Downton Society May 2019 Newsletter


The usual Spring Newsletter is replaced here by a message to members based on the Chair’s address to the Downton Society AGM on 23rd May 2019


Dear Members,

Before detailing the work of the Committee over the past few months, I would like to thank all of them for enabling things to happen. These include two who stepped down during the year – Helen and Fleur. Fleur Fillingham had been a committee member for a number of years and we appreciate all the work she did on the social side as well as her horticultural input. The Committee was understrength for a while until Robert Willcox volunteered to join us at the beginning of the year.

Looking back over the previous six months:

  • Moviola continued with a regular programme of good films - Bohemian Rhapsody being the most popular We also partnered with the Green Group for the first time to put on the environmental film “Before the Flood”

  • We held a successful wine evening and summer Pimms party for members

  • We awarded the Wrightson cup to a Trafalgar school student who had succeeded in the face of particular challenges

  • The Footpath group, run by Susan, had a regular programme of walks in the area, and helped to complete the popular Circular path which now (with new kissing gates & signage) is accessible to all. It will be formally opened later this year.

  • The ‘green team’ had problems with the tubs on the Greens - given near drought conditions last summer, but manfully (and womanfully) continued with the task.

  • We helped to improve the village streetscape – with Jeremy arranging and contributing towards the revamp of the Memorial Gardens shelter; we financed re-painting of the Beacon sign at Moot corner, and donated money to St Laurence’s for tree planting

  • The HGV problem remained unsolved but, having noticed that the Parish Council’s three year strategy document (from 2016) aimed to “follow through a report from the Downton Society about monitoring HGV restrictions and establish a plan to work together – by June 2016”, we decided to hand the issue to the Parish Council to resolve. Claire Freemantle has been leading on this and will continue to monitor it.

  • In Planning and Conservation, our main raison d’etre, we also had a rather mixed year. Though monitoring all planning and development applications - particularly where listed buildings or the conservation area is affected - and commenting on WC consultations where relevant to Downton’s interests, we were unable to make any impact on the design of the Primary school (which to add insult to injury) obtained a commendation under the Salisbury Civic Society Awards scheme. In support of residents I made our views strongly known to CS; and they acknowledged that their judging panel had not sufficiently taken into account the Conservation area aspects. This, and the fact that the WC conservation officers are under-resourced, doesn’t help our cause. We are not nimby’s, nor the style police, but our constitution talks of “promoting high standards of design and architecture” and this is what we will continue to try and do.

  • The Downton Society Awards were set up under Nigel’s initiative, partially to encourage such standards but also to highlight the importance of retaining the character of Downton’s Conservation area. In the second year of this scheme, five houses were considered and two Awards are being made at the AGM: for a completely renovated property in South Lane and an extension added to a house in the Borough High Street. (more details of these Awards are on the web site)

  • None of this action could have been carried out without the ongoing commitment of our committee members who have variously grown plants, cleared and built things, led walks in all weathers, set out chairs, put up film screens, made canapés and sold ice cream, read through interminable planning documents, written papers and letters , attended PC, Area Board and Salisbury Conservation panel meetings, and planning workshops as well as doing all the supporting admin from membership lists to accounts, which Peter submits annually to the Charity Commission. We should be greatly appreciative of them all – as well as those other members in the Village whose support is crucial – for instance, Rick Ladds for keeping both the Society and Village website up to date, Val Denham and Caroline Burroughs who do coffees and teas at Moviola, and members who pay their subs and attend events and meetings.

    It must be said that the Society cannot achieve many new things, or even sustain the things we are doing, without engaging more support from members of the community as a whole. We are under strength on the committee and need one more active and enthusiastic person – or for those who balk at the very thought of committees, members who can help to put on events, take a planning perspective, be part of the Moviola rota or to progress other ad hoc projects.

    There are approximately 1,400 households in Downton – there must surely be people who care enough about the village to become involved? It is for this reason that we hope to enthuse residents in the ambitious project of the RHS In Bloom competition. Robert has agreed to lead on this and, having already seen enthusiasm from Downton Society members, we are planning to hold a public meeting and hope to get enough support to register the village for South West in Bloom 2020.

    Nikki Wilson (Downton Society Chair)