LETTER: I care about my village

I was upset to read your article about the reported behaviour against the mast and politely ask that you print a more balanced view this week on the subject.

I grew up in Framfield, as did my parents before me. My children are the third generation to have attended the village school. I have always felt privileged to live where we do. I care about where we live. The parish councils volunteer their time for what is most likely for most of the time a thankless task. But like so many of us we are guilty of becoming engrossed in work and family, time passes and as a result we don’t necessarily take as much notice as we should about the decisions that are made in our community by the parish council.

As an elected party you would like to think that they too feel the same way about where they live and what they are representing. I am surprised that such a monumental decision did not consist of a proper vote/ poll. After all this will affect us all and the next generation one way or another for the next 25 years. Whatever your views, for or against, there is no denying that for a small village there are a large number of parishioners in objection to this proposal. You will see this from the attached petition which has in excess of 450 signatures (and growing) most are from those that live in the village or use the Memorial ground, such as the football team. Please also consider that there are a good number of parents that travel from outside the locality to use the school and preschool.

Both the Primary School, and Pre-school state in their objection letters that there has been a lack of consultation. It should also be noted that in excess of 150 objection letters were sent to Wealden District Council. The land was gifted to the parish some 95 years ago for two purposes: to provide a recreation area for all parishioners to use and enjoy and as a memorial to parishioners who died in the Great War.

Erecting a telecommunications mast is a proposed change of use that does not fall within either of those purposes and is not in keeping with the wishes of the settlor. The object of the charity states that the land must be retained by the trustee for use as a recreation ground for use by the inhabitants and that it acts in the interests of social welfare, to improve the conditions of life of the inhabitants of the area.

To erect this telecommunication mast is not in keeping with these wishes and it will constitute a breach of trust and, therefore, a breach of the Trustees obligations.

The council are not representing the views of the majority when considering the mast proposal and the councillors and trustees have been urged to pause and reflect before committing to any associated legal agreements.

You cite in your article that it will be 0.1 per cent of the land but this will without doubt have a dramaticand harmful impact on Framfield’s community green space.

This mast will be 50ft high and overshadow the whole of the memorial ground and all its activities, the base units at ground level will encroach into the football pitch area.

I am sorry to read that the parish clerk feels that the PC have been victims and sites what she terms ‘a chronicle of misinformation’, but I cannot help but feel this could have been avoided with an open and honest approach. Had the PC addressed everyone’s concerns, sent out a fact sheet, had there been an open door policy on the subject, thus making the parishioners feel that they had had their views considered, then I feel that this would have been avoided.

It is without doubt that some members of the parish feel very strongly against this proposal and may well have failed to conduct themselves in a appropriate manner; many, many parishioners however have sought help through the correct channels, such as the Charities Commission, Nusrat Ghani, MP, Wealden District Council, etc.

Personally I am heartbroken by the outcome to erect a 50ft mast; there remains many unanswered questions, I am upset that the PC seem not to care and worried about the damage this will do to the village and sense of community within.

The Parishioners have offered to fundraise for the same amount which would cement the community but the Parish Council have not given this due consideration, instead their actions will fracture this village community and leave a detrimental impact for the next 25 years. It is by default Framfield Parish Council are the trustees of Framfield Memorial Recreation Ground.

Six members of the PC agreed to lease Framfield Memorial Recreation Ground to a telecommunications company for 25 years for an enticing 40k.

Naturally the various companies involved (CTIL, Vodafone, O2, Shared Access, Pegasus) are being very helpful and are offering to cover all costs regarding legalities and drawing up the contracts. However, if for any reason further down the line there is a need for Framfield PC to withdraw from this contract I cannot imagine the phone companies being quite so helpful! These companies are powerful. How will Framfield fair against such large corporations?

Sam Weddell