In November 2006 a campaign to save Lower Shaw Farm from closure was successful in getting Swindon Council to reconsider its proposal to evict the tenants of 30 years in order to build executive housing.
Negotiations between the council and its tenants, the trustees of Lower Shaw Farm, have been taking place yet progress is slow.
Council leader Rod Bluh visited the farm in November 2007 to review a planning brief drawn up by consultants. It says that English Heritage objects to any development to the front and side of the listed farmhouse because of the visual amenity to Old Shaw Lane. This means any building would take place at the heart of the farm, where nearly all the activities take place.
Coun Bluh indicated that he is under pressure to find ways that the council can realise value from its assets. “The English Heritage stipulation does pose a problem. We’re keen to see some form of eco-housing on the site within the council’s sustainable development agenda, as well as the spirit of the agreement made with the Lower Shaw Farm Association last year.”
Matt Holland of Lower Shaw Farm said the trustees oppose house building on top of what is now a thriving educational and recreational environment-friendly centre in a natural farm setting. “It would not only mean the end of Lower Shaw Farm as we know it but would also contravene both the words and spirit of the motion unanimously approved by full Council in late 2006: ‘to retain the farm’s activities.’
“We understand the council’s wish to be seen to get what is being called ‘a greater return from the value of the site,’ but we urge the Council Cabinet to discover and understand the true value of this facility, not simply in monetary terms.
“There is a real opportunity here for the council to work with the trustees to make Lower Shaw Farm an even more popular, sustainable, eco-friendly, flagship project for Swindon than it already is.”
• This article was supposed to be an expansion on what has been published in the January Link magazine. However we have b een asked not to say anymore at this stage of discussions between farm trustees and the council.
• Eco-sense and sensibility
TV personality Kevin McLoud has formed a working partnership with Swindon Council to build eco-homes in the town and developed strategies to make sustainable living a major feature of the town. However Swindon has had an example of this for nearly 30 years at Lower Shaw Farm. See the story further down the front page of Swindon Link.
Military charity event helps childrens' project
The Lower Shaw Farm childrens' project was selected as one of the community beneficiaries from a huge concert held at the UK Defence Academy, Shrivenham on 19 July, alongside three armed forces benevolent funds.
The band of the Royal Marines entertained about 3,000 military personnel and civilian staff based at the Academy and the Cranfield Institute. The army engineers parachute team performed a spectacular night time jump.
In December a cheques £2,500 was presented to the childrens' project at the farm. Concert organiser of the concert Wing Commander Peter Bray said the project and the Faringdon Family Centre had been chosen from a long list of nominations put forward by people working at Shrivenham. "It's always a very popular event and it went off very successfully and just in time. The heavy rains the next day caused huge problems across the country and some at the academy. We're really pleased that Lower Shaw Farm will be able to use the money to improve activities for children who visit."
Andrea Hirsch said the childrens' project committee was very grateful for the support from the academy. "In January and February we are carrying out refurbishment work to improve the facilities for visitors, and provide more opportunities for families to improve their understanding of the environment."
The weekly open mornings at the farm on Wednesday are closed for the next two months and will restart on 5 March.