topography showing mounds (see image A below).  Image B shows a photo of the public consultation on The Elms held in November 2013.  These clearly show similar earth works.  Furthermore it is recalled that the architect who gave the talk about the plans at the time clearly stated these are mounds/earthworks.  If Rectory's plan has changed and these are now grasslands then they have been extremely lazy and cost cutting to not have the area redrawn.  Otherwise they're just not being straight with what the plans show.  Here are the facts, you make your own decision people of Thame...

mounds

Mounds on the master plan at the top of the park?

 

mounds-public-consult

The same mounds at the top of the park on the plans from the public consultation in Nov 2013?

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