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Penn luxury hotel scheme approved provided finer details resolved

Rayners: from Victorian manor house to school for children with communication difficulties to 21st century luxury hotel. Picture: Rayners Penn.

Updated report. 10 July.

A NINETY THREE million  pound scheme to convert the former Penn School into a luxury hotel complex has been given the go-ahead subject to a number of planning conditions and a financial agreement.

The exclusive hotel, to be called Rayners Penn, is expected to attract over 13,000 well-off guests a year and deliver a £7million boost to the local economy annually.

Last minute attempts by a group of nearby residents to put off the decision were thwarted by councillors on Buckinghamshire’s West Area Planning Committee on 10 July.

Rayners Penn had made a number of late concessions to try to appease the 60 objectors who call themselves the Penn Community Group, but the group said they didn’t go far enough.

However, Buckinghamshire councillors agreed with their planning officials that  issues such as noise and dealing with increased traffic  could be controlled and overcome.

They have imposed 38 planning conditions to their approval, including requiring Rayners to limit noise and pay for a travel plan which includes providing  a shuttle bus service.

Final approval won’t be gained until senior council officers are satisfied the conditions and financial arrangements are met.

The 33 bedroom hotel is the biggest single commercial development in Penn and Tylers Green for 75 years and will utterly transform the former Victorian mansion which, for 90 years, served as a special school for deaf children. The school closed in 2015 and has been empty since.

Serving village football for six decades: farewell to Norman Rowe

Norman Rowe, left, with club chairman Tony Hurst, in front of the stand named in his honour. Picture: Penn and Tylers Green Football Club.

NORMAN Rowe, the president of Penn and Tylers Green Football Club, died in June a week after his 90th birthday. He spent more than 60 years actively serving the club. 

From the moment he first arrived in the village in 1957 – as an original occupant of a house in The Lawns on the Deer Park Estate, Tylers Green –  Norman was keen to get involved in his local football club.  He followed them home and away for many years and was for a long time a local referee.

As the club’s treasurer – a role he held for nearly 25 years – he played a key part in working with the cricket club to develop the new clubhouse. In 1993 the football club elected him president and three years ago it named its main stand in his honour. 

Away from football Norman and his late wife Kath delivered meals on wheels in the village for many years and organised an annual Christmas gathering for elderly residents.  The couple had four children, Stuart, Karen, John and Christine. When the first Penn and Tylers Green Half Marathon was held in 1984 Christine was the first female winner.

Football club chairman and vice president Tony Hurst, said: “Up until the end of last season Norman was ever present at all the first team games, home and away.

“He was the font of all knowledge regarding the football club’s history and was a source of inspiration in recent years, standing side by side with us as we battled with planning authorities, the parish council and the residents’ society during our successful quest to improve our facilities with a new pitch and floodlights.

“He was the voice of reason when things got heated and a mentor to me when I needed a guiding light. We’ll all miss him, that’s for sure.”

Local news

Dr Michael Mosley and his wife Dr Clare Bailey at the doorway of their Knotty Green home. Picture: Sky News.

Doctor’s thanks – Dr Clare Bailey has thanked friends and neighbours for their support and understanding following the highly publicised death of her husband, the TV doctor and author Michael Mosley on the Greek island of Symi in June.  

The couple have lived in Penn Road, Knotty Green for over 20 years and Dr Mosely was a well known figure in the area, often seen cycling, pushing a trolley round Beaconsfield Waitrose or waiting for the London-bound train at the station.

Updated report – Election changesThe Wycombe constituency, which includes Tylers Green, returned a Labour MP for the first time since 1950 in the 4 July general election. Emma Reynolds defeated sitting Conservative MP Steve Baker and has a majority of 4,591 votes.

Liberal Democrat Sarah Green held on following her 2021 by-election victory in Chesham and Amersham, which includes Penn and Hazlemere, but with a majority reduced from 8,028 to 3,451. She had been absent for much of the campaign for family reasons. Second was Buckinghamshire councillor Gavin Williams, a Conservative.

In Beaconsfield Conservative Joy Morrissey retained her seat, but also with a reduced majority from 15,712 in 2019 to 5,455 this time round. The Liberal Democrats were second.

All the constituencies had altered parliamentary boundaries compared to the 2019 election.

Gomm Valley agreement – House builders Taylor Wimpey and Buckinghamshire Council have reached a legal agreement on the ground rules surrounding the future negotiations on who should pay for what should the Government planning inspector Matthew Woodward approve this area’s largest housing development plan later this summer.  

Taylor Wimpey want to build 540 houses and other facilities between Cock Lane and Hammersley Lane, Tylers Green but the council and hundreds of local people are opposed. 

Updated report Pub closesThe Crown in Penn closed on 14 July for a major refurbishment (see last blog). The pub has targeted mid-October as a re-opening date.

Second rejection – A second attempt to demolish the house Gorse Glade at the bottom of the back common in Tylers Green and replace it with a Georgian-style home has been  rejected by Buckinghamshire Council. 

The proposed new house would be too big and cause “detrimental harm upon the appearance, landscape and settings of the wider Common and Conservation Area,” say planners. Parish councillors said the size, scale and height of the proposed three-bedroom property goes “way beyond what is acceptable.”

Long job 1 The Penn to Hazlemere road is to reopen to two way traffic this month five months after a sinkhole appeared at the Curzon Avenue junction for the second time in a year. Geologists recommended shoring up work after collapsing earth initially caused a water main to burst. Then another main split while the work was being undertaken, delaying things even more. The council will regularly monitor the area to see if the earth shifts again.UPDATE: Don’t speak too soon! Affinity Water now say there will be severe disruption to traffic between the Penn Road junctions of Curzon Avenue and Rushmoor Avenue until the end of August as they lay a new water main.

Long job 2 – Meanwhile, Thames Water say they anticipate completing the major sewage work off Church Road, Tylers Green, opposite the Horse and Jockey pub, by the end of July, nine months after fractured pipes flooded nearby gardens.  They say the work has involved relining and reinstating pipework.

Howzat! Penn and Tylers Green Cricket Club’s men’s first team have had a cracking start to the season, winning their first eight games and topping the table in their league.  Meanwhile, Tylers Green Middle School Year 5&6 mixed cricket team won the Wycombe area schools championship and reached the finals of the county schools competition.

Community radio – An internet radio station – Penn Pond Radio – has launched in the local area and presented its first outside broadcast at the Penn and Tylers Green Super Fun Run last month.

Bank holiday fete Hazlemere Fete is being held on August Bank Holiday Monday between noon and 5pm at the Hazlemere Community  Centre grounds. Admission and parking are free.

Heritage tours – Penn House will be open for pre-booked guided tours on 13 and 15 September as part of the annual heritage open day festival. Holy Trinity Church,  Penn will also be open for the weekend with guides on hand.

Penn Street Farmhouse in the grounds of Penn House has been added to the list of important heritage sites in Buckinghamshire in the council’s latest revision of significant buildings in the county.  The 200 year old farmhouse is considered a fine example of an early 18th century farmhouse.

Hazlemere Library needs 65 volunteers as council cuts costs and staff says report

OUR LOCAL library at Hazlemere will rely on volunteers to keep going if radical plans to transform Buckinghamshire’s libraries are approved.

A number of smaller libraries in the county already use volunteers but these new proposals vastly extend that reliance as the council seeks to save more than half a million pounds in costs.

To sweeten the pill Buckinghamshire Council intends to extend the hours the library is available by use of improved technology.

At Hazlemere  the proposals would mean:

  • Employed staff on duty from just 11am to 3pm five days a week. When they are not there entry will be via library card and pin number with automated services available.
  • Making library services available from 7am to 10pm, Tuesday to Friday with reduced Saturday hours.
  • Providing  a 24 hour CCTV operation covering the entire library viewed by security personnel offsite
  • Seeking 65 volunteers to help library users with specific inquiries when staff are not necessarily available.

Although energy costs would increase because of the new arrangements – and there would be an initial outlay for new technology and additional CCTV – the council says the scheme would bring significant savings. 

The scheme – called Library Flex – also proposes reducing the space used at Wycombe’s central library from its current three floors to one, and introducing a similar scheme to Hazlemere at Beaconsfield.

A public consultation on the plans begins this month and runs until October. 

Surprise visitors as Penn and Tylers Green Fun Run celebrates 40 years

Little weed (Geoff Jones), accompanied by Bill (Bill Sadler) and Ben (Geoff Roberts) ran – well, walked fast – the Fun Run pushing Grandad’s shed.

THE RED Arrows roared overhead as hundreds of people gathered on the front common to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Super Fun Run Day.

The aerobatic team were returning to base after flying over Buckingham Palace as part of the Trooping the Colour ceremonies.

In another surprise, Helene Bradley, whose late husband Ray instigated the first fun run 40 years ago, travelled from Devon to present trophies to winners along with Earl Howe.

Once again the Penn 7 and Fun Run races, together with mini-marathons for very young ones, attracted hundreds of runners on 15 June with hundreds more arriving for an evening of live music on the common.  This year’s event raised money for the Lewy Body Society, which funds research into dementia.

* In a rare comment, members of Buckinghamshire Council’s Licensing Sub-Committee complimented the organisers of the  Super Fun Run Day on their application for a drinks licence. They said the application was “thoroughly thought through and professionally and competently delivered”  and congratulated the team for working with “interested parties” to reach agreement to address any concerns.

More time to search…

Updated report – The deadline for returning your answers for the Hidden in Plain Sight quiz (see last blog) has been extended to 30 August following requests to allow more time during the school holidays. 

There’s a £500 prize for the winner. The books cost £8 with proceeds to the Lewy Body Society funding research into dementia. They are available from the village hall, Joe Gleeson’s butchers, John the barber in Rose Avenue and the Red Lion.

Socialist hotbed to capitalist sunbed

Little Penn Farmhouse. Picture: Bovingdon’s estate agency.

A PENN property that played a role in the development of the Labour Party is on the market for offers north of £4million.

Today it’s called Little Penn Farmhouse in Gravelly Way and comes complete with swimming pool, jacuzzi and tennis court.

But between the wars it was a rough and ready rural farmhouse called Twixtlands,  miles from anywhere, and used as a hideaway and talking shop for the leading left-of-centre intellectuals of the day including, it’s said, Mahatma Gandhi, George Orwell and Ernest Bevin.

It was owned by Herbert Morrison, grandfather of Lord Peter Mandelson, who was a major figure in the Labour movement  for 40 years and Home Secretary in the Second World War.

The left wing firebrand MP Ellen Wilkinson,  the leader of the Jarrow Hunger March in the 1930s and generally acknowledged to be Morrison’s lover, lived there occasionally with her sister Anne. 

Quite what Ellen, a former communist who is buried in Penn Street’s Holy Trinity churchyard, would make of her socialist retreat’s makeover into a capitalist lair is anyone’s guess!

Lights, camera, no action

An artist impression of what Marlow Film Studios would look like if it should ever get built. Picture: Dido Property Ltd.

THE STRUGGLE to build major new film studios at Marlow has all the makings of a nail-biting movie blockbuster.

Some of the biggest names in the movie business, including directors Sam Mendes and James Cameron, urged Buckinghamshire councillors to stop dithering, give the go-ahead and make the Buckinghamshire area “second only to Hollywood” in movie-making.

But after reading hundreds of pages of planning reports and debating for six hours the councillors said no. 

Now the company behind the plan, Dido Property Ltd, has until the end of the year to decide whether to appeal to the Government’s Planning Inspectorate to try and reverse the decision. It will no doubt be trying to get some behind-the-scenes steer from the new government on its Green Belt policies before making that decision.

The gist of the council’s nine point refusal is that the 85 acre site is in Green Belt.  Not the prettiest Green Belt, admittedly, and indeed it had gravel dug out of it in the 1960s,  but an important open space nonetheless. 

The site is by the junction of the Marlow by-pass and the Marlow to Bourne End road with its proposed main entrance opposite Hillier’s Garden Centre – another cause for concern for councillors because of the extra traffic it would generate. 

Regional news

We will remember them – Boys from the Royal Grammar School visited France in June to tour First and Second World War battlefields and cemeteries. Picture: RGS

Girls allowed – The Royal Grammar School in Amersham Road, High Wycombe is to take female students into its sixth form from September. It’s the first time female students have been included in the school in its 462 year history. The school said the move will offer students a “wider range of social and cultural perspectives…and provide a more realistic reflection of life after school at university and in the modern workplace.”

Swans attackedThe charity Swan Support is seeking to change the law to make it illegal for people to carry catapults on the paths alongside the River Thames after an increase in swan attacks by catapult-carrying yobs.

Booze ban – Slough has banned the drinking of alcohol in any public space in the town after a series of anti-social behaviour incidents. Anyone breaking the Public Space Protection Order will face a £100 fine. A poll amongst residents indicated 93 per cent were in favour of the ban.

Dirty ThamesDays before Henley Royal Regatta the town’s council voted to campaign for the nationalisation of Thames Water because of the company’s poor record on preventing sewage spills in the river. Earlier, competitors taking part in a major triathlon event in Windsor called for an investigation after a number of them fell ill after swimming in the Thames.

Master wordsmith – Arthur Page, a 16 year old student from Chalfont St Peter and a Buckinghamshire under-18 chess champion, won the 89th series of the TV quiz Countdown in June.

Builder’s yard extraordinaire! If you’ve ever wondered what’s going on just over the brow of the hill on the Great Missenden to Wendover road (A413) where HS2 is building its controversial railway, take at look at Keith Hoffmeister’s bird’s-eye view photo taken in June. This is looking south towards Great Missenden with the Chilterns tunnel entrance just visible in the top right and the A413 running across the bottom of the picture. The works are in the protected landscape of the Chilterns National Landscape which, HS2 say,  will be fully restored once this section is complete in four or five years time.

Village repairsThere will be traffic delays in West Wycombe High Street this summer while the National Trust, which owns most of the village, undertakes repairs and renovation to several buildings. Controversial plans to introduce more double yellow lines along  the protected high street will be considered in the autumn.

Wonderwall? – With work nearly completed on the HS2 ventilation shaft by the Amersham to Hazlemere road, construction of the boundary wall has begun.  The wall will have a flint panel finish which HS2 claim will blend in with the surrounding Chilterns Natural Landscape countryside. It is due to be completed next March. 

Rock on The Adelphi in Slough, which hosted pop concerts in the 1960s before becoming a bingo hall, is set to become a  live music venue again. The bingo hall has now closed and the new owner is applying for a live music licence.

Spooks home converted – Caversham Park, near Reading, where 1,000 people worked at one time listening in to radio stations around the world, is to be converted to housing and a care home. The BBC ran its monitoring service from there until six years ago.

80 years ago this summer: The Tomahawk Warrior disaster: the day Penn and Tylers Green will never forget

Concluding our monthly look at what was happening here in 1944 with a special report…

July/August 1944

The ill-fated crew of the Tomahawk Warrior, with First Lieutenant Searl, top left. A tenth member of the crew who wasn’t aboard the day the aircraft crashed is partly obscured. Picture: Imperial War Museum.

A FEW minutes after seven o’clock on the morning of Saturday, 12 August, 1944 the loudest explosion ever heard in Penn and Tylers Green shook every building in the village.

Within minutes people were rushing to where the sound had come from, high on farmland around Lude Farm. They were driven by sheer human curiosity and a hope that, if something terrible had happened, they might be able to help.

What greeted them as they ran up Gatemoor Lane towards the farm was a horrible, gruesome sight: a vision that would stay with all of them for the rest of their lives. 

An  American B-52 bomber, loaded with bombs and with tanks full of fuel, crash landed in a field containing hundreds of chickens pecking at grain.  It exploded into thousands of pieces, killing instantly the nine young crew members on board, and creating such a scene of devastation it took the American military more than a month to clear up.

A plaque by the site of the crash at Lude Farm, Penn.

A fateful mission

As young as they were, the crew of the B-17 Flying Fortress 41-107191 – named the Tomahawk Warrior after the home town of its pilot First Lieutenant Charles Searl, of Tomahawk in the Great Lakes state of Wisconsin – were an experienced unit. 

Most had arrived in this country in March as the Americans built up their forces for the invasion of Europe. Lieut Searl, a sign-writer, had volunteered  the day after America was attacked at Pearl Harbour in December 1941 aged just 20 and  he quickly showed an aptitude for flying.

Once in the UK  he was put in charge of nine other crew members, all in their twenties and late teens, and allocated the giant B-17 bomber, named Peggy by a previous crew, while they were based at Nuthampstead, near Royston, Herts, on a temporary airfield built by US engineers two years earlier using rubble left by air raids on London and Coventry.

Within days they were in action bombing enemy territory in Europe, Lieut Searl earning two Oak Leaf clusters to add to his air medal for his “courage, coolness and skill” . By early August they had successfully completed 24 missions.

The crew were up at dawn on 12 August for a hearty breakfast and to prepare for a routine mission to take off at 6.18am. Only this time it would only be a nine-man crew and not ten. Tail gunner Frank Snyder had endured a raging toothache all night and was given permission to visit the dentist.

They set off on time with instructions to rendezvous with other bombers over Hampshire and then bomb enemy targets near Versailles.  What happened next still isn’t clear 80 years later.

What is known is that as Tomahawk Warrior was passing over High Wycombe just before 7am, it was seen flying in an arc with one of its four engines on fire. Then flames came spouting out of a second engine.

A later investigation suggested that at first  Lieut Searl thought he could make it to Bovingdon airfield, ten minutes flying time away, to make an emergency landing. Then, realising there wasn’t time and accepting they were going to crash and die he looked desperately for an empty space where there were no streets and houses.

With seconds to spare and travelling at 150mph he aimed for farmland on the Penn hillside. His last thought was to save others.

Remnants of the Tomahawk Warrior. Picture: Greg Allwood.

An horrific scene

Twelve year old Ron Setter was a farmer’s son, used to getting up early even though it was the school holidays.

He was still in bed at seven o’clock in the family’s 500 year old  farmhouse at Lude Farm but thinking of getting up.

As he lay there, contemplating the day ahead,  he suddenly heard what he later recalled was an enormous “whoosh”, immediately followed by a shaking house and, as he leapt from his bed, the bedroom ceiling falling in on him. The B17 had crashed with an almighty explosion in a field 450 metres from the farm, taking the tops off some tall elms, incinerating scores of chickens but miraculously missing the farmhouse. The crew would have died instantly.

Ron’s dad had been out in the farmyard when he first saw the plane coming from the Loudwater direction,  engines aflame, take a 180 degree turn and smash into the ground with enormous force. One of the massive engines broke off and landed near the farmhouse.  The heat was so intense it warped the roof of the farmhouse barn. Every pane of glass in the farmhouse bar one was shattered.

It was fortunate perhaps that the American Air Force bomber command was based in High Wycombe, in the Wycombe Abbey School. It’s assumed they had been in touch with the plane and almost certain they saw it as it flew overhead in flames. 

In any event US military police and air force personnel were among the first to arrive – their first priority to cover body parts which had scattered far and wide to avoid them being seen by the many people from all around the area who were converging on the scene.

David Huntley who was later to write a book about the Tomahawk Warrior, was staying in Derehams Lane, Loudwater at the time. 

He recalled: “We ran up the hill towards where the crash occurred and it was there I saw the remains of a plane virtually unrecognisable as a plane at all.

“There were people running around with galvanised metal tubs picking up body parts and I recall parachute silk being used to cover bodies or remains. 

“As an eight year old it made a deep impression upon me. My brothers were trying to shield me from the gruesome scene.”

The explosion warped the roof of the barn, still visible today. Picture: Greg Allwood.

The aftermath

To this day, the official report  says the crash occurred due to mechanical failure. It was wartime and planes were being lost every day. 

There was talk that Tomahawk Warrior had been involved in a collision before take-off, but that was never substantiated. Another pilot flying in the same group as Tomahawk Warrior said he saw a large explosion above the clouds…”it may have been Searl or a doodlebug (flying bomb).  It left one splotch of smoke, but no trail.”

Another B17 on the same mission had had to abort and return to base that morning because, even though it was August, it was icing up at over 7,000 metres high.  Some planes had had their de-icing equipment removed, although it has never been suggested Tomahawk Warrior was one.

All the Allied bomber crews – and Axis crews too – suffered terribly in the Second World War. More than 44 per cent of Allied air crews were killed in action. For the Americans it was 46 per cent – a total of 57,203 with an average age of 23.

The remains of nine crew were buried in a cemetery in Cambridge but after the war, at the request of their families, eight of them were returned to the States, including Lieut Searl, to be buried at Arlington Military Cemetery.

They are not forgotten here. There are memorial plaques at the site of the crash and in Penn Church, where, every Remembrance Sunday, nine American flags – one for each crew member – join the Union flags by the entrance to the church to remember the wartime fallen.

*Frank Snyder, the tail gunner who did not join the flight because of toothache,  survived the war and died in 2015 aged 90.

Every Remembrance Sunday nine US flags accompany Union flags at Holy Trinity, Penn as the village remembers those with local links killed in active service in two world wars.

Elsewhere in the area that July/August:

  • VI rocket attacks terrorised the area. One exploded in Chestnut Lane, Amersham killing three and injuring 17; another hit a street in Downley, injuring three and damaging 13 houses; while another blew up Lane End telephone exchange, fortunately causing no injuries while another landed but didn’t explode in Cryers Hill, Great Kingshill.
  • Penn and Tylers Green Women’s Institute received a letter of thanks from their adopted prisoner of war, Gunner Kedge, for their gifts and supplies. Eight village children staged their own variety show at the Tylers Green recreation ground (now cricket ground) and raised £8/2/0 for village men known to be prisoners of war while the Horse and Groom and Queen’s Head pubs played a cricket match which raised £20 for the same cause.
  • Well known local footballer and cricketer, Lance-bombardier Colin Boddy, aged 24, of Seer Green was killed in the Normandy campaign as was Private A. L. Brown of Winchmore Hill.
  • Another local footballer and cricketer, Leading Aircraftman George Jones, of 1 Council Houses, Tylers Green (now Church Road) was “mentioned in dispatches” for courage and devotion to duty; while Leading Signalman William Rogers of Penn Street, a former pupil of Penn Church School, was awarded a Distinguished Service Medal for “outstanding skill, courage and devotion to duty during action with four German destroyers off Brest.”
  • Penn’s church bells at Holy Trinity were rung for the first time in five years when it was learned that Paris had been liberated on 25 August.
  • In a debate about a shortage of barbers many male councillors in Beaconsfield were taking aback when it was suggested that women could just as easily cut their hair.
  • The Penn and Tylers Green Gardeners and Allotments Association held its annual show – a forerunner of today’s village show – with 350 entries  comprising bottled fruit, cakes, wildflowers as well as veg, which was later sold off and funds donated to the Red Cross. 
  • The Wye Rabbit Club, which held its regular meetings in the Cock Lane British Legion hut,  held its annual show with 150 entries from local rabbit fanciers. 

You can contact this blog at peter@pennandtylersgreen.com The blog will be updated as necessary during July and August but is taking a break for the summer and will be next fully updated in September.