Lower Shaw Farm video – as used, in parts, on Channel 5 News on 21 November See the swindonlink.com Save Lower Shaw Farm video at: archive.swindonlink.com/video/lower-shaw-farm.html
Swindon Labour opposition has put down a motion of support for farm at the full meeting of all 59 councillors on Thursday, but there are fears that Conservative councillors, who run the council, will block it with an amendment that closes off the opportunities that the farm presents – despite massive support from Swindon people and its media.
The motion Councillor Barrie Thompson will move and Councillor Bob Wright will second:
1. This Council re-affirms its support for Lower Shaw Farm and the educational activities it provides for the benefit of the people of Swindon especially children.
2. The Council further re-affirms its policy of leasing the property for educational and community activities and, asks officers to negotiate a lease that reflects its policies of community education for all ages and meets its social inclusion targets as identified in the Swindon Local Area Agreement.
The meeting starts at 7pm. All farm supporters are asked to go to the Civic Offices in Euclid Street by 6.30pm for a friendly show of support. Note there are only 60 places in the public gallery so not everybody will get in to hear the debate.
RAYS OF SEASONAL HOPE FOR FARM EMERGE AT WEST SWINDON FORUM MEETING
Local supporters determined to save farm and councillors willing to negotiate
Following the massive reaction against the proposed closure of Lower Shaw Farm, as expressed through letters, e-mails, and stories in Swindon Link, Swindon Advertiser and BBC Radio Swindon – after the news broke first at swindonlink at the end of October – Swindon Council is showing signs of a willingness to negotiate for a sensible solution, one that could raise money for council projects while at the same time ensuring the survival and well being of the farm.
To this end, the council has promised to undertake an audit with the farm?s trustees to establish the real value of the educational, recreational, cultural and environmental services it offers. These are all successful non-profit making activities that the farm is bound to provide in compliance with its longstanding lease agreement with the council.
The trustees have also asked the council to look more closely at its development proposals for the site. Key Conservative councillors have expressed willingness to consider the request.
Both these points emerged at the end of a packed meeting of the West Swindon Forum on 13 November where residents were told by council leader Rod Bluh that the council is pursuing an ambitious range of capital projects. These include building new schools, regenerating the town centre and repairing the Wyvern Theatre. He said Lower Shaw Farm is worth ?2 million and if a market rent were being charged it should be generating a ?100,000 annual income for the council. (Continued below photo)
Below: Could magic beans be the means to bring gold to Swindon and save Lower Shaw Farm? Pupils in the Peatmoor Primary School Eco-group visited the farm on 14 November for tips on how to prepare and plant an organic garden. They learnt about the biology of composting, crop rotation for best production and planting flowers and vegetables together to attract insects for pollination. Laura Hoard and Nathan Hoy offer up some beans whilst James Armstrong, Jackson Price, Hannah Curtis, Robert Hannay and Charlie Price dig over the planting bed
At the start of the meeting councillor Bluh asserted that the proposed closure of Lower Shaw Farm was not a matter that required consultation as the council has a duty to seek best value and best return from its assets. "We have a major rebuilding programme in the town centre and run down schools that need replacing. We need to pursue these projects and sale of the farm will assist us achieve them."
"I understand why people are concerned about the loss of an amenity and I?m equally passionate about culture in our town. But we have very limited sources of income and we cannot sustain this level of subsidy to the farm."
Geraldine Frost, independent councillor for Freshbrook & Grange Park, appealed to the cabinet to reconsider. "It horrifies me that the farm could be lost. People?s needs matter, the farm is too important to our community."
Kevin Fisher from Old Shaw Lane told the councillors that he was very concerned about the lack of consultation on the closure. "The council is more concerned with the price it can achieve for the site and has not considered the value of the activities at the farm to the people of Swindon."
Lynda Stevens from Shaw accused the council of wasting ?5 million on rebuilding Shaw Ridge Primary when the children could have transferred to Salt Way which is in good condition. "It beggars belief that a fantastic facility like Lower Shaw Farm has to be sold; it?s a green oasis in our community. Think of all the children in the future who will not have the opportunity to use it."
"West Swindon councillors are intent on destroying facilities in their own area."
However, councillor Gary Perkins said Shaw Ridge needed to be rebuilt and by opening a childrens? centre and bringing together facilities for Swindon children with disabilities at Salt Way, the council was achieving better value for money.
Alan Hayward from Sparcells asked why sites like Toothill Farm are not also being considered for sale. "It?s unacceptable that the cabinet can make closed-door decisions without a complete evaluation of the way a facility is used and its benefit to the community."
Geoff Heath from Shaw said he appreciated the difficult decisions that councillors have to make, but said Lower Shaw Farm should be considered differently because it is a cultural asset. "Swindon doesn?t have many; for God?s sake let?s retain what little we have."
Negotiations continue between the council and farm tenants Matt Holland and Andrea Hirsch to see if there is a way to keep Lower Shaw Farm as an integral and worthwhile part of Swindon.
Have you written to the council? Council leader Rod Bluh believes most of the e-mails he has received have been sent by non-Swindonians. If you have not included your address in your e-mail supporting LSF, you might like to write to him again with your latest views: email@example.com
Please send copies to the Chief Executive Gavin Jones: firstname.lastname@example.org
and also to Swindon Link: email@example.com
Below: Open meeting for supporters at the farm on 5 November