The Stoke ferry Parish Council EGM called early November 2018 revealed a significant turning point in the story of this village. 2Agriculture under its sister group Amber holdings, revealed a plan to redevelop their two existing sites in the Village with 100 houses. The central factory proposal site includes two vacant green fields situated between the factory and the playing field which will be subject to this suburbanising project. The cottages and main hall that front the High Street and Wretton Road, are not included in the application. Therefore, the final total of properties will be higher once these enter “the market’.
The EGM held at Stoke Ferry village Hall had an air of shock, resignation and frustration in the room. The agenda’s first and only premise was “maximising returns on investment”. The reason given that cost of relocation being very expensive. A plausible reason if one ignores the billions that 2Sisters are worth. This insidious logic paves the way for an ethics free zone, where the company has no obligation for those who’ve worked and lived by an enterprise that has for better or worse dominated the heart of Stoke Ferry for the past fifty years. In short, we were being told that 2Ag’s obligations are not to the people in the room, with all their different stories and relationships to the mill, nor to a community that has to live with the impact of such an enterprise. But instead to people who are not here, people whose only concern is a number, a share value..
We the undersigned, urge others to join us and challenge these assumptions.
The planning authorities and developers want an easy ride, no embarrassing noise or inconvenient disagreements. 2Agriculture/Amber Holdings will move as fast as they can, and Stoke Ferry will be left with something neither side of the “Mill divide” wanted. Suburban mediocrity . A commute dormitory status offering little opportunity for work and livelihood in the village. Little opportunity for folk young and old to create affordable manageable homes and the loss of an opportunity for us to create a living breathing heart to our community with the 2 fields and the old housing on the square.
Some may say “that’s business”. It is, but that’s not the only rubric by which our lives and communities have to be shaped. We are entitled to voice our needs and concerns. Amber holdings are seeking planning PERMISSION. It’s the Borough Council who on OUR behalf are empowered to give this. A second “consultation” event was staged in the Village Hall on December 12th. It became quite clear the consultancy firm Pegasus were only interested in supportive statements offered and countered any criticisms with their own inbuilt logic underpinned by the “profit maximising” prerogative. Thus, the term “consultation” is rendered meaningless other than to tick a box in the planning process.
Let us not forget for the past fifty years the Mill in all its guises and phases has enriched a small few owners, CEO’s and shareholders. In exchange for modest wages for those employed by the Mill, as well as the impacts of noise, dust, dirt and health on many more who’ve lived here, the mill has been a highly profitable enterprise. When one looks at the heart of Stoke Ferry’s decaying post-industrial façade, the wealth which has been created is far from evident. The money made has gone elsewhere. The Mill has made enough, more than enough.
This proposed development which offers staff a precarious future and the community nothing but a suburban dormitory town status, comes as a slap in the face. Voicing our concerns and sharing our visions offers an antidote to cynicism and powerlessness. Finding common ground will create an alternative plan(s) to the one on offer. We can create a space for negotiation and taking responsibility.
Stoke Ferry would so benefit from the two fields becoming a village green/orchard/market garden/nut grove space, planted and opened-up from all sides of the village for the community to come together. The loss of livelihood with the departure of the mill needs to be met with small workshop spaces so skilled artisans, engineers, crafts and small food producers can develop a diverse economic life in the village. Consider small scale locally owned energy generation. There is also a need for work/live spaces where folk can work from home living above secure workshops. reducing needs for commutes, security and extra rent bills. There is a need for cooperative housing owned and managed by residents as a model for bypassing the rental economy that squeezes so many struggling to earn a living and who may find housing associations inflexible, unhelpful and remote. There are, we are sure many wishes others would like to add and we encourage them.
The current “business as usual” economic models make such visions seem remote, yet many of us know and have experienced how current mainstream economic business interests are failing us. Planning objectives have been driven by unrealistic objectives of a failing economic arrangement, with no foresight towards real crises’ for which our communities need to prepare. Climate disruption and Energy/resource decline requires that we reimagine how our communities, land and built environment function and can be less dependent on fossil fuels.
If positive change is going to be made it must be down to us.
We say ‘No’, to the two fields development and ‘Yes’, to livelihood, community, and ecology in Stoke Ferry. How about you?
Dave Crow, Carol Hunter, Katy Fullilove, Sandra McNeill, Jim McNeill (Branch Secretary Wissey Labour Party) John Preston, Phil Taylor, The Whole Works Repair Collective