Our plan is to buy Westleton Vicarage and glebe land, and build 20
1.5 storey, 2 bedroom, self contained bungalow homes on the site around the Vicarage, and then to convert the Vicarage building into the social hub for residents.
Most of these properties will be sold at market price on long leaseholds, but only to locals at least 65 years old who have a strong local connection initially with the Yoxmere Benefice. However, if there is insufficient demand from this area, our catchment for residents will extend to the Saxmundham Deanery, which encompasses the benefices of Aldeburgh, Leiston, Saxmundham, Whinland Benefice and Alde River.
The remainder will be rented on an affordable basis, also to locals aged at least 65.
The properties will be spacious, architect-designed, 2-bedroom homes, incorporating the latest technologies to support independent living, including energy-efficient heating and
lighting, and security systems. There will be car parking spaces for residents and guests
The Vicarage building will be repurposed to become the social hub for residents’ use. The current kitchen will be upgraded and a dining area added so that residents can cook and eat together when they wish. There will be a spacious lounge for relaxing, film nights, or watching TV. Another reception room could be used for activities such as well-being or fitness classes. The idea is to offer a space specifically for Glebe Meadow residents to use as they wish, not to encroach upon the role of the nearby Village Hall, where some such activities are available to all. However, it is recognised that the possibility of any unnecessary duplication of what is on offer at the Village Hall needs to be monitored.
Picture - Juliet Bullimore, Sarah Quinlan, Dilys Hall and Bob Jackson signing the Option agreement with the Church of England, The White Horse, Westleton, December 2018
The first step in converting this vision into a reality has been to negotiate the purchase of the Vicarage and the glebe land from the Church of England. As the Vicarage is no longer required by the Church, and our plan is designed to benefit the community, we felt that our proposal to buy the site through an Option contract (the option to be exercised by us if we obtain planning permission for the development) would be of interest to them: and so it proved.
However, because the Church is a charity, despite senior clergy expressing their strong support for our project, various levels of its administration have had to be satisfied that it is obtaining 'best value' for all asset disposals, and this process proved lengthy. We offered to buy the site in July 2016, and it was some 18 months before they were able to indicate their readiness to go ahead with usus, and a year later, in December 2018, we were delighted to sign the Option contract. We owe huge thanks to Marshall Hatchick, who acted on our behalf pro bono in these negotiations.
The second step was to raise funds to cover the Church of England's legal fees and the costs of obtaining planning permission (architects fees, site surveys, etc); plus, the legal and accountancy costs involved with the major financing round that will be needed when we exercise the Option to purchase the site. At this stage there is a high risk that we won't get the required planning permission we need for the development. Consequently we are delighted to have secured sufficient funding to enable us to proceed through planning.
In January 2019 our architect, Modece, submitted the pre application planning document on our behalf to Suffolk Coastal District Council (SCDC). A meeting was arranged on site in February to show the planners, conservation officer and tree preservation officer our plans. The meeting was positive and we received good feedback from all parties which enabled us to amend our original plans and site layout ideas. As the Westleton village boundary was redrawn in November 2016, after our offer to buy the site was made to the Church of England, the glebe land behind the Vicarage is technically deemed 'countryside' and should only be built on as a matter of exception, but this issue did not appear to be a major problem.
However, we received the planners written response to our pre app several weeks later, which was less positive in tone and highlighted the exceptions issue as a stumbling block to development on the site.
When we have a positive indication of support from SCDC we should be able to embark upon the next stage which is to open our plans and designs to public consultation and obtain valuable feedback. During that stage we will conduct a housing needs survey to provide evidence of need for this type of accommodation in the area. As a community interest company we are keen that this survey goes beyond a 'standard' housing needs survey and will inform the site layout and design of the accommodation according to future residents needs, as well as providing evidence of the need for it.
Glebe Meadow is a Community Interest Company established to buy the former Vicarage in the heart of Westleton and convert it into the social hub for a new development of 20 modern, age appropriate homes for locals aged at least 65.