Which are Datchet’s most important green spaces, and our most treasured buildings and monuments? What type of new play areas do we need? Which grass verges need improving? What sort of property do downsizers look for? We asked you to tell us in our latest survey which closed on 31 January. Here are the results of the survey
Local Green Spaces Neighbourhood Plans can identify green areas which are important to the local community. This Local Green Space designation offers the same protection from development as Green Belt status. To meet the requirements of national planning policy, Local Green Spaces must be demonstrably special to the community, for their beauty, history, recreational value, tranquillity or wildlife. They must be local in character, reasonably close to the community they serve; and not an extensive tract of land. Based on your previous feedback about green spaces which are most important to you, the DNP team identified five sites which we believe meet these criteria. We needed to know whether you support these designations. Here are the percentages of survey respondents who supported each site being designated as a Local Green Space:
Recreation Ground 97% of respondents supported this
Willowfields at the back of the Rec 84%
Sabatini Land between Horton Road and the Rec ditch 80%
Village Greens and The Cut by Horton Road car park 92%
We asked why these spaces are special to you. This is what you told us: Recreation Ground You gave us many reasons why the Recreation Ground is special to you. In summary, you appreciate its multiple recreational uses and good facilities. You think it’s an important area for exercise, sport and play, for everyone to enjoy and for kids to have fun. It’s the biggest public open space in Datchet, you said, and makes Datchet a special place to live and grow up. Willowfields You told us that you appreciate the Willowfields as a natural habitat for wildlife, for birds and butterflies, which is also enjoyed by families and dog-walkers. You said it’s a tranquil place to walk, an area that feels more natural and unstructured than the flat green of the Rec and you enjoy walking away from the urban surroundings. Sabatini Land You think that the Sabatini Land is an enjoyable place to walk (with and without dogs), a safe route to school, and also a valued play area. You told us that this green space is important for the character of the village, and good for the environment. Some voiced concern about the area being vulnerable to development if the flood risk is ever removed. Someone thought it had potential as an area for an outdoor market, or similar, in proximity to the village hall. Village Greens and The Cut As in all our other DNP surveys, you told us how important the greens are in creating the ‘feel' and character of our village. They’re what makes Datchet special, you said, ‘the very essence of a village’, ‘what makes a village a village’. You commented on how attractive they are, how much you value them as a focal point and how they help to create a sense of community. You also appreciated the monuments and memorials on the greens. The Public Riverside Garden The public riverside garden is also very much appreciated for its location, beauty, tranquillity, amenity and stunning views, and because it is the only small space left by the river for public use. You said it is a means for residents to enjoy the river as there is no footpath on that stretch of the Thames. You also said that the Garden is important to Datchet’s character as a riverside village and the only public area in Datchet where residents can sit to relax and enjoy the peace and stunning views of the river. You said it gave you a sense of calm and was irreplaceable.
We asked if there any important local green spaces missing from the list which you think should also be protected? Thank you for your suggestions. Some of these were for land which is already protected by the green belt or other designation, or did not fulfil the strict criteria required for 'Local Green Spaces'. Ideas included Ditton Park, the Land at Mill Place, private riverside gardens, golf course, cricket ground, Thames path, roadside verges, and the agricultural fields on Eton Road. Also, it should be noted, Local Green Space designation cannot be used to frustrate development. The untidy wooded area at the junction of Ditton Road and London Road was also mentioned. The Neighbourhood Plan team is proposing to include this in the plan as an area in need of enhancement and improvement.
With your help, the Datchet Neighbourhood Plan can help to make positive changes for the benefit of the whole community. We are also consulting the landowners, Datchet Parish Council, the Datchet Recreational Centre Charitable Trust, and RBWM, whose role it is to protect community assets. We hope they will also wish to preserve, protect and enhance these special places for residents. You can read more about these Local Green Spaces and the supporting evidence here.
Protecting local heritage There are approximately 40 buildings and structures in Datchet which are Grade II Listed by Historic England. Click here for details. These buildings are of national importance but a Neighbourhood Plan provides the opportunity to create a list of heritage assets which are of local importance. These can be a site, monument, building, place (such as a street or cemetery), an area or landscape. They should be of value to this and future generations because of their heritage significance, for architectural, historic, archaeological, or artistic reasons, for their association with important people or past events, or because they contribute positively to the character and appearance of the area.
For Datchet, subject to further consultation with residents and discussion with proprietors, initial suggestions for local heritage assets have included: Montagu House (the library), the old St Mary’s School buildings, the 1930s’ garage by Mays Green, the Manor Hotel, the pharmacy frontage, the Greens and their monuments, and the WWI crucifix on London Road. While these may be some of the more obvious candidates for local listing, we are also interested in the less obvious. Local distinctiveness may lie in the commonplace, such as a letterbox, as much as it does in the rare and spectacular.
Our survey asked which heritage assets you would protect for future generations and we now have a list of 40 or so buildings which you think are locally important. Now the hard work begins. Creating a Local List requires detailed evidence to demonstrate that these buildings and structures are of value to this and future generations because of their heritage significance. This might be for architectural, historic, archaeological, or artistic reasons, for their association with important people or past events, or because they contribute positively to the character and appearance of the area. The DNP team has met with RBWM's Conservation Officer and other local groups who are in the process of designating NDHAs and creating a Local List. We have drafted the type of form which we will need to complete for each asset.
This process will take several months, if not years. A Local List is something which can be added to over time so our intention, currently, is to cover some NDHAs in the Datchet Neighbourhood Plan and continue to add to a Local List with RBWM support. The List will then be assessed by an independent panel to ensure that the nominations meet the required criteria and that there has been conformity in the decision-making process.
Once the Neighbourhood Plan is made, or a Local List adopted by RBWM, the value to the community of these heritage assets will be taken into account, helping to inform planning decisions in a way that conserves and enhances local character and identity. Designation does not change permitted development rights but it raises the profile of an asset to developers and councils when planning applications are submitted, particularly for demolition. The Local List will also be submitted to Berkshire Archaeology which manages the Historic Environment Register and keeps a record of important local buildings.
Play areas RBWM’s Borough Local Plan is being examined by the government’s planning inspector. This will determine, among other things, whether a site known as AL39 (formerly HA42, between London Road and the M4) can be taken out of the Green Belt and used for housing. RBWM has set out a number of planning requirements for this development if it goes ahead, including the provision of a play area and allotments. There are already some very good play facilities at the Recreation Ground so, last year, in our Open Spaces survey we asked what was missing in Datchet and what you would like. In this latest survey, we asked again about play facilities to consolidate the previous evidence.
Both surveys highlighted a demand for play equipment for toddlers and young children, to complement the provision at the Recreation Ground, as part of the open space requirement of the Emerging Local Plan allocation. You suggested play equipment such as that available in Wraysbury or Dinton Pastures in Wokingham to promote early-years development and learning. There was support for a community garden/allotments for growing food, and a sensory-, flower-, or wildlife-garden with seating areas, either at AL39 or elsewhere, such as the Recreation Ground. There was also support for enhancing leisure and exercise facilities, both indoor and outdoor, for the health and wellbeing of all age groups at the Recreation Ground or other suitable sites in the village. We can now investigate ways the Neighbourhood Plan might support proposals to provide these.
Verges A key characteristic of Datchet is the generous grass verges. The Neighbourhood Plan can request that new development includes roadside verges and that these are designed to discourage parking on them. On the Character Assessment walks we did with residents, several verges were identified for enhancement. The survey confirmed our findings and highlighted other verges in need of some TLC. These are:
Horton Road (including alongside the Sabatini Land, by Link Road, at the far end of the village, at Tesco, opposite Tesco, and The Cut near Horton Road car park)
London Road (including Riding Court Road near kebab van and Majors Farm Road)
Montagu Road and The Avenue
You also suggested areas which would benefit from the introduction of roadside verges, such as Cobb Close and recommended that verges could be better for wildlife if they were mown less often
Downsizing After discussing housing issues with residents and estate agents and looking at the census data, we have highlighted a potential need for more downsizing properties. A third of households in the village consist of one person of retirement age or a couple with no dependent children. The proportion of two- and three-bed homes - the size which tends to be sought by downsizers - is relatively low, whereas the proportion of four-bedroom houses is high. This suggests that if suitable downsizing units were available, people living in large houses might be more inclined to move, freeing up family houses which are most in demand. We asked in the survey what you would look for if you wanted or needed to downsize and also held a focus group to discuss the subject. You can read our findings here: Downsizing