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Freshford Mill

posted 9 Sept 2014, 02:23 by Parish Council Communications
Dear Resident,

Freshford Mill

My name is Tony Dowse Chairman of Environ Communities. My fellow Director is Andrew Tait.

We are grateful to the Parish Council for providing us with this early opportunity to tell you that our company completed the purchase of Freshford Mill yesterday, the 8th September, and to say something about our future intentions. I live in the nearby village of Turleigh and Andrew too lives locally. We both realise the sensitivities relating to this site.

Our main objective is to produce a development scheme that turns the current eyesore into a scheme of which the local community can be proud.

Our proposals will involve remixing the existing accommodation and some alteration to the built form but the unit numbers will not exceed the current 21. The previous mix provided residential units that were either too large or too small neither providing suitable properties for families or for downsizers from the local community. In addition there seemed to be little consideration of outside space for residents. We do totally understand that such a scheme should not in character be over domesticated and our landscaping proposals will be based on indigenous species as part of an overall wildlife habitat.

The architecture of the existing scheme, as implemented by the previous developer, is deeply disappointing and we have appointed a RIBA award winning architect to introduce significant changes to the buildings. These changes will be discussed in detail with both BANES and the two Parish Councils. We will also as be arranging an exhibition in the Freshford village hall with Environ representatives on hand to explain the detailed scheme and to answer your questions. 

Our proposals for the site include flood defences incorporated with a riverside walk and a raised board walk across the island so that at times when the vehicle bridge is flooded residents will still be able to walk to the shop and school etc. Our proposals also increase the area of land available for flood storage. We have already offered use of the island as a Nature Reserve in perpetuity to Freshford Primary School. Gates will not prevent access to the rest of the scheme and it is envisaged that local residents will be able to walk through the scheme and enjoy the wildlife area around the pond which will be deepened to provide a permanent water feature.

Part of our measures will be to find solutions to the open car park which will look totally unacceptable when viewed from the top of the hill. The lack of covered parking and storage in the current scheme is quite simply likely to lead to a plethora of garden sheds which will again look unsightly.

Our initial priority is to have a presence on site clearing the site of scrub, including the eradication of the Himalayan Balsam, which will make security easier and hopefully prevent further theft. The break in a couple of months ago resulted in a loss of £35,000 of materials stripped out and previous thefts have amounted to over a six figure sum. We are also conscious of the recent rave and the previous occupation of the site by squatters and are keen to avoid a repeat of this. 

Our other immediate concern is to sort out the traffic situation relating to Rosemary Lane. We are aware of previous issues and that satnav unfortunately directs traffic heading for Freshford Mill down the lane. The Neighbourhood Plan proposes traffic calming at the top of Rosemary Lane and at the access to Freshford Mill. It is Environ’s intention to fund and implement these two schemes without delay so long as that is the local consensus.

The intention is that signage at the traffic calming at the top of Rosemary Lane signs an alternative route and that the signage makes it absolutely clear that access to the mill is not via the lane. 

Vehicles will be unable to turn left out of the site and any cars approaching from Rosemary Lane will not be able to turn right into the site due to the configuration of the access. It is hoped that these two initiatives will prevent any Freshford Mill traffic using Rosemary Lane in the future. We will also be agreeing with the Parish Councils access routes for construction traffic however the buildings are at a stage where the majority of heavy traffic will be a thing of the past.

It is our objective to implement the traffic calming as soon as is possible and we will be seeking an early meeting with the BANES Highways Department. We are aware that the Parish Councils have already discussed this with the officer in principle and if this principle is indeed accepted then we will consult with both the Parish Councils and residents as to the precise detail.

It is our hope to complete Phase 1 by May to include all the landscaping to the pond area at the front of the site. We hope that construction will be finished by January 2016 and that our method of operation will prevent significant disturbance to local residents.

We do totally appreciate that development is not welcomed by everybody but we very much hope that you will give us the benefit of the doubt to enable us to produce a scheme of merit. In order to do this, we need to work with BANES, the Parish Council and local residents in order to show that a team approach can indeed remove a blot on the landscape and restore both the mill and its setting to its former glory.

Should you have any issues that you would like to discuss then please contact me on Tel: 07850 671241 or Andrew Tait on Tel: 07863 922578.

With kind regards

G. Anthony Dowse and Andrew Tait