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The Village Waging War On Developers: Army Of Locals Who Rallied To Save Their Historic Pub From Becoming Flats

The Somerset village that came together to save its 15th century pub from a developer is now fighting to save another sacred spot.

Some 470 residents in sleepy South Stoke banded together to raise just over £1million to buy back The Packhorse Inn in 2016 in a determined bid to stop the Grade-II listed tavern from being converted into flats.

Now, five years on from the community-owned pub reopening its doors, the village just outside of Bath is facing the prospect of a major housing development in the heart of the countryside.

In addition to the 171 homes already being constructed on the South Stoke Plateau – a Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – The Hignett Family Trust has submitted plans to build 300 more houses as part of the controversial Sulis Down project.

The sprawling green fields, which served as a vital escape for many during the Covid-19 lockdowns, have been at risk of development for more than 20 years but locals have consistently vowed not to back down.

Leading the rebellion is the South of Bath Alliance (SOBA), whose chairman Colin Webb told MailOnline that those in the village will certainly take inspiration from saving the pub which ‘has become the heart of the village’.

The Somerset village that came together to save its 15th century pub from a developer is now fighting to block plans to build 300 more houses on a stunning plateau. Pictured: Campaigners who are battling to save the plateau
The Somerset village that came together to save its 15th century pub from a developer is now fighting to block plans to build 300 more houses on a stunning plateau. Pictured: Campaigners who are battling to save the plateau
Above is the proposed development. There are already 171 homes being constructed in Phase 1. Developers have submitted plans to build 300 more houses (Phase 3 and 4). If this is approved, they will try to build around 50 more (Phase 2). The Packhorse Inn which was saved by locals in 2016 is just round the corner (bottom right of map)

Above is the proposed development. There are already 171 homes being constructed in Phase 1. Developers have submitted plans to build 300 more houses (Phase 3 and 4).

If this is approved, they will try to build around 50 more (Phase 2). The Packhorse Inn which was saved by locals in 2016 is just round the corner (bottom right of map)

The sprawling green fields, which served as a vital escape for many during the Covid-19 lockdowns, have been at risk of development for more than 20 years but locals have consistently vowed not to back down
The sprawling green fields, which served as a vital escape for many during the Covid-19 lockdowns, have been at risk of development for more than 20 years but locals have consistently vowed not to back down
The red areas are the parts of the plateau which are under threat as the Hignett Family Trust look to sell on more land
The red areas are the parts of the plateau which are under threat as the Hignett Family Trust look to sell on more land
171 homes are already being constructed on the plateau just outside of Bath in the heart of the countryside
171 homes are already being constructed on the plateau just outside of Bath in the heart of the countryside

There were plans to turn the pub into a private residence but locals raised money to buy back their watering hole using the 2011 Localism Act to turn it into a community asset.

How South Stoke came together to save its 15th century pub from a developer

The South Stoke community well and truly came together when 470 residents clubbed together to raise more than £1million to buy their 15th century pub The Packhorse Inn back.

Developers bought the Grade-II listed tavern in 2016 from a pair of businessman who intended to renovate the pub into flats.

The buyer had plans to turn the property into a private residence which sparked anger among residents who bought back the watering hole using the 2011 Localism Act to turn the pub into a community asset.

The first community offer to buy the pub was declined by the seller but due to the law being evoked by the council the property had to be sold within a year.

The act gave the community time to raise funds to put in a bid to the previous owner who told the community if they could raise £500,000 he would sell it to them.

Between them they raised £1,025,000 who paid as little as £50 each to own The Packhorse Inn.

Now, they face a battle to save the sprawling green fields around the corner.

With all eyes now on the plateau, Mr Webb said: ‘I think the number of objections that have gone in signify the extent to the community, not just around this area but in Bath generally, are so against it all.

‘Everybody’s really distressed about it, because it’s very much a landscape that’s valued for walking and it’s an important agricultural provider. It’s just part of the character of this part of the world. Bath is a bit like Venice or somewhere which has to be massively protected.’

Bath & North East Somerset (BANES) Council confirmed that there has been 1,173 objections and 18 support comments to the application to build 300 extra houses as part of Phase 3 and 4 of the development.

The Hignett Family Trust sold part of their land to Countryside Properties in April 2021 for £19.8million so that 171 homes could be built in Phase 1. The application was reluctantly approved in 2018 after planning chiefs criticised the ‘piecemeal’ approach and lack of a comprehensive master plan.

The cheapest home available is a two-bed property on the market for £355,000.

Phase 2 – which would only be applied for if the developers get the green light for Phase 3 and 4 – would also bring around 50 new houses around Sulis Manor which is currently a residential language school for children. The plateau is made up of Sulis Manor and seven fields.

Fiona Gourley, councillor for Bathavon South, said that the Local Plan allowed for a total of 300 dwellings, which means only a further 129 homes should be built – something locals had agreed to.

‘For the developers to try to push for another 300 units now is just greedy and would set a precedent that undermines the democratic engagement between the Council and residents,’ she explained.

Ms Gourley added that local residents have been opposing development on the land for decades and ‘understand clearly if the plateau is built over, it will be lost forever’.

Campaigners are fighting to stop 300 more houses being built on the South Stoke plateau. Pictured: One of the western fields now threatened
Campaigners are fighting to stop 300 more houses being built on the South Stoke plateau. Pictured: One of the western fields now threatened
A typical sunset on the eastern South Stoke plateau. Campaigners have long battled to stop the land being developed
A typical sunset on the eastern South Stoke plateau. Campaigners have long battled to stop the land being developed
The hedge in the distance would be covered by houses. Campaigners say there are better places the development could be built on
The hedge in the distance would be covered by houses. Campaigners say there are better places the development could be built on
The fields beyond the trees are under threat. Locals in South Stoke have hit out at 'greedy' landowners
The fields beyond the trees are under threat. Locals in South Stoke have hit out at ‘greedy’ landowners
There has been 1,173 objections and 18 support comments to the application to build 300 extra houses. Pictured: A Cotswold dry stone wall in disrepair on the western plateau
There has been 1,173 objections and 18 support comments to the application to build 300 extra houses. Pictured: A Cotswold dry stone wall in disrepair on the western plateau
The western fields with one of over 70 trees threatened with removal. The application is yet to be approved or rejected
The western fields with one of over 70 trees threatened with removal. The application is yet to be approved or rejected
A tree lined walk to the east - the field on the left is now threatened for development but locals are not backing down
A tree lined walk to the east – the field on the left is now threatened for development but locals are not backing down

Campaigners have flagged several concerns with the development, including additional traffic to an already congested area of Bath, the loss of habitats and the impact on local infrastructure. They have also queried why a total of more than 500 dwellings are needed when Bath – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – is exceeding its housing targets.

In the latest Government Housing Delivery Test, which was published in January 2022, 184% of required new housing had been delivered in Bath – almost double the target set in the Local Plan.

Ms Gourley, who has lived in South Stoke for nearly 30 years, explained: ‘The proposed development will not help solve Bath’s housing crisis – the cost of most of the proposed homes would be out of reach of most local people, whereas there are large brownfield sites awaiting development elsewhere in the city with better transport links and sited closer to employment.

She added: ‘The absence of social infrastructure on the estate (e.g. schools, shops, surgeries, community spaces etc) will put pressure on the surrounding areas which are already under-resourced.’

Locals have also voiced concerns about the construction of allotments which was one of the conditions for the new 171 homes.

While they recognise the provision of allotments is a good thing, developers are trying to put them on a field east of the new homes – which is beyond the allocated area for development and within the Green Belt.

Mr Webb highlighted that some residents who currently have stunning views over the plateau may decide it is best to ‘move on’ if the development goes ahead, while he also suggested that prospective buyers in the area are being put off by the project.

‘I know there are some properties that have been on the market that have been sticking, because people have found out about the possible development occurring,’ he said.

Mr Webb believes it is paramount that people ‘recognise for future generations that this [land] is something of value that we must all do everything in our power to protect.

He added: ‘I mean, if we all accepted that we have to put up with car fumes and traffic fumes and jams and so on and so forth, then it would be a rather sad way of dealing with it and responding to it.’

Locals in South Stoke clubbed together to buy back their 15th century pub The Packhorse Inn. It reopened five years ago
Locals in South Stoke clubbed together to buy back their 15th century pub The Packhorse Inn. It reopened five years ago
Historic photos of The Packhorse in South Stoke, Somerset which has reopen after locals raised a million pounds to save it
Historic photos of The Packhorse in South Stoke, Somerset which has reopen after locals raised a million pounds to save it
Punters enjoyed a pint at the Packhorse Inn when it reopened its doors in 2018 after being bought back by locals in the area
Punters enjoyed a pint at the Packhorse Inn when it reopened its doors in 2018 after being bought back by locals in the area

Jenny John, who has lived in South Stoke since 1990 and was part of the battle to save the Packhorse Inn, believes the development is ‘built on greed and not need’.

She told: ‘Everyone knows we need new homes but this is the wrong type of houses in wrong sort of place.’

Ms John, who was on the South Stoke Parish council for 10 years and is now part of SOBA, added that the Hignett Family Trust has ‘wanted to cover it in houses and concrete’ since she first arrived.

She added: ‘I feel it’s completely unnecessary. It’s in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which is where you are not supposed to make developments unless it is in exceptional circumstances.’

Ned Garnett, also a long-term South Stoke resident, likened the development to a ‘David and Goliath’ battle.

He told: ‘The frustration at the moment is it’s now over a year since application went in.

‘They submitted 2.300 pages in April last year. Since then, a further 2000 amendments have been made over the last year. That speaks volumes. An application that requires 2,000 amendments is seriously flawed.’

Mr Garnett believes that the South Stoke locals can take hope from their victory to save the Packhorse Inn. He said: ‘It’s been a huge asset to village. It’s made such a difference, it’s a real community success story.

‘I think there’s two things to look at. One is that local people can make a difference. And the other is that it’s a long game. It doesn’t happen quickly.

‘The fight to save the Packhorse went on for four years. Frankly the campaign to save the plateau is 20 years long.’

BANES council said that a ‘target decision date is due to be updated later this year’.

The Hignett Family Trust declined to comment.


Culture

Assessing Property Size: What Square Footage Can You Get With The Average UK House Price In Your Area?

Assessing Property Size In The UK

In the United Kingdom, there is a prevailing tendency to gauge the size of residences based on the number of bedrooms rather than square footage. In fact, research indicates that three out of five individuals are unaware of the square footage of their property.

However, a comprehensive analysis conducted by Savills reveals significant variations in property sizes throughout the country. For instance, with the average property price standing at £340,837, this amount would typically afford a studio flat spanning 551 square feet in London, according to the prominent estate agency.

Conversely, in the North East region, the same sum would secure a spacious five-bedroom house measuring 1,955 square feet, nearly four times the size of a comparable property in London.

Best value: Heading to the North East of England is where buyers will get the most from their money

In Scotland, the median house price equates to a sizable investment capable of procuring a generous four-bedroom residence spanning 1,743 square feet. Conversely, in Wales, Yorkshire & The Humber, and the North West, this sum affords a slightly smaller four-bedroom dwelling of approximately 1,500 square feet, while in the East and West Midlands, it accommodates a 1,300 square foot home. In stark contrast, within the South West, £340,837 secures a modest 1,000 square foot property, and in the East, an even more confined 928 square feet.

London presents the most challenging market, where this budget offers the least purchasing power. Following closely, the South East allows for 825 square feet of space or a medium-sized two-bedroom dwelling. Lucian Cook, head of residential research at Savills, emphasizes the profound disparity in purchasing potential across Britain, ranging from compact studio flats in London to spacious four or five-bedroom residences in parts of North East England.

While square footage serves as a critical metric, with a significant portion of Britons unfamiliar with their property’s dimensions, the number of bedrooms remains a traditional indicator of size. Personal preferences, such as a preference for larger kitchens, may influence property selection. For those prioritizing ample space, Easington, County Durham, offers a substantial 2,858 square foot, five-bedroom home, while Rhondda, Wales, and Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Scotland, provide 2,625 and 2,551 square feet, respectively. Conversely, in St Albans, Hertfordshire, £340,837 secures a mere 547 square feet, equivalent to a one-bedroom flat.

The disparity continues in central London, where purchasing power diminishes considerably. In Kensington, the budget accommodates a mere 220 square feet, contrasting with the slightly more spacious 236 square feet in Westminster. Conversely, in Dagenham, the same investment translates to 770 square feet. Three properties currently listed on Rightmove exemplify the diversity within this price range across the UK market.

South of the river: This semi-detached house is located near to three different train stations

South of the river: This semi-detached house is located near to three different train stations

2. Lewisham: One-bed house, £345,000

This one-bedroom property in Lewisham, South London, is on the market for £345,000.

The semi-detached house is set over two floors, and has a private patio.

The property is located near to bus links and amenities, as well as Catford train station.

Edinburgh fringe: This three-bed property is located on the edge of the city, near to the town of Musselburgh

Edinburgh fringe: This three-bed property is located on the edge of the city, near to the town of Musselburgh

3. Edinburgh: Three-bed house, £350,000

This three-bedroom detached house in Edinburgh could be yours for £350,000.

The house, which has a two-car driveway, boasts a large kitchen diner, and is within easy reach of Newcriaghall train station.


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Culture

Top 10 Florida Cities Dominate The Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

Top 10 Florida Cities And Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

The Voice Of EU | Florida emerges as a hub for entrepreneurial endeavors, with its vibrant business landscape and conducive environment for startups. Renowned for its low corporate tax rates and a high concentration of investors, the Sunshine State beckons aspiring entrepreneurs seeking fertile grounds to launch and grow their businesses.

In a recent report by WalletHub, Florida cities dominate the list of the top 10 best destinations for business startups, showcasing their resilience and economic vitality amidst challenging times.

From Orlando’s thriving market to Miami’s dynamic ecosystem, each city offers unique advantages and opportunities for entrepreneurial success. Let’s delve into the chronologically listed cities that exemplify Florida’s prominence in the business startup arena.

1. Orlando Leads the Way: Orlando emerges as the most attractive market in the U.S. for business startups, with a remarkable surge in small business establishments. WalletHub’s latest report highlights Orlando’s robust ecosystem, fostering the survival and growth of startups, buoyed by a high concentration of investors per capita.

2. Tampa Takes Second Place: Securing the second spot among large cities for business startups, Tampa boasts a favorable business environment attributed to its low corporate tax rates. The city’s ample investor presence further fortifies startups, providing essential resources for navigating the initial years of business operations.

3. Charlotte’s Diverse Industries: Claiming the third position, Charlotte stands out for its diverse industrial landscape and exceptionally low corporate taxes, enticing companies to reinvest capital. This conducive environment propels entrepreneurial endeavors, contributing to sustained economic growth.

4. Jacksonville’s Rising Profile: Jacksonville emerges as a promising destination for startups, bolstered by its favorable business climate. The city’s strategic positioning fosters entrepreneurial ventures, attracting aspiring business owners seeking growth opportunities.

5. Miami’s Entrepreneurial Hub: Miami solidifies its position as a thriving entrepreneurial hub, attracting businesses with its dynamic ecosystem and strategic location. The city’s vibrant startup culture and supportive infrastructure make it an appealing destination for ventures of all sizes.

6. Atlanta’s Economic Momentum: Atlanta’s ascent in the business startup landscape underscores its economic momentum and favorable business conditions. The city’s strategic advantages and conducive policies provide a fertile ground for entrepreneurial ventures to flourish.

7. Fort Worth’s Business-Friendly Environment: Fort Worth emerges as a prime destination for startups, offering a business-friendly environment characterized by low corporate taxes. The city’s supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives facilitate the growth and success of new ventures.

8. Austin’s Innovation Hub: Austin cements its status as an innovation hub, attracting startups with its vibrant entrepreneurial community and progressive policies. The city’s robust infrastructure and access to capital foster a conducive environment for business growth and innovation.

9. Durham’s Emerging Entrepreneurship Scene: Durham’s burgeoning entrepreneurship scene positions it as a promising destination for startups, fueled by its supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives. The city’s collaborative culture and access to resources contribute to the success of new ventures.

10. St. Petersburg’s Thriving Business Community: St. Petersburg rounds off the top 10 with its thriving business community and supportive ecosystem for startups. The city’s strategic advantages and favorable business climate make it an attractive destination for entrepreneurial endeavors.

Despite unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Great Resignation, and high inflation, these top Florida cities remain resilient and well-equipped to overcome obstacles, offering promising opportunities for business owners and entrepreneurs alike.


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European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.


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