Participants from Blackbrook, Maer village, Weymouth and Woodside attended the Roadshow at Maer village hall on 15 March. A lively discussion in which all took part followed a presentation on progress so far, the Questionnaire results and the Vision and Aims for the Plan.
The first focus was the economic development of the Neighbourhood Area. There was much interest in the idea that had emerged at Aston the week before, for daytime use of the village halls as business/enterprise centres for small businesses and start-ups. Improvement of mobile coverage (poor to non-existent in both Maer and Aston) would be needed, but that could be fixed by talking to the mobile phone companies. On top of that, the other chief requisites would be a few desks on wheels and some lockers for people to store their stuff.
While this could meet the needs of some people with desk-based businesses offering professional services, such businesses are not necessarily integral to the rural economy and may not even be trading locally. Revival of the area’s rural economy needs truly rural businesses that will serve each other and the community as well as attracting custom from outside the area. We had such an economy a century ago, when the local directory listed a wheelwright, a baker, a farrier and so on. Now, we don’t even have a local directory.
The need for smaller dwellings was aired yet again. We need to keep our young people who grew up here and we need to attract young people who will come here, both to work locally and to establish their own local businesses. But for them to stay or to come, we need smaller dwellings within their price range, not the large houses that housebuilders want to build. Our smaller houses have disappeared over the years as semi-detached and terraced cottages have been joined together and dwellings of all sizes have been extended – the latter sometimes several times over.
Local green space
Then the discussion turned to local green space. There are wide verges in places along the A51, including from Maer Lodge and the War Memorial to Maerfieldgate. The verges at Maer were listed in the borough’s 2016 consultation on open space and green infrastructure as ‘accessible green space’ – not that anyone would want to sit by the side of the A51 and have a picnic! The verges provide a safe place to walk – or they would do if they were better maintained and easier to walk on. And people do walk along the A51 because it links essential lanes and public rights of way and is part of local pedestrian routes. Indeed it is a public right of way because it is a highway, and pedestrians have as much right to use it as the drivers of motorised vehicles do. Someone reminded us that the A51 is centuries old – it’s been a local pedestrian route for ever. It was also noted that the verges continue all the way to Stableford and provide the same essential link to lanes and paths. It was agreed to look into the matter of designating the verges as local green space. The matter of a footway from Maerfield Gate to the War Memorial/Maer Lodge was raised and it was agreed that this would be beneficial. In fact, a footway is needed all the way to Stableford.
Someone put in a word for the large semi-circle of grass in front of The Croft at Blackbrook. It is part of the character of the little crescent of houses and needs to be protected from being taken over for car parking. It was agreed that we should look into designating this as local green space too.