The Local Environment

The Built Environment

Historical Marshfield

The Parish is rich in architectural heritage, with above national average levels of historic buildings. There are 190 listed buildings recorded in the parish, with 11 of these recorded at the highest grades of l and ll*. Many historic buildings date from the pre-industrial era when the village became prosperous through malting and as a staging post on the London to Bristol Road. The High Street is lined with listed buildings, and the village can even boast listed public toilets at Tolzey Hall (built 1690). The local materials, scale and craftsmanship of the historic buildings contribute greatly to the character and sense of place of Marshfield, and should be respected in modern developments.

Notable buildings include: the Norman grade 1 listed St.Mary’s Church, the ll* listed Catherine wheel pub providing an excellent example of provincial baroque with an ostentatious shell hood door canopy, a grade ll* listed Dovecote at the Old Manor, a c16 longhouse converted to oxen shed at Castle Farm, the grade ll* Legion Hall, and the ll* Crispe Almshouses, built in 1612 and still used today as dwelling houses. .

The national system of listed building protection and conservation area legislation has generally served the parish well, helping to conserve this legacy of quality buildings. These restrictions do not come without some frustrations, especially around changing dwelling houses to meet changing modern needs such as improved heat retention.

In 2004 SGC issued a document ‘Marshfield Conservation Area‘ (reproduced by kind permission of South Gloucestershire Planning Department). This identified the SGC strategy for preservation. Whilst there are hopes to update this now quite old document, the existence of even older plans for other areas will take priority. SGC state that they are guided by the ‘National Planning Policy Framework’ and ‘English Heritage’s Historic Environment Planning Practice Guide’ both of which can be found online. As a result, there is an interest in a ‘village voice’ on planning matters which seeks to establish a dialogue with SGC so that the concept of conservation is thoroughly explored. This would seek to ensure that we protect all the things we treasure such as the history and visual aspect of the village whilst ensuring the long term economic and environmental sustainability of the village?

The Private Housing Market & Local Requirement Housing

Marshfield is a desirable place to live causing prices to follow Bath rather than Chippenham. Properties are currently taking longer than previously to sell and it is becoming harder to gauge property values in an uncertain property market. The current market uncertainty is due to a combination of weak, buyer confidence in the current economic climate and changes in mortgage lending practices.

There are 4 units of “Intermediate Affordable Housing” built on Tanners Acre which in theory should be sold with a 20% reduction on market value but there is a fear that these restrictions will not be enforceable.

The initial survey carried out by the Parish Planning group established that affordable housing was an area of interest for respondents and as a result of this, the Parish Council engaged in conversation with an Affordable Housing developer who was already investigating land in this area. The Parish Council is only interested in a development which would, like the Almshouses, restrict ownership/renting to those with strong Parish connections. It does not support development for the sake of it and is keen to ensure that any extension of the current settlement boundary comes only where there is a very clear, defined and widely supported need within the existing Parish population.

As a result of talks with the developer, a short survey specifically about housing was placed in the Summer 2012 edition of All Around Marshfield. This asked whether people had a need for affordable housing themselves and whether they considered there were any particular areas of land around the village which might be suitable for developing such houses. There were 73 responses to this which were as follows:

In housing need now 23 (32%)
In housing need in the future 35 (48%)
Has anyone had to move away 27 (37%)
In need of sheltered/retirement housing 21 (29%)
In need of downsizing 15 (21%)
In favour of new development 57 (78%)
Not in favour of new development 14 (20%)

Respondents were also asked if they had any preferred sites for development. Suggestions were equally split between the land behind the school and the land around the water tower as the most appropriate areas on which to build.

It must be stated very clearly that both these pieces of land are in private hands and it is in the hands of the landowners, and not the community or the Parish Council, whether the land is sold to the developer.

The results above seemed to the Parish Council and developer sufficient to warrant further investigation. In order to understand exactly what sort and how much accommodation might be needed, the developer will be carrying out a more in depth survey soon. This is at the developer’s cost. A Parish meeting will also be held to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to contribute and listen to the debate on what may be a difficult choice for the community.

Social Housing

Social housing on Withymead consists of 12 flats, 6 terraced houses and 17 semi-detached houses and is run by Merlin Housing Association. There is said to be a need for more properties with subsidised rents although that has not been quantified as Waiting Lists are for S Glos as a whole. However, any provision would not necessarily benefit existing Marshfield residents.

Merlin undertook a review of the housing stock in 2012, primarily to consider the future of the pre-reinforced concrete houses which were originally intended as a temporary post-war measure. It is anticipated that in the medium term several of these houses may be demolished and permission sought for new accommodation to be built.

There is an active residents’ campaigner living on the estate who has gained approval from Merlin for some new information boards to be erected there.

Energy

Current situation

The subject of Energy featured top in priority in the initial Questionnaire.

The Parish has an electricity supply, the reliability of which has been considerably improved over recent years. The village has mains gas whilst many outlying homes rely on heating oil or calor gas. Heating oil consumers can join the “Tormarton Fuel Club” to access competitive prices.

At the time when this Plan started to take shape, the ‘Rip off Britain’ TV programme gave some publicity to Marshfield and its Energy issues. However, the LEAF project in early 2012, paid for by Central Government, gave the opportunity to explore them in depth. This allowed the issues of both saving power and power generation to be explored with specific reference to Marshfield. The Marshfield Energy Day was an opportunity for the residents to identify solutions to their specific domestic energy problems. It also gave them the chance to comment on the option of wind power as a source of village revenue through a community project. That option received strong support and is being investigated further. Residents received guidance to illustrate in more depth what they could do to improve their domestic situation. Copies of these are still available on the Marshfield Energy Project website www.marshfieldenergyproject.com. However, the combination of planning restrictions and reducing government subsidies is making options for energy generation less viable.

Alternative schemes, such as biomass, have not yet been explored due to lack of resource, but should be investigated in future, especially as we have both woods and now a biomass boiler company within the Parish. Some initial figures on hydro indicated it was unlikely that a scheme in the Shirehall Valley would be viable at this time.

National background

It has recently been re-iterated in the press that some experts are forecasting the UK’s national demand for electricity will outstrip our ability to generate by 2015.

For the past few years, government encouraged a wider range of clean electricity generation through the provision of the Feed-in Tariff – a subsidy to those generating electricity from renewable sources such as the sun, plants, waste, or wind. The surplus income which would derive from this generation could give Marshfield a unique opportunity to build a “community business” resulting in a significant income. This could be used by the community not just for energy related projects but to help forward, amongst others, the actions and priorities identified by this Parish Plan.
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Existing energy generation in the Parish

There are solar PV schemes on an increasing number of private dwellings and farms within the parish. The Community Centre has had a PV array for the past year and it is producing on-target returns through electricity generation. At least one farm has installed a 50kW array on buildings As the village is a Conservation Area, houses forming the north side of the High Street and listed buildings are not able to install panels. Biomass options are being explored by some residents. Some properties use a different type of solar panels to heat water.

The school installed a 12kW wind turbine in 2011 and produced above expected returns for several months. However due to a fault in another machine of the same model, the manufacturers advised the turbine be switched off until a fix could be found for this potential problem. The manufacturer then went out of business, and abandoned all warranties to their turbines. However a buyer was found for the business, a fix identified and funding found to cover the costs of the work. The turbine was due to be re-commissioned in December, and should again be earning Feed-in Tariff income for the school.

Reducing Energy Use

The first step in a local energy programme is to reduce energy usage, and this can be achieved by;

  1. Insulation of walls, roofs, windows and doors. The LEAF project provided some early information and case studies on insulation options for various types of buildings.
  2. Behaviour change within each house to switch off, reduce temperatures and manage usage. Experience from the winter 2011/12 EU sponsored competition, which a number of local homes entered, is a demonstration of the level of saving which can be achieved through behaviour change.

New government programmes such as Green Deal and Renewal Heat Initiative which come into operation in 2013 aim to support these energy saving activities. Indeed, these could provide opportunities for local building firms which would be welcome even though they report strong work streams coming in for maintenance and extension work. In the run up to changes in the feed-in-tariff rates, they report that there have been sudden flurries of solar PV work. However, after a lukewarm reception nationally, the practical implications and opportunities of the Green Deal remain an unknown quantity.

The Parish has a high proportion of older and listed properties and is in a conservation area. This leads to some planning issues over retrofitting, which includes installing double glazing and solid wall insulation. A review by SGC of their planning restrictions on implementation of energy saving measures, without compromising historic features, could be an early constructive benefit from the Parish Plan process.

Future Energy Generation

At an individual household level, energy generation is limited to solar hot water and solar PV. Both require an approximately south facing roof and a clear path through planning although, for non-listed building facing away from the High St, PV is treated as permitted development with few conditions. Wood fired domestic combined heat and power generators, and in a few cases small wind generators may be practical.

There are however opportunities for community energy projects through which the financial benefits accrue to the parish. These might include solar PV on roofs of public buildings, such as the Community Centre and School, field/farm PV arrays and wind turbines.

In order for the community to take the benefit of such installations it will be necessary to establish a Marshfield Energy Company, to fund and manage the process. The LEAF project identified three ways in which such a Company could be set up;

  1. Marshfield does all the work. Parish residents would work together to raise funds, design and implement generation projects, receive income and distribute surpluses to the parish
  2. A 3rd party Community Energy Company such as Bath & West Community Energy (BWCE) does all the work. The company would design, install and own the projects, with a proportion of the surplus income from local installations paid into their Community Fund. Marshfield projects could apply to this for funding. Our contribution would be to support the principle of the local installations to ease their way through planning.
  3. We share the work. This is a middle way in which parish projects would be owned by a Marshfield Energy Company which would buy services and expertise from B&WCE. By taking a bigger role in initiating and delivering local projects, it would receive a larger share of the income surplus and have control of its own Community Fund.

Each option requires different levels of community and volunteer involvement for successful and sustained delivery and the explicit support of the community. Responses to the draft Parish Plan will be used to determine the most appropriate way forward.

Rural Pursuits

The village of Marshfield is set within some beautiful countryside and the natural flow of new families into the village does not diminish its agricultural and rural traditions..

Equestrian

There are increasing numbers of ponies and horses being kept within the Parish. Only Pitt Farm offers a stable yard within the Parish although grazing is available at Weir Farm and on privately owned fields. There is no formal teaching available within the Parish, although a few people teach on an informal basis. Crossing, or worse, having to travel along the A420 or Tormarton Road can be very frightening. However there are a reasonable number of bridle ways on the south side of the village and crossing the A420 is worthwhile for the good riding there.

Despite this, there are no hireable ménages, show or gymkhana grounds within riding distance. The nearest pony club is the Beaufort with pony club camps and other events run in the summer for children, one week currently being held within riding distance near West Littleton. For children or adults who do not have their own horse, there are no options within the Parish other than the kindness of friends who do have horses.

The Beaufort Hunt continues to meet regularly in the Parish during the season.

Shooting

Shooting has probably been a part of the fabric of the Marshfield area since the late eighteen hundreds. In the early days, driven game shooting was very much the domain of the landed gentry, who on their estates could afford game keepers. Two of the large estates in this area would have been the Rocks Estate and Ashwicke Estate. It was the latter who owned all of Marshfield Woods and the Keepers Cottage to the east of the village.

Also during this time the majority of local farms were tenanted so shooting for farmers and the rural community was confined to shooting vermin, such as rabbits and pigeon, which was also part of their staple diet. Ferreting was another way of controlling the rabbit population and still is on a small scale.

However it is only in the last 40-50 years that driven game shooting has become more accessible to the general shooting public and around the area there are 3 or 4 DIY shoots. These consist of small syndicates where all the members participate in the rearing, feeding and general welfare of the birds. It also involves the coppicing of woodland in the spring and the planting of game crops such as maize, millet and kale to provide habitat for the bird population as a whole. This and the control of vermin make shooting an important contributor. With the large increase in the deer population in recent years, stalking has also become another aspect of shooting which is carried out.

There is a clay pigeon shooting ground fairly close to the village and clay shoots for various charities are sometimes organised during the year.

Motorcross

With the supplier, MotoXtreme, several local riders and a race track, Marshfield is a local centre for motocross. Tom Church, reigning 450cc indoor champion, was recently referred to as “a member of the fabled Marshfield MX Mafia” in Moto magazine.

The track just to the south of the A420 is held to be one of the toughest tracks in the South West and stages events throughout the year, bringing in people from across the region. The Marshfield Motocross Club meets regularly in the Lord Nelson.

Waste

Sewage

The sewage system in the village runs, with three roughly parallel drains, down the High Street, Back Lane and on the Southern edge of the Settlement with branches feeding in, and all then heading downhill to the Sewage Works. Starting at the west end, the drains are considered relatively small. After treatment, effluent is discharged into the watercourse.

The impact of any future housing development depends on where it takes place and, if significant, would lead to a review of the affected system. It is felt officially that the system will be adequate up to 2026.

The sewage works is not considered to be suitable for a gas generation project.

Properties on the edge of the village are not necessarily on the main sewage system. For instance, 4 properties in St Martin’s Park run on a separate system and, ironically given their proximity to the sewage works, have septic tanks. A survey of the situation for properties outside the village boundary has not been undertaken.

Recycling & Waste

Recycling & Waste collection is under review by SGC but their current domestic system appears to work effectively and be in advance of many other authorities. Recyclable materials are collected fortnightly: cardboard, paper, plastic bottles, tins/cans, glass, fabric, paired shoes, batteries and garden waste. On alternate weeks, “black wheelie” waste for landfill is collected, while food waste is collected weekly.

The nearest “Sort It” recycling centre is at Yate but people also use centres “out of county” in Mangotsfield and near Chippenham. Although figures for Parish recycling alone are not available, S Glos Council is of the opinion that Marshfield would rate at least average if not above on its recycling rates. Increasing pressure on landfill capacity and resource use mean increasing landfill taxes, which are effectively paid for by residents’ Council Taxes.

Preliminary report Oct 2012: Breakdown of S Glos Domestic Waste shown by weight is:

Fly tipping particularly of cars has been a problem in the past but the situation has improved primarily as a result of the “End of Life Vehicle Directive” which made it more economic to take a car to a scrap yard than dump it.

Notwithstanding its conservation status, the village is affected by loss of visual quality, for example through intrusions on views out of the village to the countryside and back to the village from the surrounding fields. Furthermore there are places where facilities for recycling and rubbish disposal impinge on our street scene. This can give residents and visitors alike the wrong impression of the village.