West Bergholt Neighbourhood Plan
7. About West Bergholt
7.1 A Brief History of West Bergholt
West Bergholt is a small compact rural parish located to the north west of Colchester comprising an area of 929 hectares. Dating back to the 11th century the village was originally known as Bercolta, later recorded as Bergholt Sackville, after the Sackville family who held the main manor from the early 12th century to the 17th century. The village is recorded in the "Doomsday Book". It was finally named West Bergholt in the early 20th century to distinguish it from East Bergholt in Suffolk.
The landscape surrounding the village is attractive and undulating and is bounded to the south and west by the sloping valleys of the river Colne and St Botolph's Brook. The north and east are arable farmlands interspersed with small woodlands. Indeed, the name Bergholt is derived from the Anglo-Saxon terms 'beorg' meaning hill and 'holt' meaning wood. There are ten local wildlife sites of importance for nature conservation, including the famous Hillhouse Wood (owned and administered by the Woodland Trust) known to many as the 'Bluebell Wood'.
The village has 34 buildings listed for architectural merit. The only grade 1 listed building is the Church of St Mary in Hall Road, adjacent to Bergholt Hall. Now redundant, but still consecrated, the church is used for special services and village events. The building was originally Saxon in origin.
West Bergholt has evolved into its current form through circumstances to meet local needs and demands. Historical development has resulted in the broad shape of the village in terms of houses and amenities provided to meet the needs of residents, and this has largely determined the shape of the settlement boundary which has remained unaltered for many years.
The village has had a largely agricultural heritage and the population settled at approximately 1200 from 1801 to 1961. During the 1800's the village was
home to Daniell's brewery which operated successfully until the 1950's. The new owner, Truman's, operated from the site until 1989, when it was developed into houses and flats.
The village expanded significantly in the 1960's and 1970's and currently has a population of 3,344 residents and 1,363 households. The Parish has a large elderly population compared with Colchester Borough as a whole. In addition, it has a slightly larger population of those aged 5 to 17 years. Approximately 20% (675) of residents are of retirement age compared with 15% at Borough level and approximately 17% (574) are aged 5 –17 years. This compares with approximately 14% at Borough level.
7.3 Village Life
7.3.1 Village Society and Community Facilities
The village features the large 400 place Heathlands Primary School, Bluebells Pre-School and other child and baby care facilities. There is a Church of England, St Mary the Virgin, and an additional redundant church, St Mary's Old Church, used on special occasions. There is a doctors' surgery and a pharmacy in the village and the general hospital is about 3 miles away. The village voluntary Care Network has over 20 members who can be contacted for transport when required. There are two general stores, one incorporating a post office with access to banking facilities, a gift shop, hairdressers, and three Public Houses. There are other commercial outlets including a garage workshop, shops and business parks.
The venues available for hire for groups to meet include the Orpen Hall and the attached John Lampon Hall, where there is parking available. There is a Social Club attached to the Hall that is open in the evenings and weekends and available for the public to hire during the daytime. The Parish Church also has meeting rooms for hire. All are well used. The Lorkin Daniell Field and Poor's Land are available for recreation and are often used by the local West Bergholt Football Club and the Bergholt Heath Youth Football Club respectively.
The Cricket Club has the use of a field off the main Colchester Road. There is a Multi-Use Games Area on the Lorkin Daniell Field which is available for hire for tennis and other sports. The Scout Hut is situated on the Heath by the primary school and is well used by different groups and activities. The green field areas can be made available for events. There are 3 areas of children's playground equipment and an area for 140 allotment plots.
The Parish has a wonderful mix of undulating farmland with the beautiful River Colne valley accessed by a network of public footpaths including public access to ancient woodland. The vast majority of the parish is rural with agriculture the dominant feature (both arable and dairy). Within the village, there are numerous ponds, open spaces and vegetation that complements the built environment. As a result of a good network of local roads and Public Rights of Way (PROW), there are numerous opportunities for the community to enjoy both local environments within the main village settlement and those close at hand in the surrounding countryside.
The rural landscape provides some accessible green space such as Hillhouse Wood and many PROW, including long distance paths such as the Essex Way. Also, within the settlement boundary is the Village Green (known as The Heath), pockets of smaller green space generally within housing areas (amenity greens), the churchyards and three ponds. The village does not have a formal public park or garden as such within its boundaries, however there are some older properties that have significant trees or hedgerows that contribute to the rural character and biodiversity value of parts of the village. A few trees are protected with Tree Preservation Orders. Hedgerows and verges within villages are generally not protected.
When considering the built environment although there is a mix of eclectic modern housing styles, the village has nevertheless a good range of older buildings of architectural value with many listed buildings including several of both architectural and historic importance.
The surveys conducted in compiling the Neighbourhood Plan overwhelmingly revealed that existing public open spaces and important landscape and wildlife areas were universally valued and as a result should be protected.
7.3.3 Housing and Planning
The growth in population in the late 1960s and in the 1980's was the result of new estates being constructed and a variety of styles mark this expansion such as those around Lexden Road, Mumford Road and Pirie Road, as well as the development on the former Truman's brewery site. More recently there have been smaller developments usually consisting of four or more bedroomed detached properties closely positioned on sites within the settlement boundary.
In preparing the Village Design Statement in 2011 the housing areas of the village were divided up into character areas to help distinguish the mixture of vernacular and modern housing styles and help assess the applicability of housing and extension proposals.
West Bergholt remains a highly desirable village in which to live. Being situated just outside and to the northwest of Colchester – Britain's Oldest Recorded Town, West Bergholt village is conveniently placed for those residents who work in Colchester and its close proximity to the A12 means that it is well placed for people who work in Ipswich or Chelmsford. Being only 2.5 miles from the main railway line into London has meant that West Bergholt has become an extremely desirable commuter location.
It was the land released for development in the 1960's, 1970's and 1980's that marked the most significant increase in housing numbers within the village. Due to the location of most of the new estates the village 'look and feel' was maintained with some supporting improvements to facilities for the community. It has to be said though that the modern housing design was at odds with the older housing and although functional the design and style now looks dated and the housing no longer meets the needs of the Parish in terms of the mix of tenure and the lack of affordable housing.
The formal Settlement Boundary indicates the boundary inside which there is a presumption that development will be allowed (subject to planning permission). The opportunities for such development are reducing over time and therefore there is likely to be the need for some additional growth.
It is evident from the consultations undertaken so far, including the 2008 West Bergholt Parish Plan, that whilst some wish the village to stay exactly as it is without expansion, many more envisage a limited and appropriately planned increase in development providing the types and numbers of new housing to meet the needs of the Parish whilst maintaining the village character.
7.3.4 Business and Commerce
Nowadays, with the decline in agricultural employment, many residents commute to Colchester for work as well as travelling to towns such as Ipswich and Chelmsford because of the close proximity to the A12. It is also a desirable location for those commuting into London.
In most cases the commercial and employment areas have evolved over time. As well as two general stores (including a Post Office in the Co-op), a pharmacy, a hairdresser's, an accessories shop, three public houses and other commercial premises there are business parks located in Colchester Road, Nayland Road, Bourne Road, Fossetts Lane and at Armoury Farm. These house independent businesses as well as offering some office space. In addition, there are many small businesses which operate from people's homes. These all provide local employment whilst harmonising with village life.
7.3.5 Sports and Recreation
The village currently has use of the following building and land assets
- The Lorkin Daniell Playing Field and the Orpen Memorial Hall are village assets held in Trust and managed by the Parish Council as Sole Trustee. These assets are available for public use and hire.
Over the years the Parish Council in its capacity as Trustee for Charity land, has added to or enhanced the village hall buildings located in Lexden Road to meet the ever-increasing demands of a thriving and vibrant village. Booking demand for the village halls increases annually and these buildings are used at near full capacity. The expansion of the hall is essential if future demand over the next 15 years is to be met.
Other community buildings exist and are owned and maintained by organisations, each being largely self-financing. They include:
- St Mary's Hall – administered by the Church of England Church committee
- Scout Hut - administered by the Scout group but located on Trust land
Village open spaces held in trust and managed by the Parish Council include:
- Lorkin Daniell Playing Field
- Village Green – to the south of Heathlands School
- Poor's Land – to the north of Heathlands School
- The Allotments
The cricket pitch and club house are located on privately owned land and is managed by the Cricket Club
Recreational facilities, the current situation:
- The Lorkin Daniell Playing Field hosts:
- A full-size adult football pitch
- A club house and changing facilities
- Training area for Bergholt Heath Youth Football Club
- A children's play area
- A Multi Use Games Area (MUGA) used for tennis, 5 aside football and basketball
- Annual Village Fete
- Poor's Land provides a recreation area for:
- Junior football
- Dog walking
- Heathlands School inc. sports day events
- Annual Heathlands PTA fireworks display
- Visiting mobile attractions - Circus etc.
7.3.6 Community Safety
Crime in West Bergholt is generally low but with the withdrawal of neighbourhood policing and regular PCSOs, crime has been rising. Current snapshots reveal the following incidence of crime and its composition:
Number of crimes: 3 per month
Typical composition: Theft from Vehicle, Burglary, Antisocial Behaviour
The parish has an active Neighbourhood Watch scheme in the village. As a result of neighbourhood policing changes there is no longer a regular mobile police presence where residents can seek advice or make their concerns known.
West Bergholt is served by the Local Community Meetings initiative (LCM) are multi agency problem solving groups, working alongside the local community to address crime, anti-social behaviour and quality of life issues.
The village has a very active Community Speed Watch group (CSW) with resource and equipment being shared with Eight Ash Green. The CSW group is recorded as being in the top five most active groups in Essex.
The village also has a Traffic Safety Group educating and reminding drivers on the importance of safer diving and careful parking.
Snow clearance volunteer teams are in place and the Parish Council maintain equipment and salt supplies for use by volunteers. An Emergency Plan for the village has been drawn up to support Colchester Borough and the emergency services.
Communication in this sense refers to the formal means of relaying information that the Parish Council needs to undertake, as well as informal ways to get messages across from differing interest groups within the village to the population. The key objective was supported by nearly 98% of the Neighbourhood Plan questionnaire respondents.
There are 4 main channels in which the village communicates;
- Face to face
- The quarterly Village Bulletin and the occasional Village Newsletter
- West Bergholt website
- Social media
The full Parish Council meets 10 times a year (excluding the months of August and December). There is always time set aside for villagers to air views, ask questions or make comments. The PC committees meet as frequently prior to the main meeting. Village residents are welcome to attend the "Environment", the "Premises" and the "Planning" committees.
The Co-op, pharmacy, pre-school and school are at the centre of village life and you will often see people informally meeting and passing the time with friends and family adding to the sense of community.
Village Bulletin and Village Newsletters
The Parish council supports the publication of a quarterly Village Bulletin which is delivered to all households. A brief, more up to date "Village Newsletter" is produced periodically when there is no Bulletin and displayed in the notice boards and on other sites around the village.
The Parish Council also maintains a number of notice boards which are kept up to date regularly. In addition, the church and school have their own newsletters.
West Bergholt Website
westbergholt.net – the website page for the village provides a calendar of events electronic copies of the bulletin, village updates, minutes of the council & committee meetings and details of the parish councillors.
A number of the clubs in West Bergholt have active websites. The majority of these sites have a good following. The village website is managed by a third party.
Facebook (note member numbers as of Nov 2018)
West Bergholt Neighbourhood Plan page (296 members)– this provides updates to the community and the progress around the plan
West Bergholt Hub and community page (3305 members) – this provides advice, adverts, questions and village updates.
West Bergholt and surroundings selling page (2708 members) - this provides a place for locals to see any second-hand goods.
West Bergholt latest news (580 members) – this provides local village updates
There are also a number of Facebook pages for the Cricket Club, Football Clubs, Parent and Toddler Group, Bergholt Youth Group and West Bergholt Pharmacy all totalling circa 850 members.
Twitter (note member numbers as of Nov 2018)
- West Bergholt PC (134 followers) – this provides latest news and updates
- West Bergholt CC (455 followers) – this provides updates for the cricket club
- West Bergholt FC (901 followers) – this provides updates for the football club
7.3.8 Transport and Highways
The village has generally good main (B1508) and minor road connections to the A12, Colchester town centre, the rail station, Tollgate retail area and towards Sudbury and the rural Essex-Suffolk border area.
Bus services are provided by two companies, Chambers, providing an hourly service to Colchester and Sudbury, and First Bus that operates a 30-minute frequency peak and daytime service to the town centre via the Rail Station. On Sundays the frequency of buses drops to two-hourly. School buses serve
the main secondary schools whilst the voluntary Care Network helps patients attend clinics.
Information gathered during the Parish Plan established the following:
- General accessibility to a car: 92% have driving licences and 81% have access to a car
Typical usage of different modes of transport have been calculated from a travel diary survey conducted by Essex County Council some time ago. (ECC 2005)
Car Bus Train Cycle walk
86% 28% 23% 25% 64%
Popular destinations are: the rail station and adjacent retail park, town centre, the hospital, access to the A12 and the Stanway/Tollgate area for retail shopping.