And no, it’s not just me being pessimistic. I only wish it were. Let me explain.
Over the last few days I’ve had three phone calls from a gentleman called Glen Powell, whom I have met on two occasions and who, in his own estimation, is the most powerful and important man in the village and a leading light in the Felpham Village Conservation Society. I said it would all depend on what he meant by a ‘chat’ but on the third call I gave in – stupid idiot that I was – and agreed to meet him.
It wasn’t a chat. I was right about that. He didn’t want to hear anything I had to say and shut me up whenever I offered him any information at all. ‘We don’t want to know anything about that.’ It certainly wasn’t an exchange of views either. It was a ninety minute diatribe in which he blew his own trumpet loud and clear so that I could be left in no doubt at all that I was dealing with a very powerful man. He told me about his childhood and the mother who had deserted him when he was a toddler and his wonderful successful father who had brought him up: moved on to stress that he’d been educated at a Grammar School and had gone to university – he was very proud of that: and then completed the story by telling me about all the well paid and highly prestigious jobs he had held down in all the best parts of the world and how he had been Chair of this and Chair of that in the village and had ‘rescued’ the FVPS and raised it to its present successful glory.
But in the course of his long trumpet voluntary, he let drop two significant pieces of information, both of which were news to me and both of which I told him I would pass on to you.
The first was that the FVCS had voted not to attend the ‘open day’ that Tim Heath had invited them to last summer. We were told at the time that they had other meetings and events arranged but no, they had voted not to have anything to do with it. I’m not sure whether the decision was taken by the entire Society or just their committee but it was taken and it was binding. If I had known that, I would never have tried to interest them in what was going on behind the scenes. So my apologies to those I approached. Despite their honourable motto, Protect, Preserve, Promote, they simply don’t want to have anything to do with the cottage at all. Understood.
The second was sadly a lot more significant. Tim Heath has already been given planning permission from the Council to demolish the 50’s extension to the cottage. So to all the people in Felpham who took comfort from the fact that the entire property had been listed Grade 2 and couldn’t be touched, my very real sympathy. We were wrong. I’m not sure when he will do it, but do it he will. Mr Johns has apparently told Mr Powell that the BCT had been given a ‘private’ donation to pay the architect’s fees, so the stage is set for that magnificent state of the art new residence that he’s set his heart on, to be built in the grounds.
So what will happen to the cottage? Your guess is as good as mine. It might be patched up so that some of Mr Heath’s friends and cronies can come and stay in it but don’t imagine for a minute that it will be open to the public. Or it might be left to rot and fester until it’s in such a bad condition it will be condemned and demolished. And yes, even a grade 2 listed building can be demolished if it’s in a bad enough state.
So there it is. The time has come for me to say ‘Over and Out’. There’s nothing more that one ricketty old woman on her own can do against such determination. And there’s been altogether too much secrecy and too many lies and obfuscations in this affair for anyone to be comfortable being part of it. Sometimes it’s felt like wading through sewage.
Thank you to all the people who signed my petition and displayed it in their pubs and cafes. I do appreciate what you did. See you on the beach, maybe.