A Community Orchard for Sandford-on-Thames.
In 2017 a plan was developed to establish a community orchard for the village and in the Autumn a formal proposal was put to the landowner, Magdalen college. The site is the triangle of land between the Village hall car park, the graveyard and the footpath between Henley road and Church road. Magdalen college and the DeVere hotel, the lessee at the time were supportive of the idea.
The college however, widened our proposal to include Rock Farm field, the field bounded by the A4074 and Brick Kiln lane. The field is currently leased to the Parish council on a long-term lease but is also leased to a local farmer on an agricultural lease which is a rather anomalous situation. (He also sub-lets to a third party) This has left the Parish council unable to use the land for any purpose such as the originally stated purpose in the lease as a recreation ground. The college requested that the PC surrender the Rock farm field lease in exchange for a renewable 50 year lease on the proposed orchard site and the offer of a financial contribution. (Long term, Rock farm field could be developed for housing but only if the village loses its green belt designation, the farmer surrenders his agricultural lease or it expires and a subsequent planning application was successful)
In June 2020 the PC made a counter proposal requesting Magdalen college to include exchanging the current Recreation ground 20 year lease (expiry December 2023) at an annual rent of £868.00 for a long term lease at a peppercorn rent. The total of the previously offered financial contribution and the reduction in rent for the Recreation field would over a period of about 20 years provide compensation in the amount of the agricultural land value which is written into the contract and due to the village for surrendering the Rock Farm field lease.
In the long term a rent-free and secure Recreation ground and a new community orchard run by volunteers would continue to benefit our community.
The discussions were delayed due to the change in Magdalen college’s leaseholder from DeVere hotels group to Covivio, a French REIT (real estate investment trust) which in turn leases the hotel to Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) which includes the VOCO group of hotels. Then Covid 19 struck creating additional complications but all parties have now agreed basic terms.
The original Orchard proposal is attached below.
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