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Penn luxury hotel plan attracts some heavyweight objections

The £90m conversion of the former Penn School will create 149 jobs say developers. Picture: Rayners Penn

THE PLAN to convert Rayners, the former Penn School, into a luxury hotel has met with strong objections from some of its wealthy neighbours.

They are concerned the £90m scheme (for details see December blog) will increase traffic and noise in the village to an unacceptable level and disturb the peace and quiet they currently enjoy as near neighbours.

The plan, however, has also drawn a number of letters in conditional support, including from  both Penn and Chepping Wycombe Parish Councils and the Penn and Tylers Green Residents’ Society.

Two local councillors have requested the application be “called in” so it can be debated by councillors on Buckinghamshire Council’s West Area planning committee before a decision is made.  

Sir Jan Du Plessis, who lives in Old Deer Park, next to the Rayners site, told the council: “Like the vast majority of local residents our decision to move to Penn 15 years ago was largely driven by the attractions of living in a very quiet rural village, where we could enjoy the beautiful outdoors unencumbered by the noise pollution that one invariably finds in large cities.

Sir Jan, one of Britain’s leading businessmen, added: “Like many others, we fear that if this application is approved it will put an end to the quiet life we have all deliberately chosen.”

Other neighbours have employed consultants to put their case. Mr and Mrs Tucker, of Kennel End, Hammersley Lane have commissioned acoustic consultants to write a noise impact assessment; while Lady Joan Heath at Partridge House in Church Road, next to the proposed main entrance of the hotel, is advised by planning consultants  who list seven objections.

Christopher and Olivia Aldren, of Bow House,  off Hammersley Lane, also immediate neighbours, say although they do not object to the idea of Rayners becoming a hotel they feel tight conditions should be imposed.

“We would like planning to forbid marquee or outdoor events as these are likely to occur in the summer months when adjacent residents are most likely to be in their gardens,” they say.

Local burglary and shoplifting up last year, but drug and criminal damage crimes down

CRIME statistics from Thames Valley Police show there was an increase in burglaries, shoplifting, vehicle crime and violence/sex offences in the Chepping Wye Valley area last year compared to the three year annual average for the area.

There were decreases however in general theft, drug offences, anti-social behaviour, criminal damage and public order offences.

The Chepping Wye Valley police area runs from Hazlemere in the north to Flackwell Heath/Loudwater in the south and includes Tylers Green.  Penn is in the Chalfonts police area (see below).

December was the quietest month of 2023 for reported crime with a total of 76 recorded. A  breakdown shows there were five burglaries at homes on the B474 between Alde House and Hazlemere Crossroads during the month. There was one drug arrest following a stop-and-search by police in Rose Avenue.

Over the year the most common reported crime (bear in mind not all crimes are reported) was violence and sex offences with 416 reports compared to a three year annual average of 393. The category not only includes common assault and fights but also domestic abuse and domestic incidents, which constitute a big part of the figure.

The amount of reported  crime in Penn village remains minimal. In fact the six reported crimes there in December was the highest monthly figure of last year, comprising two burglaries, two violence/sex offences, one theft and one case of criminal damage.

Penn, Tylers Green and Hazlemere are below national averages for crime in the country. You can find detailed figures on the Police.uk website.

*Vincent Trillow, aged 43, of no fixed address, was jailed for three years last month after admitting breaking into a house in Penn last November and stealing property.

The final showdown: After years of wrangling the Gomm Valley’s future reaches its climax

THE BIGGEST and most controversial planning inquiry in the history of Penn and Tylers Green begins on Tuesday, 5 March. 

That’s when Government planning inspector Matthew Woodward will begin hearing arguments for and against Taylor Wimpey’s plans to build 544 houses and other facilities in the Gomm Valley, between Hammersley Lane and Cock Lane, Tylers Green.

Last month Mr Woodward dismissed Buckinghamshire Council’s plea to have the inquiry ruled invalid on the basis that Taylor Wimpey had not followed proper procedures. 

Now the council and other organisations are getting their ducks in a row to persuade Mr Woodward to either reject or significantly amend Taylor Wimpey’s scheme (see last blog). Hundreds of individuals have objected to the plans.

A spokesman for the Planning Inspectorate said: “Members of the public are welcome to attend.  The inspector will normally hear from local residents and third parties after the opening, but if this is not the case he will outline when he will do so.”

The venue is Wycombe Council Chamber in Queen Victoria Road. If you wish to take part, or observe, email planning.wyc@buckinghamshire.gov.uk before 5pm on 1 March.

Taylor Wimpey has hired skilled planning lawyers to present its case that the proposed development is proportionate, sensitive and will not result in unnecessary environmental harm.

The inquiry is scheduled to be completed before the end of March, with a decision later in the spring.

Local news

Search parties – Residents organised search parties in local woodland after two girls from Penn, aged 13 and 14, were reported missing overnight on 12 January.  A police search helicopter also scoured low over the village.  The girls returned to their homes later the following morning. 

Teachers’ passingMrs Edwina Sarkissian, who taught hundreds of children over several years at Tylers Green First School, died at her home in Lichfield aged 85.  Edwina, and Arshak, her husband of 62 years, together with daughters Margaret and Jenny, attended Holy Trinity, Penn and were active in church life. They moved to Lichfield in 2021. Meanwhile, Anne Wallbank, who was a music teacher at Beaconsfield High School for 40 years, died last month aged 79.

Problem leak – Water engineers have failed to identify the cause of a leak in the road by St Margaret’s Church, Tylers Green which has been pouring water down the side of Church Road since before Christmas. They will be conducting a more intensive investigation this month and carrying out a repair.

Local helpA weekly “talking cafe” has been launched at Tylers Green Village Hall with the support of local doctors’ surgeries where free advice is given on a confidential basis on a range of issues where people may need support or guidance. This could range from counselling to financial support to lifestyle advice and employment/educational opportunities.  Just call in between 10.30 and noon any Thursday. More info on www.ArcBucksPCN.org  A similar session is held at The Atrium at Holy Trinity Church, Hazlemere every Wednesday at the same time.

Trees axed – Two ash trees in the grounds of Tylers Green First School are to be felled after a survey found Ash Dieback disease. Three other ash trees nearby, which were heavily pruned last year when they showed signs of the disease, are to be checked again this summer. Tree surgeons are requesting permission to lop six metres off a mature beech in the grounds to prevent branches splitting and falling because of their weight. Special permission is needed because the trees are in the conservation area and protected by preservation orders.

Volunteer appealHazlemere Fete organisers say it will be “very unlikely” the event will go ahead this year unless more volunteers come forward to help or organise.  Call Ray on 813000 if you can help.

Housing plan – Developers have asked for planning permission to build six large houses in the grounds of Witherage Wood House, Witheridge Lane between Knotty Green and Penn.

Hazlemere by-election –  Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat  and an independent candidate will contest the Buckinghamshire Council by-election in Hazlemere this month caused by the death last year of Cllr Ron Gaffney.

Transport hub – A plan for transport in the Wycombe area by 2050 envisages a “mobility hub” around the area of the Rose Avenue shops from where regular driverless shuttle buses will ferry people to and from Wycombe bus and railway stations. It would also act as a base for electric bikes that people could rent short-term. It envisages that most people would not need to own their own private car but would join a car club, also based there, where they could hire electric vehicles for one-off journeys. 

Postbox sealedThe parish council has written to Royal Mail to ask why the postbox by St Margaret’s in Hammersley Lane has been sealed.

Pupils sing – Children from Tylers Green Middle School’s year 5 will be taking part in Buckinghamshire schools concert at the Royal Albert Hall in April.

Allotment demand Six new allotment plots are being created on the Ashley Drive allotment site in Tylers Green because of a surge in demand. At present 14 people are on a waiting list.

Waxing lyrical

There’s been an upsurge in the number of Waxwings visiting our shores from Scandinavia this winter. Normally the birds confine themselves to the east of the country but the large numbers this year mean they have spread further afield. Here, photographer Graham Smith counted over 70 in a tree off Fallowfield on the Manor Farm Estate, below. Pictures published on the Hazlemere Residents Facebook site.

Divine intervention in dealing with the great unwashed…

Number One White House. Picture: Bovingdons.

NUMBER ONE White House in Church Road, Tylers Green, which is on the market for around £1.7m, has had some interesting occupants in its 150 year history. 

A huge house, it was split into three by the well-known journalist and dress designer Veronica Papworth and her husband, the leading surgeon Jon Walley who set up the accident and orthopaedic departments at the rebuilt Wycombe Hospital in the 1960s.

Before that it played host to many village garden parties and social events when it was owned by Bateman Lancaster Rose, the brother of the second Sir Philip Rose, the successful lawyer who lived at Rayners.  

In his book Mansions and Mud Houses, historian Miles Green tells the story of how Bateman’s widow, the rather haughty and  wealthy Editha Lancaster Rose, was driving her elegant car when she was waved down by a tramp who asked for a lift. 

 “The Lord told me to stop your car,” he said, as he clambered in the front seat. After a few yards with this rather smelly object sitting alongside her Mrs Lancaster Rose collected her senses.  

“The Lord told you to stop my car for you to get in, but now He has told me to stop it for you to get out,” she said, bustling the unwashed gentlemen away.

Miles also points out the house was built by James Wight and was originally called Wight House.  But somewhere along the way, presumably because of its distinctive white walls, it took on its present title. 

Cane and able

I ALWAYS rather envy people who are much more organised than me.  Such a lady was Edwina Sarkission, who died last month (see above) and who always seemed to be in complete control of everything – probably as a result of handling classloads of eight year olds for years on end! 

So it was somewhat gratifying in a way to hear the story at her funeral of the day she accidentally locked herself in the garden shed.

When hubby Arshak came home he wasn’t too concerned by her absence but then, looking out of the kitchen window, he noticed a garden cane with a plastic bag attached to the end being waved furiously through a crack in the shed door. A perfect example of how to make best use of the tools you have available.

Narrow escape

Heavy winds brought this Scots Pine down on the reconstructed Nissen hut at the Chiltern Open Air Museum, but fortunately its own branches prevented it from squashing the World War Two hut and causing damage. Picture:COAM.

A final say…

THERE’S A  final opportunity this month for people to have input on the Penn Parish Neighbourhood Plan which sets out what the parish council thinks is acceptable and unacceptable in development terms until 2040.

Once the public has had its say the neighbourhood plan will be finalised by an independent examiner to ensure it is legally watertight before being put out for approval at a local referendum. Once it passes that hurdle it will become planning policy in the area.

Penn parish covers five communities: Penn, Penn Street, Winchmore Hill, Knotty Green and Forty Green. There are 77 listed buildings; two conservation areas and significant areas within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Green Belt. The population is around 4,000.

Old Bank House, Penn: one of 77 listed buildings in Penn parish. Picture: British Listed Buildings.

Buckinghamshire Council is hosting the public consultation which closes on 7 March.  You can read the proposals and comment on this link: https://yourvoicebucks.citizenspace.com/planning/penn-neighbourhood-plan/

In need of a few bucks…

Council leader Martin Tett

BUCKINGHAMSHIRE Council is a massive £289m in debt, facing rising costs and cutting its spending.  But council leader Martin Tett’s message is: Don’t Panic.

Mr Tett, an accountant, said: “I appreciate this figure seems high but for an organisation of our size this isn’t outside of normal financial management.”

He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service, an organisation funded by the BBC to assist local journalism, that the unitary council had to take on the debt of five district councils in the county when it was formed four years ago. Plans are in hand which he says will balance the books and reduce the debt.

However, there’s no gain without pain: council tax bills will rise five per cent in April, the maximum allowed without holding a local referendum; a raft of above-inflation price rises for council services, ranging from car parking charges to leisure centre fees, are in the offing; and the council is looking at variety of ways to save money in the future.

This includes looking into the feasibility of converting 10 council buildings into children’s homes to cut back on its soaring children’s services bills brought about by a shortage of foster parents and increased demand.

Minister to investigate ‘nightmare’ HS2

Light at the end of the tunnel. HS2’s tunnelling machines will finish burrowing under the Chilterns soon, but the engineering achievements are being overshadowed by public complaints. Picture: HS2.

TRANSPORT minister Huw Merriman is to meet Penn’s MP Sarah Green to see if more can be done to help people in her Chesham and Amersham constituency who say it has been a ‘nightmare’ trying to get due compensation from HS2 during the railway’s construction, or even getting answers to their questions from the company.

“They (HS2 and its contractors) will not properly engage regarding compensation while on other matters they continually delay answering questions, provide incorrect and contradictory information, change their plans without proper notice or consultation and have no regard for the wellbeing of the community,” Ms Green told the House of Commons.

Mr Merriman said he would meet with the MP.   “I am determined that HS2 should up its game in dealing with (some) difficult and disputed cases,” he said.

Meanwhile, the first of the  two tunnel boring machines working their way under the Chilterns for HS2 is expected to emerge at South Heath, near Great Missenden, later this month with the second one arriving a week or two later. They began their 10 mile journey near Denham in the summer of 2021. 

Once they have broken through engineers will spend months dismantling the 2,000 ton machines. Work on another mile long tunnel in the Aylesbury Vale, near Wendover is already underway but this does not require tunnelling machines as it is of a “cut and cover” design.

The end of a brief encounter

Denham Film Studios in its 1930s heyday. Picture: Wikipedia.

THE LAST remaining bit of the historic Denham Film Studios site is to be turned over the housing.  

A development company has applied to build 70 houses and 105 apartments on the site and convert the former Denham film laboratory building into 49 apartments.

The studio was famous for cinema classics like Brief Encounter and David Lean’s Great Expectations but ceased making films 70 years ago. It continued for another 20 years recording music for some equally classic films, including Star Wars and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

The area was redeveloped as a business park in the 1980s and seven years ago the  Grade 2 listed main studio building was converted into luxury apartments. A cinema was incorporated into that development and remains today.

Regional news

Frozen beauty –  The fountain in Old Amersham’s Memorial Gardens was stopped in its tracks last month by a sudden cold snap. Picture: Adrian Kidd.

Military farewell -A public consultation on what people would like to see on a 1,000 home development at RAF Halton is being held this month. The camp ceases to become a military base in three years. More info on this link https://yourvoicebucks.citizenspace.com/planning/raf-halton/

Parking bonanza Parking tickets issued by Buckinghamshire Council rose 55 per cent last year compared to 2022 according to figures released following a Freedom of Information request by the BBC. Over 49,000 tickets were issued earning the council £1.4m in fines.

Businesses close – Jungs has closed its cafe in Penn Road, Beaconsfield but will continue to run its wholesale bakery business. Pub and restaurant group Revolution closed its  branch in Maxwell Road, Beaconsfield last month after 15 years in the town. It said the bar was no longer profitable. 

Bed blockersOne in six beds in Buckinghamshire hospitals are being occupied by people who are fit enough to be discharged but cannot leave because social care plans are not put in place in time, Penn’s MP Sarah Green told the House of  Commons.  Health minister Helen Whately said Government action to reduce the number was working.

Burnham’s oldest pub, The Jolly Woodman, closed its doors last month and is likely to be converted to a Hindu cultural and meditation centre. The 200 year old pub  in Littleworth Common was often used as a location in various films made at nearby Pinewood studios as well as TV shows like Outnumbered and Midsomer Murders.

Deck clearing – Gavin Williams has stood down as deputy leader of Buckinghamshire Council so he can concentrate on being the Conservative candidate for Chesham and Amersham constituency, which includes Penn, at the general election. 

Boundary changes Natural England will finalise its proposals for expanding the boundaries of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty this month in readiness for a public consultation this spring or summer.

Museum doomed – Windsor Museum and tourist information centre are earmarked for closure as part of council money-saving plans.

Donors returnThe number of blood donors in Buckinghamshire and the numbers of those offering their organs for transplant has returned to pre-Covid figures, the Bucks NHS Trust was told last month.

An eye for detail

Student model makers at Beaconsfield’s National Film and Television School prepare the models used in the final episode of  the Netflix series The Crown, which featured Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral. Below, the finished model shown in the production. Pictures: NFTS.

80 years ago this month – Here come the Yanks, with their welcome cash, swing bands and American football at Loakes Park

Continuing our monthly look at what was happening here in 1944.

February 1944

AN IMPORTANT but barely noticed event occurred here in High Wycombe on 22 February, 1944.

That was when the USA formed the Eighth Army Air Force – the largest offensive air force in history – in preparation for the invasion of Europe later in the year.

Nearly all of their planes were based on airfields in the east of England, as were thousands of their crew, but the headquarters was Wycombe Abbey School.

General Ira C. Eaker, Commander of the Eighth Army Air Force (AAF). On arrival he told the British: “We won’t do much talking until we’ve done more fighting. After we’ve gone we hope you’ll be glad we came.” Picture: Wikipedia

In fact, American air force personnel arrived in Wycombe just weeks after America entered the war following the attack on Pearl Harbour in December 1941. They knew they would need to be based near the existing RAF Bomber Command at Naphill so the Air Ministry requisitioned the nearest convenient site.  They gave the school just 16 days to vacate and relocate its pupils.

Throughout 1942 and 1943 American bombers conducted hundreds of raids over Europe and by the beginning of 1944 there were 12,000  US airmen and women personnel stationed in and around High Wycombe. 

The Wycombe Abbey school grounds were filled with tents, guard huts and mess halls; the chapel was transformed into a cinema and a baseball diamond marked out in the centre of the grounds. The Americans also constructed a three storey underground bunker at the southern end of the site by Daws Hill, codenamed Pinetree.

The locals made every effort to  make the Americans – GIs as they were universally known – feel at home. Letters were sent by the mayor asking people if they would be prepared to invite them into their homes for tea and asking residents to state their hobbies and interests so they could be matched with the military personnel. 

Dance halls in the area played lots of “swing music” and the American Forces Band played regularly at the town hall. The legendary Glenn Miller and the AAF Band played Wycombe a number of times (there’s a couple of 1944 clips on YouTube), and American football was played at Wycombe Wanderers’ Loakes Park ground in the town centre, much to the bemusement – and bewilderment – of the locals.

Many of the visitors were keen to make use of their off-duty time to take in the sights. Penn was a popular attraction, particularly for those with Pennsylvania connections, and visits to the “quaint old church” and the local pubs, with their welcome cash, made a good day out, as did trips to Windsor Castle.

American GI Bill Polley  (left) sent this picture to the folks back home pretending to be a guard at Windsor Castle. Picture: The American Air Museum.

On St Valentine’s Day locals cheered as a US private married his Canadian girlfriend at a Wycombe church. These were grey times, but the bride dressed in a white satin gown trimmed with lover’s knots and carrying a bouquet of violets, snowdrops and white heather brought some welcome warmth and normality.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, things were far from normal. On 1 February, the recently appointed Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, held a meeting in London of all the Allied commanders  to confirm the main details of the invasion of Europe they had agreed the week previously and finalise an invasion date – 5 June. 

The Flint Cottage pub, opposite High Wycombe railway station, became the GI’s favourite pub – so much so the pub owners changed the name of the rear bar to Yank’s Bar.

Elsewhere during that generally mild February:

  • Hazlemere Women’s Institute distributed free tomato seeds sent from Canada
  • Residents formed a bucket chain from the the White Hart Hotel in Beaconsfield to a blazing shoe shop opposite in an attempt to stop it being destroyed. But their attempts, together with the local fire service, failed.
  • Mrs Ann Hazell of Amersham Road, Hazlemere, received separate notifications on the same day that her sons Leslie, a flight sergeant, and Arthur, an RAF navigator, were missing in action. It later transpired that 20 year old Arthur had been killed.
  • The Bucks Poetry Society met at Mrs Van den Bergh’s home, Beacon View, Penn. On occasions the well known poet Walter de la Mare, whose wife is buried in St Margaret’s churchyard, read his own poetry to the group. Walter’s daughter and son in law lived at Old Park in Hammersley Lane. 
  • Weekly whist drives in Penn Street village hall raised funds for Red Cross relief parcels for prisoners of war.
  • The Old Berkeley Hunt held its usual February gathering, hunting with beagles  and setting off from the Sportsman and Dog pub in Beacon Hill, Penn.
The Sportsman and Dog pub at the top of Beacon Hill, Penn.
  • Locals were informed that the air cadets would be holding a mock bombing raid over this area using an old aircraft to test their ability to use maps, compasses and wireless.
  • Metal casing from a damaged German plane returning from an air raid fell on a house near Amersham Road, causing severe damage but injuring no-one.
  • Red Cross officials met local families of men known to be in Japanese prisoner-of-war camps as worrying reports began to emerge of ill-treatment of prisoners. 
  • Penn and Tylers Green Home Guard held a sausage supper in St Margaret’s parish room with community singing, a darts tournament and “entertainment arranged by Corporal Truelove.”

If you have recollections of 1944 or any recorded family history of events and memories in this area during the build-up, the aftermath and during D Day in June 1944, please get in touch. 

You can contact this blog at peter@pennandtylersgreen.com. It will be updated as necessary during February, but will be next fully updated on 1 March.