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Strawberry Field

Lyme Regis

A Suitable Site for a Sports Complex?

On this high exposed site, owned  by the Lyme Regis Town Council, the Lyme Regis Football Club proposes to develop a sports centre. Activities mentioned by the town council to be included on this site have been many and various, from football to off-road motor-cycling. At one time there was mention of relocating the town council offices here and installing a sports hall.After many false starts what will appear  on the planning application for this site will be two football pitches, a floodlit multi-use games area (MUGA), a club house, and a grassed community area A clubhouse and changing rooms under one roof will be included in the development of this site. This field would be levelled to form four terraces
Floodlighting will still be a feature of the development. Although restricted to the multi-games area it will remain a serious intrusion into the nocturnal landscape of the Lym Valley and beyond. 
Click on any of the eight locations on the above picture to see a picture of Strawberry Field from that area.

Update Page 2005 to 2009

(most recent first)

No allotments for Strawberry Field (19 August 2010)

Lyme Regis Town Council has now abandoned the project to set up 26 allotment gardens on Strawberry Field, see view from Lyme Regis (11 August 2010) article.

The problem revolves around the fact that when Cliff Powley leased Strawberry Field to Lyme Regis Town Council he stipulated that the land should only be used for leisure and recreation activities. He now maintains that allotment gardening is not either of these. Apparently there is no case law that defines this activity as one of leisure or recreation. Obtaining a High Court judgement on this would understandably be an expense that the town council prefers not to bear.

This situation does beg a number of questions. The most obvious being that if tending an allotment is neither a leisure or recreation activity what exactly is it? An agricultural one?
If so then Mr Powley should have no objections to that for since he bought the land its use has been and to this day that of approximately a third of Strawberry Field is primarily one of agriculture in that it provides grazing for sheep. It is a shame that the town council hasn't the courage of its convictions regarding this scheme. Let Mr Powley challenge the council as to whether or not allotment gardening is a leisure or recreation activity. Shouldn't the council go ahead with its plans and let Mr Powley take the council to court?
I think we all know what the outcome would be.

After nine years the only sporting activity associated with Strawberry Field is the pitch and put course run by the Lyme Regis Golf Club. I say the course and not the actual activity of mini-golf for it appears as viewed from the other side of the valley that this project has been an abject failure. Since the course opened, when the occasional group could be seen playing there, it has now at the peak of the holiday season become rare to look across the valley and see someone playing there.

Town Council rejects Allotment Association's advice. (11 November 2009)

Lyme Regis Town Council refused to heed the warning of Tony Rice, secretary of the Lyme Regis Allotments Association, regarding the problems with deer, rabbits and stones on the proposed new allotment site (see article immediately below) and are going ahead in setting up a second Allotment Association for the town. See Lyme Regis News article for 22 October 2009.

When the Golf Club bought the adjacent field for their practice area it may be remembered that the club spent much time and I assume money in mechanically removing flints from the field. The resulting mound of stones, now covered with vegetation, can still be seen in the north east corner of the field.

Allotments Association says No to Strawberry Field (3 July 2009)

Eight years after buying Strawberry Field the town council is still having problems with how to put the field to good use. As reported in today's Lyme Regis News The Lyme Regis Allotments Association has refused to get involved with establishing allotments on the lower half of the field.

Some, if slow, progress has been made on the top half of the field with the installation of the pitch and put course attendant's hut, but it looks like another season's income has been lost.

Strawberry Field Endgame? (18 December 2008)

It was announced in an article in today's Lyme Regis News that negotiations are in progress for Lyme Regis Golf Club to run the proposed pitch and put course, for which there is planning permission, on Strawberry Field. So what's new you may may ask, and not without reason, for it was suggested on these pages back in July 2005 that this would be a possible way forward.

A pitch and put course would occupy just the top part of the field the rest could have a variety of uses. Amongst those being considered are a picnic area, an orchard and allotment gardens.

Davey Fort is looking tremendous (15 August 2008)

In the single issue of the Strawberry Field Newspaper that was published in April 2003 and was later used as part of the football clubs submission of their planning application of September 2003 it was stated that, "The stability of the Davey Fort is deteriorating at a rapid rate and is unlikely to be able to sustain [its] present use." Now five years on in an article in the Lyme Regis News of 31st July 2008 it was revealed that the pitch is now, "a very acceptable playing area" and that, "It is looking tremendous at the monent".

The article goes on to say that this turn around is principally due to the tireless work of the vice-chariman Bill White. Well done Bill

It's an ill wind..... (24 December 2007)

In a letter to the Lyme Regis News of 20th December 2007 Guy Ottewell put forward the case for putting wind turbines on the high plateau around Lyme including Strawberry Field. When it comes to the greater environment do I detect that former conservationists of Lyme's landscape are prepared to sacrifice it for the greater good - combating climate change, yes something even more important than a game of football?
In fact there is considerable cross dressing on this subject for recall the town council's opposition to Mark Jenkin's suggestion of this very same thing, if on a smaller scale. On this occasion, "Councillors also pointed out [that] the likely opposition from Uplyme where residents and the parish council are strongly opposed to any development of the Strawberry Field site, overlooking the Harcombe Valley". I think that the town council would have been surprised on the reaction across the border.

But now that the government seems determined to go for off-shore wind farms it seems that the door is closed for large scale on-shore coastal windfarms especially in AONBs. Have Mark Jenkin, Guy Ottewell and the town council now missed the boat? See the Independent article mentioned in Guy Ottewell letter.

Pitch and Putt Backstop (26 January 2007)

News came in the Lyme Regis News today that foundations have been laid for the Pitch and Putt course attendant's hut. "Preparatory work to create a pitch and putt course at Strawberry Field in Lyme Regis has been completed, town councillors have been told."
"No start date for the main construction work on the pitch and putt course has yet been set."

There has been planning permission on part of Strawberry Field for a 9 hole Pitch and Putt course since 23 October 1996 when the former owner Cliff Powley's change of use application was passed. The permission lasts for five years and was renewed on 24 December 2001 when there were other things afoot for the field.

What is interesting is that the town council (present owner of the field in case you have forgotten) on the recent ending of the five year period of the permission have chosen not to renew it but to commence work, at least lay some foundations. The planning law says that once work has commenced it is no longer necessary to renew the permission. As there is no compulsion to complete the works these foundations may still be the only building work on the site in 50 years time. Apart from saving the council money could it indicate that the council has come to terms with the idea that it is now likely that their more ambitious plans will have to remain just that? I doubt it!

Sports benefactor offers land (8th August 2006)

More good news, in today's View from Lyme Regis for Lyme Regis Football Club, the Woodroffe School and sports enthusiasts of Lyme. Following the disappointment when land adjacent to the Woodroffe playing fields was sold off as one block earlier this year it has now come to light that the land, all 29 acres of it, was bought with the intention of offering it for sporting use. I am not at liberty to disclose the identity of the generous Lyme resident only add that he has been active in previously attempting to further sporting provisions in the town. View the article

LR Bantams to use Woodroffe pitch (19th July)

It was reported in Philip Evans's own 'freebie' View from Lyme Regis 19th July 2006 that due to a new Perry Street League ruling that only two teams could play from one pitch it has been necessary to find another pitch to accommodate the Bantams. The Woodroffe School for a long time interested in opening its sporting and other facilities to the community has offered one of its pitches. Obviously the obstacles that have previously been put in the way of this suggestion, such as access and changing facilities, have been overcome.

Local Plan to be adopted (17th June)

"West Dorset District Council proposes to adopt the West Dorset District Local Plan, without any further proposed modifications, after 14 July 2006". So read a letter addressed to those who had made comments or objections to the Revised Deposit Plan.

This means that what government inspector Jill Kingaby said regarding built development on Strawberry Field (see details), will have to be adhered to until at least the Local Plan is again revised. Therefore it would be extremely difficult to obtain planning permission for most of the proposals (see entry for 16th June immediately below for up to date list) that have been suggested for the field. In turn this would also include built development on the adjacent golf club practice field.

Another sensible solution? (16th June)

A mini windfarm is now the latest possibility for a "sensible" use of Strawberry Field. This follows football pitches, a rugby pitch, a multi-user games area with tarmac surface, a clubhouse, skateboarding, six-a-side football, floodlighting, the relocation of the town council offices and an off-road motor-bike club.

The windfarm came to light via a report in today's Lyme Regis News on a policy committee meeting at which Mark Jenkin put his proposal - apparently by letter - for two or three wind turbines for the field. Mr Jenkin is the son of Cllr. Lorna Jenkin, one of the council's keenest supporters for development for Strawberry Field.

The general consensus was that wind turbines were not appropriate for Strawberry Field. Which did surprise me but give it a few weeks and they will come round to the idea for the obvious reasons.

At this stage we have no further comment to make.

Ken Meech approved of the sports concept. (28th April)

Replying in today's LRNews to David Sole's letter Ken Meech says that he did not publicly comment on the planning application submitted by the football club. Admittidly he was very careful not to do so for he saw that it would have jeopardised his ability to sit as deputy chairman when the application came before the Development Control West Committee in early 2004. In the event he was eventually forced to give notice that he and his chairman, fellow Lyme Regis Town councillor Owen Lovell, would not be sitting on that hearing scheduled to have been held on 12th February 2004 (see details).

Whether or not Mr Meech was supportive of "less sensible" plans for Strawberry Field there can be no doubt. It was reported in the Pulman's of 6th June 2001 that Mr Meech had at the council's May meeting introduced the fact that the town council intended purchasing Strawberry Field and that amongst the activities included might be ".. provision for football pitches, a rugby pitch, a multi-user games area with tarmac surface, skateboarding, six-a-side football with floodlights and the relocation of the town council offices".

Anything less than moving the council offices to Strawberry Field must be a "more sensible, practical solution"

Still seeking a sensible solution (21st April)

In a letter to today's Lyme Regis News David Sole questions Ken Meech's attempts to distance himself from the other than sensible planning application for the withdrawn sports project.

Plan B and quickly (14th April 2006)

That sense of urgency was again apparent in an article in today's Lyme Regis News. "Alternative schemes need to be considered quickly" was the message from the town council's policy committee. But the exact reason for the speed was not given. It was almost certainly because the Revised Local Plan is due to be adopted in July. Remember what the inspector said on this subject.

Unfortunately for the town council it is already too late for the Director of Planning and Environment David Evans says, on the WDDC website, of Jill Kingaby’s report "This is not a binding report but we have to follow the inspector's recommendations unless there are very clear and sound planning reasons to do otherwise, which have not been fully considered during the inquiry process". Therefore failing any under-considered and sound planning reasons coming to light to indicate otherwise applications for built facilities on this and the neighbouring golf club site must be refused.

Also in today's article Ken Meech was reported as saying "There is no problem playing football up there - it's what you put up there to sustain it". Provided the football club does not mind playing on a very steep site. For wouldn't terracing in this sensitive AONB be as detrimental if not more so than building there?

No objections! (15th March 2006)

Very little else was said about the Golf Club's driving range application which was under discussion by the LR town council this evening. No mention was made of letter objecting to the application although I know at least one had been sent to the town council. One councillor mistakenly came to the conclusion that the building included with this application was smaller than the previous one and as they had recommended approval the same must go for this one!

No mention was made that if the town council recommends approval of the planning application they may be seen as attempting to set a precedent for development in the area, which could benefit the council's desire to develop their own Strawberry Field.

More signs of urgency (10th March 2006)

The town council does now seem desperate to push on with this. See Lyme Regis News. The Football Association's 50% funding is being dangled in front of the football club with the threat that time is running out. This is a tune we have heard since the projects early days. Time was always of the essence whether it was funding or tree planting windows. Of course 50% funding still leaves the other 50% to find. Would the public give so generously as they did before?

Where's that football club? Could it be that they are negotiating more straight forward offers with another partner?

Is time running out for development along Charmouth Road? (3rd March 2006)

Is it merely a coincidence that Strawberry Field and the golf club's practice area feature in articles in today's Lyme Regis News on their respective proposed developments?

Or could it be related to the article immediately below in which a government inspector said that Strawberry Field is not suitable for built recreation facilities?

As the inspector had been dealing with objections to West Dorset District Council's as yet unadopted Local Plan the Lyme Regis Town Council and the golf club are fully aware that once adopted there will then be a statutory block on development in this area. The owners of these two fields therefore see a possible window of opportunity in obtaining planning permission for their schemes.

Has the government's inspector had the final word for sport on Strawberry Field?. (3rd February 2006)

Today's LRNews reported that a government inspector considering objections to WDDC's local plan said that Strawberry Field is not suitable for built recreation facilities.

How this is interpreted only time will tell. For instance would a football pitch with a building housing changing rooms and showers be considered "built recreation facilities"?

Will the town council now take up the planning permission it holds for a mini-golf course?

Or will they reserve the field for the future overflow of the town cemetery? Which would really be the final nail in the coffin for sport on the field.

See government inspector Jill Kingaby's report

Tree planting and hedge laying has mixed blessings. (3rd January 2006)

Part of the extensive tree planting that took place at the end of 2005 to create screening of later things to come

Tree planting, or at least its intention, on Strawberry Field has a long history, going back four years. Ken Meech later said in October 2004, "It is most important that we put up trees at the Strawberry Field so that no one from east Devon can see what we are up to". He can be assured that a few hundred saplings will not block our concern for the valley and the field's future. We also much appreciate any planting of trees particularly now with the threats of global warming. They are nature's natural CO² sink. The only regret on our part is that the entire field was not planted up!

Regarding the laying of the roadside hedge, which we must say is an excellent job with the leaving of many trees a most welcome feature, I think the council may have scored a home goal. With the opening up of the vista from a passing vehicle people who have previously been unaware of the beauty of the valley can now have no doubt and may be persuaded that this valley must be protected from development

Still confusion over what would be allowed on Strawberry field (9th September)

A front page article in today's Lyme Regis News illustrates the confusion associated with what development would be allowed on Strawberry Field.

Councillor Ken Dibben referred to a "district council's public inquiry"! This mysterious inquiry suggested that although "a low key recreation/leisure use may be possible....illumination, land re-modelling and car parking areas" could be a problem. Cllr. Dibben asks, "How can you build two football pitches up there without remodelling land?"

Unfortunately mention "recreation/leisure" in connection to Strawberry Field to Cllr. Dibben and his fellow councillors and the associated word that springs to mind is "football". They fail to read between the lines. Football is not the only sport. If football can be played on the sloping Strawberry Field then they probably can have their way. But shouldn't they be looking at sporting activities that can be played on a sloping field?

There is already planning permission for a "low key" sporting facility that can be played on the slopping Strawberry Field. That of mini-golf! This planning permission was obtained by the previous owner of Strawberry Field and consequently the town council bought the field with that knowledge. Whether or not this activity would now, after the increased protection subsequently given to AONBs, be permitted with a fresh application is irrelevant. This is the back stop that the planners take into account when they say that, "low key recreation/leisure use may be possible".

The recent application, now refused, by the golf club for a driving range on the field next to Strawberry Field, said that,

"Its main benefits are as follows"

and at the top of the list,

  • It will be a sporting facility open to the general public giving them [the] ability to try golf, maybe for the first time.

A little joined up thinking here could see the novice golfer enjoying an introductory game on Strawberry Field, the town council content that its "asset" was being put to a similar use to what was intended when Cllr Owen Lovell "masterminded" the purchase of the land and hopefully even the protestors to these applications may be appeased.

David Cozens remains hopeful (12th August)

David Cozens expressed his hopes that the town council will show commitment and leadership if Strawberry Field is to be put to sensible recreational use. (LRNews 12th August 2005)

Planning permission already exists for a sensible and low key activity of the kind that is permitted on such a sensitive site.

Football club "..still very much behind the project.." (29th July)

As expected the football club came back with a statement in today's Lyme Regis News Basically it said that the club would still like to be involved in the development of sporting facilities on the "Field" but due to other financial commitments can no longer lead the project but would be willing to contribute to its funding! It's quite irrelevant to us who will be leading any future application only that if it is inappropriate we will be fighting it. So for us its back on standby after this little flurry of excitement. It's not time to close down the website yet.

Two letters on the subject also appeared in the newspaper. A reasonable and rational letter from Ian Mouland and something else entirely from Geoffrey Mann!

It should not be forgotten that planning permission does exist for part of the field which allows a miniature golf course/pitch and put. If the golf club looses its current planning application for a driving range perhaps the council could offer the golf club the field on the same agreeable terms that it offered it to the football club. One of the reasons for a driving range was that beginners could try golf, well there we are.

Football club pulls out (22nd July)

A report in today's Lyme Regis News carried the story that Lyme Regis football club has giving up hope of having its diminished dream of two pitches and a small changing room building on Strawberry Field. In a letter to the town council Philip Evans notified the council that the football club are withdrawing from the Strawberry Field project. It had become obvious, rather late in the day, that the district council are completely against any new buildings on the field no matter how small.

Sympathies must go out to the football club and all its supporters. They were falsely lead to believe that their version of Shangri-La could be built on Strawberry Field. Their effort in securing funds has been outstanding and it is understandable that they must be bitterly disappointed.

Coun Nigel Clarke said: "I think this can only be described as a white elephant I think we were poorly advised, particularly by West Dorset District Council". On the contrary WDDC had, back in 2001, warned about the purchase of Strawberry Field. In an email, dated 20th August 2001 to the town council, planning officer Derek Boyt said, "We are concerned about the possibility of the Town Council making a contractual commitment to purchase the site without planning permission being in existence. If this were to happen it could put serious pressure on the relations between the two authorities". Despite this good advice the purchase went ahead.

A word of caution before too much euphoria creeps in. I hear that something in the article is misleading and I believe a correction is due to appear in the next issue of the News.

Now would probably be a good time to re-read Chris Boothroyd's interpretation on this whole sad affair.

Strawberry Field Home Page

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(500kb pdf file)

Town Council Minutes, Emails etc.

The Town Council's Role - and the implications for West Dorset District Council

Woodroffe School's Sports Facilities to be Opened to the Local Community

Monsoon at Harcombe

Golf Club Developments

View Documents at WDDC site

A Reply to the Strawberry Field Newspaper


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