Now that Freshford Mill is back on the market for any would-be developer to make a profit from building houses, nothing intrinsically wrong with that, except that in this case, the houses are not needed, it is time to review the alternative plan for the site. I have published the argument on the Freshford Mill web site Alternative Plan for Freshford Mill and there is also a letter on the Letter to the Prime Minister's website: Planning Permission . .. . which my company also hosts.
I still agree that it is a desirable plan and had been approved back in February 2005. However I would like to add that in addition to the recreational features of the plan a working mill to generate electrical power for the village should be considered. There are other mills along the Frome river that have been restored to use or will be shortly. The mill at Tellisford which is no more than a decent walk up river is a prime example of what can be achieved. EDF provide grants and a news item from the press room of EDF on Tellisford Mill can be read here. Tellisford Mill
A working mill would not only bring much needed and increasingly expensive electrical power to the village but would also add to the educational value of the plan.
The problem is where does the money come from to buy the site? We can't exactly have a whip round! But the alternative plan is one that deserves financial support. On the Freshford Mill website I have argued that the village of Freshford and its unique location in the Limpley Stoke valley where the river Frome meets the Avon, amidst wooded steep hills, is a particularly attractive part of the country that we are privileged to live in and have a duty to protect. There are so many other parts of the country that are by contrast bleak and desolate. I am aware that this is the case but the public does not realise this, after all who wants to photograph such places? There is a website "Crap Towns" or rather series of books, that does try to address the issue of poor planning and local indifference.Crap Towns (I don't like that word either!) is a good starting place.
Money should be available to help remove eyesores like Peradins. The money should not have to come from developers as then developers will ignore similar development land to Freshford Mill and seek green field sites (which is what they are doing) or be unable to provide the quality of building that is appropriate. Government should, therefore, be willing to assist with off-setting the initial costs of site restoration. This is an issue that would-be Freshford Mill developers face, although in this case the Peridins site should not have been given planning consent to create a new settlement in a flood plain in the first place! (this issue is still being investigated)
With that planning consent the value of the land shot up. Now perhaps it will dwindle, but to buy the site for the Rural Recreational Area, Nature Sanctuary and Workshops project, money will have to be found. The trouble is that Freshford and its surrounding villages is considered to be populated by "well to do" people and the government tends to "throw money" into projects that are only located in deprived and run down areas. In our case, we need to argue that in this area of the countryside (Somerset and Wiltshire), both the land and the built environment provide an area where people can come to relax and recuperate for a modest outlay in terms of transport or fuel. Money spent here is actually beneficial to those who live in run-down areas, as it provides an opportunity to spend some prime time in the countryside. The value of which Prince Charles has alluded to in his book a A Vision of Britain It should be remembered that Freshford is but a decent cycle ride from the World Heritage City of Bath and is a place where both visitors from overseas and Bath citizens can come to enjoy the beauty of the existing English countryside (a lot of it has gone, and will go) Freshford is also accessible from Bristol, which is one of the most densely populated cities in Britain and whose citizens surely deserve a range of places in which to unwind.
Properly managed, and with a working mill, Freshford Mill could provide a wonderful day out for children not only from the cities of Bath, Bristol and the towns that are close to the Avon and Frome valleys but all the other children that live in Somerset, Wiltshire and South Gloucestershire. I can imagine even steam trains being employed (at sensible prices!) Mind you we would need a Mcdonalds or KFC or a special menu down The Inn!