Friday 27 November 1987

No To Building Development On The Town Ground


Danny Howell has written a letter to the local press (published today in the Warminster Journal, Wiltshire Times And News, etc.) giving the reasons why he and the Warminster History Society are against building development on the Warminster Town Football Club's ground.

The letter, co-signed by Jack Field, the Chairman of the Warminster History Society, reads:

On behalf of the Warminster History Society can we beg valuable space in your newspaper to explain some of the reasons why the Society allied itself recently to the Warminster Civic Trust to support a petition against possible proposals for the Town Football Ground at Weymouth Street to be used for residential purposes.

Older townspeople will readily recall the scenes of years past when huge crowds of spectators, fathers and sons, filled the stand and lined every side of the pitch, to watch the "red and blacks" play. Revered players such as Jim Rutty, Wido Adlam, Billy Pearce, Charlie Turner, Walt Turner, Jack Turner, Chummie Smith, Wyndham Haines and Laurie Smith thrilled the crowd with their skills and won many trophies for Warminster. Nostalgia now, of course, but an integral part of our town's history and the reason why many local people regard the pitch as "hallowed" turf.

The Town Ground has also been used for several other forms of public entertainment over the years. For example, the Town Band often used it as the venue for their annual sports day, raising money for local charities. From 1915 onwards the Ground became associated with the Warminster Fairs, when the Fair Field between Station Road and Imber Road was appropriated by the Army. Other events held on the pitch over many decades include fetes and shows, and so on. There is, we think, no reason why the Ground should not be used as the venue for just as many events in years to come.

In 1920 Warminster Urban District Council completed the purchase, from the Marquess of Bath, of the Town Ground and the field below it to the north, together with the market rights and tolls. This was for seven acres in total; £1,000 for the land and £600 for the rights and tolls. One must, therefore, assume that the Town Ground held a much higher status than just a field.

As members of the Warminster History Society we are, of course, interested in Warminster's glorious heritage, but as residents, and many of us were born here, we are just as concerned with the future of our town. The notion of anyone wanting to build on the site of the Town Ground fills us all with dread. It overlooks the Lake Pleasure Grounds, one of the town's greatest assets. Warminster is particularly lucky to have a really pleasant and delightful park so close to the town centre. Many residents and visitors alike have proclaimed it to be one of the best of any they have seen during their travels around the world. To overshadow the Park with development of any kind would be an irreversible shame.

The proximity of the site to the nature and wildlife rerserve, east of the Park, stretching to Calveswater, is another factor to be considered. Residential or other development encroaching any closer to the nature reserve is not, in our minds, a satisfactory move. Surely it is preferable to have a statutory "no-man's land" between the nature reserve and any housing. All the more reason for ensuring that the Football Ground and the nearby fields stay as undeveloped space.

We are truly fortunate to have a tongue of almost natural and unspoilt landscape, featuring trees, marsh, water meadows and the unsurpassed River Wylye, reaching all the way from Boreham to the very heart of today's Warminster.

How many other towns can boast to having such natural beauty? Warminster owes much of its success to date as a market town on account of its unique position in this very landscape. Now is the time to protect what we have, not destroy it; particularly now that tourism and leisure are accepted as the way forward for Warminster's future.

Whether the Football Club stays where it is or moves elsewhere is the club's decision. It is for them to decide what is best for the future of football in Warminster. The History Society says, with or without football at Weymouth Street, the Town Ground and the area below and to the east of it, should remain as an open space. The Ridgeway Slope, on the opposite side of the Park, was excellently landscaped at the instigation of Warminster Town Council to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth II, as a plaque on a stone in the Park records; something for which an award was later granted by the Council for the Protection of Rural England. Could not a similar scheme be put into operation for the area to the south of the Lake Pleasure Grounds?

More importantly, we would like to see measures taken so that all the area in question is never built on, and stays as an area of open space, in perpetuity, for everyone's further enjoyment. West Wiltshire District Council are the owners of the land, but they should remember that they are "owners" only in the sense that they are "trustees" acting on behalf of the electorate. They should, therefore, respect the wishes of the people of Warminster. The "gut feeling" of everyone who has signed the petitions has shown itself as a big NO to any building development on the Town Ground and the surrounding area. We can only hope that the WWDC will respect the wish of so many of the residents of Warminster. If they need further indication of the support for the points raised in this letter, they should call a referendum. Common sense says "Keep it green". Will the planners please take note that our vision is a long term one and we will not be a party to the sale of our heritage.