Devizes community farm gets the go ahead
Devizes couple Chris and Helie Franklin are celebrating after Wiltshire Council agreed to grant them a lease to set up a community farm at the foot of Caen Hill.
It is the culmination of a long-fought campaign by the couple and a growing band of supporters, which includes Wiltshire and town councillors.
Mr and Mrs Franklin have lived at Marsh Lane Farm for many years.
Mr Franklin’s father ran the farm and Mr Franklin spent his childhood there.
The idea of setting up a centre where both children and adults could learn more about farming has been a long-held ambition for Mr Franklin.
He said: “I have such fond memories of growing up here and I am concerned that many children living so close to the countryside know so little about it.”
After two years working on a business plan for the project and having secured support from Devizes Area Board, the couple learned last week that Wiltshire Council was prepared to grant them a five-year lease on the 70-acre farm for the community rural learning project.
Mrs Franklin said: “Wiltshire Council officers came to see us last Thursday and they were very helpful.
“Our greatest concern was that we have secured EU funding through Plain Action for the project, but if we couldn’t get permission to go ahead before the end of the financial year we might lose the money.
“On Friday I looked at our emails and I couldn’t believe it when I saw one from the council saying we’d got a
letter of intent for a five-year lease.
“This is subject to planning permission but it is just the news we wanted to hear.”
The project aims to provide children and young people with hands-on experience of farming, agriculture and horticulture as well as opportunities to view wildlife at close quarters.
The farm will be divided into five fields, named after previous tenants, featuring different styles of farming over the centuries.
The money from Plain Action will kick-start the redevelopment of the old dairy and milking parlour into a training facility and office.
But what the couple need most is willing hands.
Mrs Franklin said: “The farm will need a big tidy up and sort out ready for the project work to begin.
“We need volunteers to help in all aspects of work on the farm.”
To help the Franklins, call 07837 568699 or visit www.communityfarm.org.uk