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John Riches our Village Correspondent writes weekly reports about the village for the local media.  We are pleased to place them on our web site in order that those interested in Abthorpe can access the latest village news from anywhere in the world.

This page will keep the latest 3 or 4 reports.

On the Archive page we will store past articles and other pieces of particular interest.

Also, our newsletters can be downloaded on the Newsletters page.


18th February
Soulmates Gemma and Alex marry.

Three years ago Abthorpe villager Gemma Briggs was working as a journalist for one of our national daily newspaper – The Guardian. Naturally she used that newspaper’s Internet dating Service known as Soulmates and arranged to meet the well known artist Alex Whitworth a fellow subscriber. They first set eyes on each other at Euston station where they shared a curry and agreed to meet again.

Now three years later Gemma has moved on from The Guardian and now serves as Media and Publications Manager at Bletchley Park the museum that celebrates the secret code-breaking activities of the allies during World War Two. The Bletchley Park Trust recently commissioned Alex to provide vibrant illustrations for one of its latest exhibitions that describes the Off Duty activities of the staff during the dark days of the war.

Recently in a small ceremony for family and close friends Alex and Gemma were married at the Five Arrows Hotel close to the National Trust’s Waddesdon Manor. During the ceremony Sonny, Gemma’s 7 years old son, read a poem that he had composed especially for the occasion. Nell (4) her little girl was supposed to have been a flower girl but went on strike. Frankie, Alex’s best man, flew over from New York especially for the occasion. Gemma and Alex said that they had a really happy day that was very relaxed and exceeded their expectations.

5th February
Mini Farm appeal successful.

Back in 2009 a family of local gypsies – unable to find space to live on an authorised site – bought land in Abthorpe Parish, moved their caravans in and named it Mini Farm. The family made a retrospective planning application for three mobile homes and a toilet block to be sited there. South Northamptonshire Council (SNC) approved the application in August that year and granted them permission to stay for three years.

In 2011 the family applied to make the planning permission permanent and requested that residence on their site should be restricted to gypsies in general rather than named individuals. SNC refused the application but on appeal a government inspector approved the application.

In 2015 the gypsy family made another planning application for a change of use of their land from agricultural to residential caravan site. This was refused by SNC and there was no appeal.

In 2016 the family made another application for change of use of their land. Abthorpe Parish Council plus Bradden and Slapton Parish Meetings objected to the proposals plus 8 residents from Abthorpe village, 3 from Foscote, 6 from Slapton and 11 from Bradden. Virtually all the comments opposed the application.  SNC refused planning permission. There was an appeal.

Following a hearing and site visit on 9th January 2018 Mr David Murray – an inspector appointed by the Secretary of State – published his report on 30th January. The appeal was successful and planning permission was granted for the change of use of land from agricultural to allow the stationing of two caravans, the erection of a replacement amenity building and the laying of hard standing. His eleven page report makes interesting reading.

The inspector identified six main issues. Is the traveller site acceptable in this location? The need for such sites and the ability of SNC to deliver. The site’s effect on the area. Highway safety. The disposal of foul water and the gypsy family’s personal circumstances.

He concluded that there is an unmet need for a modest number of gypsy and traveller sites in South Northamptonshire District at the moment. Overall on  character and appearance of the site he concluded that the additions  proposed in the application would not have a harmful effect on the countryside of the area. Regarding highway safety he believed that the existing access to the site has reasonable visibility and would provide safe access. Regarding the disposal of foul water he was satisfied that the use of a small treatment works or a septic tank would be adequate and satisfactory in principle.

Although not queried by SNC, some of the representations made by the local settled community questioned the family’s status as gypsies and dispute their nomadic lifestyle. The inspector concluded that on the basis of oral and written evidence he was satisfied that the appellant and his extended family have a nomadic lifestyle. Further the best interests of the family’s children are best served by having a settled base from which they can continue their education locally and this was a factor to which he applied significant weight.

To end he stated that the application’s proposal was acceptable on its merits but he imposed a condition restricting the number of caravans to two and their occupation by gypsies and travellers only. Materials and waste on the site must be in storage containers to maintain the appearance of the site. The inspector stated that SNC and the local community say that any further approval could be repeated again and again. The Council would have control over  .. the expansion of the site and any formal proposal would have to be considered on its individual merits .. relevant at that time.

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