BLACKMINSTER'S REQUEST – DESIRE TO LEAVE OFFENHAM FOR BADSEY – COUNTY COUNCIL INQUIRY HELD
A public enquiry was held at Blackminster County Modern School on Friday evening last by the Worcestershire County Council to hear a plea by Blackminster residents who wish to change their allegiance from the parish of Offenham to the parish of Badsey.
The enquiry was conducted by County Councillors J W Hughes and H Ashwin on behalf of Worcestershire County Council. Mr Hodgetts represented Offenham Parish Council.
Opening the enquiry, Mr J C Phelips, Deputy Clerk to the County Council, referred to letters which had passed between Badsey Parish Council and the County Council and then read a petition from Blackminster which gave nine reasons why the transfer from Offenham to Badsey should take place. These were:
- Incompatibility of interest.
- The geographical position of Blackminster in relation to Offenham.
- The distance from Blackminster to Offenham Church and School was the reason why no Blackminster children attended the latter.
- There was no public transport between the two places.
- Because Blackminster children did not attend Offenham School they therefore had no interest in its life.
- While South Littleton and Badsey had electric lighting, Blackminster, in the centre, was in darkness.
- The postal address was “Badsey, near Evesham”.
- During the war, Blackminster was attached to Badsey for civil defence, and this was found to be a satisfactory arrangement.
- A very strong communal spirit existed between Blackminster and Badsey residents, and the amalgamation should be for all official purposes.
Mr C A Binyon. Chairman of Badsey Parish Council, said that neither the idea nor the petition originated with his council.
"We had information,” he said, "that the people of Blackminster wanted to come into the parish of Badsey – and I think they would be welcomed, for there is a great deal to be said for the transfer. It is quite true that there is no communal life between the two under the present arrangement, and there ls no public transport; besides, the whole of Blackminster is very much closer to Badsey than it is to Offenham."
He hoped there would be no personal feeling about the matter but felt that Offenham's main objection was a loss of prestige and a loss of rateable value.
Mr C Tutton, of St Cadoc, Blackminster, on behalf of the residents there, said that, the project arose as a result of a petition put forward to the County Council by the people of Blackminster.
NOT A NEW IDEA
"It is not a new idea,” he said, recalling that he had been resident in Blackminster for thirty years [sic – should say thirteen years], and even as far back as that he had found a desire to separate from Offenham. It was not something that had happened in a hurry.
As Blackminster developed, the residents were not getting the community of interest they should have got. The area was not big enough to form a parish of its own, and the people thought they ought to be associated with Badsey.
Mr Tutton then dealt with the reasons why the transfer should take place. Distance and transport were his first points. "Whichever way you try to get to the centre of Offenham you have to meet cold winds," he said, "and the only means of getting there is by walking or by cycle, because there is no public transport."
His next point were the children. “The children go to school at Badsey. They have Badsey ideas and they have their friends there. There is nothing in Offenham for them, and they do not go there because they do not know anyone.” Blackminster had several members on the parochial register at Badsey. The children went there to church because that was where they had their friends.
He reminded the enquiry that the postal address gave them as ‘Badsey, near Evesham' and during the war the civil defence had been administered from Badsey.
“It is not nice to think that something is happening in the area and you are out of it," he concluded. "I feel that I have more community of interests with Badsey because I am more in touch with things there. There no spirit of vindictiveness about the plea. We believe that our interests will be best served if the whole of Blackminster is transferred to Badsey."
Cross-examined by Mr Hodgetts, Mr Tutton said it was his opinion that the residents had expressed a strong desire to amalgamate with Badsey parish. On the question of community spirit, Mr Tutton said, “It takes a number of years to know whether you are going to be accepted in the Offenham parish or otherwise. Blackminster people had not found that community spirit and wished to get out."
He had only attended a parish meeting on one occasion, and on that occasion he was disgusted ‘at a certain amount of hooliganism’. Thereafter he determined to keep away. "Some gentlemen here tonight will remember the occasion," he said.
It was a fact that the greatest value lay in the north part of Blackminster but it was not desired to split the north from the south. It was desired to keep Blackminster as a complete entity. The petition had been signed by all the residents north of the railway.
Mr Tutton did not think that Offenham would suffer while Badsey would gain. “You talk about anyone suffering," he said. “I do not know that there will be any. Blackminster has suffered a lot during the years and has nothing in return for subscribing to the rates."
Mr Hodgetts suggested that if Blackminster residents had taken steps to attend parish meetings they would have got all they asked for.
Mr Tutton: “They have asked for street lighting.”
Mr S F Bunting of Elmar stated that by losing Blackminster, Offenham would sacrifice one third of its rateable value, which would affect their pocket.
Mr Bunting referred to a public meeting held on January 22 last at Offenham when the parish council decided to oppose the transfer. The resolution carried on that occasion stated that "it was decided to oppose the transfer on the grounds that no material benefit would be gained by inhabitants Of Blackminster but that it would result in a large financial loss in rateable value to the parish of Offenham by such an alteration, and that in view of the fact that a general review of the parish boundaries will take place in due course, the Blackminster application was premature."
On the point that no material benefits would be gained, Mr Bunting stated that no evidence had been given to that effect and no one was able to do so.
“And is it premature?” he asked. He did not see what that had to do with it. With Mr Tutton he reiterated that the plea was based on a community of interests with Badsey.
“We represent the minority as well as the majority. We have no interest in acres and rateable value. The welfare of the people is just as important as the rateable value.”
On the question of lighting, Mr Bunting told an amusing tale. When it was first brought up, he said, the suggestion was made that if people did not draw their blinds at night they would not need public street light. (Laughter.)
Questioned by Mr Hodgetts, he admitted that very few people attended the parish meeting when the lighting question was discussed. If the people had been really interested, said Mr Hodgetts, the people would have turned up and voted to pass the resolution.
Mr Bunting believed there was every justification for the transfer. He would not have asked people to sign the petition had he been disinterested.
“Is it not a fact that the area around the station is important from the industrial point of view?” asked Mr Hodgetts.
Mr Bunting: “It may be a fact, but it may be conjecture as well.”
Mr Hodgetts: “And it may have considerable rateable value in the future?”
Mr Bunting: “It may. That again is conjecture.”
Mr Phelips inquired whether Blackminster residents had any assurance that Badsey would give them street lighting. Mr Bunting agreed that under the present industrial conditions they would not get it immediately, but they would receive some consideration.
QUESTION OF DISTANCE
On the question of distance, Mr Bunting agreed that the extremes of Blackminster were as far from Offenham as from Badsey. But they were more interested in convenience, for if they wanted to go into Badsey they had public transport.
Mr Mumford of Blackminster supported the plea. He had, he said, lived in Blackminster for 14 years and never made a practice of going to Offenham because they were cut off. He always went to Badsey. “They don’t want to bother with us,” he said, “and we don’t want to bother with them.”
Mr Tubby, also of Blackminster, stated that he wanted to get back to Badsey because he was a Badsey man. He had spent the greater part of his life there.
Mr Hodgetts, for Offenham Parish Council, referred to the question of pockets which had been raised by Mr Bunting.
He mentioned that the rateable value of Badsey was £3,936, Offenham £3,536 and South Littleton £3,966. These gave a penny rate in 1946-47 respectively of £15 13s 1d, £14 8s 6d and £16 19s 3d. The part of Offenham nearest South Littleton and situated north of the railway line represented a total rateable value of £484. Blackminster south of the railway line represented a rateable value of £221. Assessments which could not be apportioned such as railway, gas, electric mains, etc, amounted to a total rateable value of £361. The population of Blackminster was about 100 which, if the transfer took place, would reduce the Offenham parish to under 1,000 inhabitants. This would reduce the representation of the parish on the District Council.
The total acreage involved was 193 and if this were taken from Offenham it would reduce that parish to 1,035, and increase the Badsey acreage to one-third larger than Offenham. He saw no reason why this should happen.
“Badsey has already encroached on another parish,” said Mr Hodgetts, “and it looks as though they want to do it again.”
He regarded the area around the railway line as very important and very valuable, because of the possibility of industrial development in the future. He did not think that the distance separating them any reason why the children should not go to church or school at Offenham. Also, Offenham had a village hall and Badsey had not.
“Offenham has suggested that the wish to separate is premature,” he went on. “At some future time, the present boundaries will be under consideration, and it is strongly hoped by the County Council that this will be put off. The transfer, if there is to be one,” he said, “should be in the interests of good government and to the public advantage. It should not be allowed purely as an advantage to the people of Blackminster alone, but only if it is in the interests of the public generally. No evidence has been advanced to show that the interests of the public would be served by the transfer. The inhabitants of Blackminster wish to transfer to Badsey – that is all we have heard.”
Mr Hodgetts then turned to the lighting question. “Blackminster is as much responsible for the lack of lighting as any one else,” he said. A meeting had been held at Offenham when this question had been brought up, but an entire lack of interest had been shown by Blackminster people and the necessary majority vote had not been attained. Mr Hodgetts concluded by suggesting that there was no moral or legal obligation why Blackminster should be transferred to Badsey.
Mr T E Trenfield, Chairman of Offenham Parish Council, also touched on the lighting question. “The meeting was called in mid-summer – a time when all are busy on the land – but the subject will be brought up again,” he said. He suggested that it was not a proper time in view of the state of the country to push ahead with the lighting plans. “But Blackminster people will certainly get their quota,” he promised.
On compatibility of interests, Mr Trenfield said that perhaps from the social point of view they were separated from Offenham’s functions but, he added, “We shall be extremely pleased to see them. The interests are there for them, and if they care to make us of them they can. If they do not, we cannot force them to.”
Cross-examined, Mr Trenfield agreed that it was a difficult journey to get to Offenham, and the transport facilities were not as they should be.
For the first time a touch of acerbity was introduced when Mr Bunting reminded him that it had been agreed that neither side would be represented by a solicitor. “Who is paying for his services tonight?” he asked.
County Councillor Hughes thought the question irrelevant, but Mr Bunting persisted, “Is it right that Blackminster people should help to pay for a solicitor against them?” he enquired.
Mr Phelips pointed out that the question had nothing to do with the enquiry one way or the other. Their purpose was to give the County Council advice, and the question of solicitor’s fees was neither here nor there.
An attempt was made to introduce a “certain incident some years ago.” This, too, was over-ruled by the Chairman. Personalities had nothing to do with the enquiry. They were interested in land only.
Mr C A King, a member of Badsey Parish Council, could not understand what was in the minds of Blackminster people. “The social functions are there,” he said, “and they are the best judges why they do not use them.”
Mr Tutton: “How many invitations were sent to Blackminster for an old-fashioned dance? We usually know about these dances when they are all over.”
Mr Trenfield: “If they really want to come they would find ways and means.”
Mr Phelips wanted to know if Offenham Parish Council had opposed the transfer, and he was assured that the Council opposed any alteration of boundaries whatsoever.
Mr E S Bean, a member of Offenham Parish Council, thought that the plea had been activated by a spirit of revenge.
Mr J Heber Smith, Vice-Chairman of Offenham Parish Council, endorsed all that had been said on behalf of Offenham. “My reasons are sentimental,” he said. “They have been with us all the time and now they think a change is needed.”
County Alderman Robert Aldington referred to the meeting when the lighting problem had been discussed. “All those present had voted in favour of having street lighting, but it was realised that they could not possibly have it for some time,” he said. He understood the sentimental reasons, and he felt them too. He himself was not interested in the transfer whatever, but added, “surely the proper side of the railway line to go is to South Littleton and not to Badsey.
“Would the transfer make for better government,” he asked. “Not the slightest,” he answered.
Mr Bunting repeated that the whole of Blackminster wanted to go to Badsey, and there was no desire to split the place. “The south want to go,” he said, “and the north would like to go, but if it is a question of splitting they would rather go to South Littleton than remain with Offenham.”
County Councillor Hughes promised that he and County Councillor Ashwin would take back the gist of what had been said and it would come before the County Councillor for their consideration.
He complimented both sides on the fair and pleasant way in which the enquiry had gone. This was endorsed by Mr Tutton for Blackminster and Mr Trenfield for Offenham.