Absurdity seems to rule the roost as far as public policy and bureaucracy goes, but when the latest planning application in my local village was submitted, it really seemed to have hoisted the flag to full mast.
The old post office building has been a landmark feature of Yateley village in North East Hampshire from around the early 1930s, replacing previous structures dating back long before. The recent planning application to Hart District Council seeks to demolish the building, and the neighbouring old postmaster’s bungalow, and replace them with two ‘retail units’, two x three bedroom flats, and three x three bedroom houses.
The old post office is so much a feature of the village, that it has been featured solely, or prominently on a number of Francis Frith postcards. I’ve featured a number of them on my Pinterest site, with links below:-
This postcard features the old post office stores in all its glory from c. 1950.
This postcard shows off just how much the unique wooden structure is a recognisable part of ‘Church End Green’ in Yateley – supposedly a conservation area.
It is one of the buildings that I most associate with my childhood growing up in the village over 40 years ago. My Mum says the same, having lived in Yateley all her life of 63 years, and it would have been a feature of my Mum’s Mum’s childhood around 80 years ago (see photo below).
This postcard, from 1965 demonstrates just how much of a Yateley landmark the old post office is. When ‘Greetings from Yateley‘ are sent, the old post office is one of the buildings chosen to represent the village.
And this is the full image of that highlighted in the postcard above.
This postcard demonstrates the extent to which the old post office dominates the view as you enter ‘Church End Green’ as you head towards Eversely.
And this postcard highlights an issue not strictly considered in the planning application – the extent to which the streetscape will be effected looking back from the area of green in front of Forge Court. The benches by the Town Council notice board provide a different angle on the old post office, including the church tower peaking out behind it. If the old post office were to be demolished, and replaced by two, two storey buildings, that view of the church tower would be obscured, and the green backdrop of trees to the village would be removed.
This is a photo of a similar angle to that postcard above, taken in the last few years.
It has taken a bit of time for some noise to start to roll, mainly via the local newspaper (see here), the community page on Facebook, and word-of-mouth – thank you to those who have taken the time rally to the cause. For many, it is the stories of the local post office’s links to ‘Lark Rise to Candleford’ through author Flora Thompson, who served in the post office in Yateley around 1901.
Of course, it is a national priority that we need more housing – but there are plenty of brownfield locations and places where we can ‘fill in’ – and more effort needs to be put into using the planning system imaginatively to revive areas in more need of regeneration – for example, One Stop, Barclays, and the garage in Village Way are all identified in the most recent plan as locations in need of redevelopment, and all of the shop frontage along Reading Road/The Parade could be used much more creatively to not only spruce up the shopping frontage, but create low-level housing, as is currently the norm in London.
If you live in Yateley, I urge you to reflect on the issues raised, and if you value your heritage, please take part in the planning consultation (sign a petition by all means, but if you object, you MUST take part in the formal consultation for your view to be counted). Do not be complacent, or we will lose a local landmark. You can take part in the consultation and see all of the supporting documents by clicking here and searching for planning reference 15/01828/FUL
It is a shame that such public consultations are not more user-friendly, or visible to the general public.
You can see the objection which I submitted, in full, by clicking here. For me, the proposal breaches all planning guidelines and policies. Essentially;
1) the most recent planning document about this area (a conservation area) identified the buildings as ‘positive buildings’ (‘good examples of relatively unaltered historic buildings’), and under planning legislation, the council has a duty to protect/preserve its character and appearance, and reinforce local distinctiveness.
2) the proposal doesn’t factor in how much of a problem ‘on pavement’ parking already is in the immediate vicinity, and in front of the church, particularly impacting on the elderly and the disabled. Adding extra retail, and residential development to the area, including a drive-through arch can only impact negatively in this village/conservation setting to the bizarre traffic situation.
If any of this wasn’t reminder enough, it demonstrates the real importance of politics to our everyday lives.
And in case the development does get the green-light, you might want to think about buying some of those Francis Frith images from their website here.