Future of Fernhurst debated at parish event

Fernhurst Village Hall was filled with interested parishioners wanting to hear the next stage of the Neighbourhood Plan, which is now in the process of being drawn up.

The evening was not to discuss solutions so much as to present the current situation and options for plans for the next 20 years as the Neighbourhood Plan will become part of the parish’s planning policy document.

James Cottam, chairman of the parish council, introduced the session. Mr Cottam has headed the group discussing the former Syngenta site whose future has created much interest over the years since the pharmaceutical company left.

This group put forward the various options of mixed residential, business and education uses but it is recognised there is going be the problem of integration into and with Fernhurst because of the distance from the village centre.

Geoff Walls headed the group discussing employment where the problem seemed to be lack of training facilities locally for young people and nowhere for them to be able to afford to live should they find a job there.

There was also the issue of no transport to get to a job elsewhere, and the untapped group of unemployed such as mothers who can’t find enough child care and the poor broadband service limiting home-based work.

All these factors resulted in people with skills leaving the village.

The group considering housing needs, led by Nicki Braithwaite, echoed the cry of ‘where and what’.

Other groups - led by John Self for older people, Heather Bicknell for transport, John Smith for youth, Keith Harding for sport and leisure, Maureen Timms for health and services, Peter Hudson for social cohesion and Iain Brown for landscape and environment - often overlapped, with the same problems and with no obvious or unanimous answer to any of them.

After the presentations by the group leaders, there was the opportunity to get together with the groups and their leaders for further discussion.

But the groups will continue their meetings with individuals and village societies to find out how people feel about the many aspects involved in the plan. Only then will a survey will be distributed to everyone in the village to reach a final answer. This, in turn, will require the approval of the South Downs National Park Authority.