When Dominic Grieve MP opened the meeting, held at the Curzon Centre on Tuesday 9 April, he made a very cogent remark: “This development has the potential to be of great benefit to Beaconsfield, if undertaken well; if done badly, it will be to its detriment.” His words found many echoes in the discussions that followed.
The Open Meeting, organised by the Beaconsfield Society and Beaconsfield Old Town Residents Association (BOTRA), attracted some 250 residents, many of whom had visited the public consultation event put on by Inland Homes in March (see our April magazine).
While both societies applauded the consultation, they felt it raised many issues for the town that needed open debate. The meeting focused on three major concerns − the impact on traffic flow in the Old Town and the need for both better sports facilities and dedicated community amenities − before opening up for general discussion.
Traffic congestion, already chronic at London End, not surprisingly provoked a lively discussion, with speakers for and against a bypass. Traffic consultant Patrick Gurney explained that simply building a bypass would create as many problems as it solved, while Peter Hardy, BCC Cabinet member for Transport, was in favour of it, as were most speaking from the floor. All agreed that something must be done.
Keith Bowyer of Holtspur Football Club argued strongly that the Wilton Park development offered a real chance to gain much-needed sports grounds with decent changing facilities and a social space where they could build a real community atmosphere. Godwin Johnson from the Tennis Club reminded us all that, while adults might need homes, children need a place to play. A plea for a swimming pool in the town drew strong applause, though its long-term funding was not explored.
The third session, on community facilities, was opened by Deborah Sanders on behalf of Churches Together. She spoke strongly in favour of creating community facilities that served all aspects of our lives, spiritual as well as physical, from birth to death. Graham Southgate then spoke of the need for a permanent theatre. For more than 100 years the town’s performing arts organisations have been using school halls and other multi-purpose venues. Here was a golden opportunity to build something of real benefit for the future.
In the final open session, wider questions were raised on schooling and medical care, given that local schools and medical practices are already full, and how we can protect the promise to build much-needed affordable housing and amenities open to all our communities − an important reminder of Dominic Grieve’s opening thoughts.
The Beaconsfield Society and BOTRA sent a summary of the views expressed at the meeting to Inland Homes and SBDC, and will hold a further open meeting once the Supplemental Planning Document − based on the Development Brief submitted by Inland Homes to SBDC − is published.