Exactly forty years ago, in late 1981, reports in the local press covered objections to a proposal to turn Wickhamford Manor into a country club. The owner of the Manor at this time was Jeremy Ryan-Bell. An application had been made to Wychavon District Council, on 26th March 1981, for a change of use and alteration to the Manor House to a Hotel and Country Club. The application was approved on 6th November 1981. Earlier applications, along similar lines, had been made during 1978-80, but later withdrawn.
Residents of Wickhamford formed an action group to fight plans to convert the historic Wickhamford Manor into a country club and hotel. The plan was for 40 bedrooms, a car park, squash court and tennis courts. The Parish Council had already sent a letter with a list of seven objections to the County planners. The group was officially formed at a meeting of 80 residents at the Memorial Hall on 17th December 1981, where they were told that Wychavon District Council had given outline planning permission to convert the historic building. The group decided to ‘fight the scheme all the way’. The plan was said to be just too big and would overwhelm the village. A petition opposing the scheme was signed by more than 500 local people – ‘more than 95% of the village has signed’. Geoff Badham, Chairman of the Parish Council, told the meeting that the Council had protested in the strongest possible terms to Wychavon on two occasions, but with little effect. Mr David Noyes, district councillor for the Wickhamford area, also opposed the present plans, although he thought that some commercial development was unavoidable.
An Action Group formed
On 30th December 1981, a meeting was held of the Wickhamford Action Group. Mr P. Tucker was appointed Acting Chairman, Mrs E. Reynolds became Treasurer and Mrs P. Darley the Secretary. The Group had opened an account at Lloyds Bank in the name of ‘Wickhamford Save Our Heritage’ and £65 had been paid in. A resolution, passed at a public meeting, and a petition, had been handed in to the Clerk of the Parish Council who had forwarded them to Wychavon District Council. Letters had been sent to the Minister for Environment, Michael Heseltine, to Michael Spicer M.P., and to the Department for Environment (Listed Buildings). A letter had been sent to Lord Sandys (whose family had owned the Manor from 1594 until 1869) together with a copy of a letter received from Mr Lees-Milne. A copy of the latter was sent to the Parochial Church Council asking them to approach Christ Church College, Oxford, seeking their support to contact the Worcestershire Conservation Society and to ask for Tree Preservation orders. It is not clear which ‘Mr Lees-Milne’ wrote the letter mentioned above. George Lees-Milne (1880-1949) had owned the Manor from 1906 until 1947; his two sons were Richard (1910-1984) and James (1908-1997), who had strong National Trust connections.
The Church’s views
The Badsey, Aldington and Wickhamford Parish Review of December 1981 contained a personal comment from the vicar, the Rev’d Peter Mitchell. He said that he had made two representations to the planning authorities regarding the proposed development at the Manor. He had stressed the serious effect such proposals would have on the immediate environment of the Church.
The on-line Wychavon Planning records do not mention the eventual outcome of this matter, but the development did not proceed. It is assumed that the planning application lapsed and, despite the approval, it was not proceeded with. There is no mention in the records of the application having been withdrawn.
Tom Locke – December 2021
Thanks are due to Peggy Hancock, who scrap-book of newspaper cuttings contained articles concerning this application.