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Outcome of Parish Pit Consultation

Summary

A consultation of Stapleford residents in Spring 2021 found overwhelming support amongst respondents to Stapleford Parish Council’s proposals to transfer ownership of Stapleford Parish Pit to Magog Trust.

The proposals

In March 2020, Stapleford Parish Council resolved to transfer ownership of the Parish Pit off Haverhill Road to Magog Trust for the sum of £1. To bring about this transfer, the Parish Council must apply to the Charities Commission to request a change to the present purposes of the charity. The Parish Council is required to consult with the beneficiaries of the charity (i.e. Stapleford residents) before the Commission will accept any such request.

To fulfil this requirement, a consultation ran from 28th April to 31st May 2021. Stapleford residents were asked to consider the following points and invited to raise comments or questions as they considered appropriate:

Question 1: Do you agree to Stapleford Parish Council’s proposal to lift the restriction on land transfer of the Pit? Answer: yes/no.

Question 2: Do you agree to Stapleford Parish Council’s proposal to transfer the Pit to a charitable organisation (Magog Trust) with aims as close as possible to the existing aim of benefitting the residents of Stapleford? Answer: yes/no.

The process

To optimise participation, the following communication channels were used:

  • Two well-supported local Facebook pages
  • Parish Council noticeboards
  • Stapleford Parish Council’s website
  • An article in Stapleford Messenger magazine, which is received by approximately half of all households in the parish
  • Members of Magog Trust resident in Stapleford.

Responses were invited in a variety of formats, but all were received via a poll posted on Facebook or personal emails to the Parish Council Clerk. People were asked to respond via only one channel.

The outcomes

Collating Facebook poll and emailed responses suggests that:

  • 175 people supported the proposal to transfer ownership of the Pit and 5 people objected, i.e. 97% of respondents to Question 1 supported the proposal
  • 144 people supported the proposal to transfer the site to a charitable organisation and 3 people objected, i.e. 98% of respondents to Question 2 supported the proposal.

Positive support for the proposals equates to approximately one in 10 households within Stapleford parish.

Respondents were encouraged to provide additional comments on the consultation’s proposals if they wished. Most did not but of those who did and supported the proposals, the following are typical:

  • “This is a sensible solution and being done in the best interests of the environmental conservation”
  • “This is very important for the continuing success of all previous works done to preserve the Pit and to continue in such a way as to preserve it for future generations”
  • “The Trust has a good track record of conservation whilst improving public access and the amenity value of the land it manages…I am sure they will manage the Pit creatively and well to wide public benefit”
  • “Most of the volunteers are aged 70+, so this proposal is the only way I can see of secure maintenance of the Pit for the long term”
  • “The pit is an important area of chalk grassland and I believe the transfer will benefit its management to conserve the flora and fauna of the site.”

Only two comments from people objecting to the proposals were received and both are replicated in condensed format below:

  • “Whilst the Magog Trust has done some really good work…it has been unnecessarily inflexible when it comes to right of way issues…I also don’t like the Disneyfication of our countryside so popular with developers where natural countryside is converted into bizarre ‘country parks’ to give the residents the illusion of living a rural life whilst encroaching more and more on the green belt…”
  • “…no sane person transfers potentially very valuable freehold land…I was appalled at the vandalistic aboricide carried out by the Gogs trust, and couldn’t trust them after that. I like the peace and quiet of the pit and am not certain how the Gogs would use or abuse it.”