On Saturday 18th February a questionnaire concerning the church commissioners’ proposals for development at Roughmoor lane was sent to residents of Westbury- sub-Mendip. It was circulated by the distribution system set up by the parish council emergency planning committee. The system, developed throughout the covid pandemic, is designed to contact every household in the village via email, or, where this is not possible, via paper copies.
Over 250 people, around a third of the adult population, responded and a summary of the results is given below. A PowerPoint presentation containing the results is available on the village website.
The numbers participating in the survey are impressive given that the average turnout in the much better advertised local government elections is also around 35% and indicates the level of interest in this application. Although it is difficult to be certain, those responding appear to be broadly representative of the village community.
The survey divided houses in the village into 5 areas – those living along the A371 and those north and south of the road, each of these latter areas split east and west. The responses received closely reflected the number of houses in each area. It is clear therefore that a majority of responses were from people not in the area immediately facing the development who might be expected to have specific and strongly held views on the matter and can be taken as an indication of village opinion as a whole.
The survey respondents were in the main elderly (51% aged 65+) retired (46.2%) and in households without children (81%) Compared with the 2011 census data those over the age of 75 seem overrepresented and those in the 25-44 age group underrepresented. Two thirds of responses, however, came from those aged 45-74 and this is not out of line with the proportions shown in the earlier census data (63%)
This possible bias towards older residents might help explain the level of interest in bungalows suitable for older people wanting to downsize. It may understate the level of interest in other types of housing.
In terms of specific issues,
- a substantial majority of those responding (88%) felt that any new development should reflect the village dark skies policy.
- the most popular choice for use of any community space was for a new village hall (51%) with other choices divided between allotments, parking, playing fields and ‘other’ which seemed to mean a larger village shop / cafe;
- very high numbers indicated that several issues of concern were very important to them with the most frequently cited being pedestrian safety (223) and traffic access onto the A371 (210).
- Substantial numbers indicated that with safer walking and cycling routes they would reduce car use within the village (162, walking) and between villages (122, cycling).
- A clear majority (58%) felt that any entrance to new development should be kept separate from Roughmoor Lane.
A number of questions asked about housing and housing needs. Thirty people (12% of respondents) said that someone in their family had had to leave the village because of a shortage of affordable housing within the last five years. Some 58 people, just under a quarter of all responses, felt that a family member might have to leave for the same reason within the next five. It reinforces anecdotal evidence that the existing housing stock provides few opportunities for the young or the less affluent to remain in Westbury.
Similarly, forty-three people (17%) felt that they or a family member might have to leave because of a lack of smaller properties suitable for downsizing. When asked what type of property would best meet their needs if they wished to relocate within the village in future, 50% said a bungalow.
There were three open questions in the survey asking people for their single greatest concern about the church commissioners’ proposals, the most positive aspect of them, and finally an opportunity to make any other comments. Not everyone took this opportunity, but the answers show a consistent pattern
Q What is your single greatest concern about the Church Commissioners’ proposals for Roughmoor Lane?
- Too many houses 59
2.Road traffic issues 54
3.Overdevelopment in general 42
4.Environmental issues. 11
5.Fear of creeping growth/distrust of CC 9
6.Community use area and placement. 6
Q What do you feel is the most positive aspect of the proposed development?
- possibility of affordable/social housing and downsizing opportunities 58
- nothing to like in these proposals 52
- More families to keep the shop, school, pub and church going 28
- Opportunity to improve village amenity (if brown field site is included) 21
- May improve road and footpath access and safe crossing of A371 13
- Provides for community progression and growth 10
- Recognition of environmental issues (including respect for wildlife) 6
Q Is there anything else you would like to say about the development proposed by the Church Commissioners?
1.Lack of consideration of community needs 39
- New housing needs to be sensitively developed 34
- Overdevelopment for the size of village 19
4.Shortsightedness of not including the brownfield site 12
- Environmental issues (wildlife, dark skies, etc.) 10
- Traffic and pedestrian safety) 7
- I just want to say no to any development here 7
- Fears of creeping growth 4