The Bigger Picture
All change in the Village
In the last newsletter we commented on the possibility of the opening of a major supermarket on the old Fisons' site and a planning application for Morreys that would see a branch of Sainsburys Local occupying a large part of an expanded shop. The Knutsford Guardian had also reported that Tesco had claimed to be opening a branch on the Williams site, although in the same article Stephen Williams denied this. A planning application for a significant expansion of the Williams store was subsequently submitted but has now been withdrawn. Thank you to the many residents who sent in their comments.
These various development proposals being considered for Holmes Chapel, like Morreys and Sainsburys, like Williams and Tesco, are the tip of a much larger avalanche of change looming over the Village. On the retail front the signs are already there. Over the past few years long established shops have closed down or radically changed their business - Chethams for instance changed from an electrical store to a card shop. A thriving wine bar, providing some life in the Village centre in the evenings, became a carpet shop. A bank branch closed. We have a charity shop and an increasing number of take away outlets. The future of the few remaining independent traders, such as Morreys and Williams, remains uncertain. How many convenience stores can we support? How can we maintain a vibrant and varied retail sector? What other type of shops could the village support? Will the Christmas Fair kick start regeneration?
Major retailers claim that their presence would attract more shoppers to the village, but in Holmes Chapel more shoppers mean more traffic. We already have significant parking and traffic problems. Traffic calming measures will be introduced during the next twelve months and the changes at Junction 17 may offer further albeit longer term relief. Will this be enough? How can we provide more parking?
The housing profile of the village also continues to change. One end of the village is now dominated by retirement and care homes, meeting the needs of an ageing population. Over the next few years over 200 houses will be built on the old Fisons site. Work has already started. Planning permission on the same scale has been granted for the Fine Arts site. These two developments will add between 10 and 20 percent to the population of the Village; yet younger families are finding it harder to afford the high cost of buying or even renting a home. Do we need more social and affordable housing? What impact will the increased population have on the Village infrastructure - the schools, medical centre, library, green spaces, sporting facilities and public transport.
An increased population will need more employment options, if we are not to become a dormitory town. The Manor Lane industrial area has seen businesses go and new ones establish themselves. There are still opportunities for development there. New product launches at Sanofi hold out the prospect of increased employment. Fast broadband is available and could provide opportunities for smaller local based businesses. What more needs to be done?
Leisure activities and facilities are also subject to change. There are many thriving local organisations, associations and clubs in the village. The Youth Club, which had been struggling financially for some time, closed last year, but its premises now form the base for the local Scouts who are actively redeveloping them. They have provided facilities to the local branch of the U3A, two ends of the age range working together. The Parish Council and the Partnership are working on projects to improve the children's play areas and to open up the Village's first park, Dane Meadows. Cycling is being actively promoted.
However not everything is rosy on the recreation front. Sanofi wish to dispose of the AP Club. Although the past few years have seen a gradual decline in the facilities there, with the loss of the bowling green and tennis courts, the Club still provides a valuable sporting facility for the Village with a flourishing rugby club. Could we use the site to provide multi-sports and recreational facilities? How might this be funded and run?
As a consequence of the government's current austerity programme, Cheshire East is cutting many services and devolving others to towns and parishes. How long before they start to look at leisure centres? As the Jubilee proved, our Leisure Centre not only provides facilities for local sports clubs and cultural societies, but also offers an ideal location for major community activities. How can we ensure its future? What other activities could be accommodated there? Now that HCCS is an academy, how might the village and the school work more closely together in future.
Whether or not you think these changes are good or bad, change is going to happen. The question is do we sit back and let it happen or do we actively involve ourselves in shaping the change to make Holmes Chapel a place we are happy and proud to live in? Several years ago the village developed, through consultation, a Village Plan. That plan reflected more prosperous and optimistic times. Much has changed and will continue to change. The Parish Council has started the process of reviewing the Village Plan and would like your help.