The core of the village
The central part of the village consists of the rough rectangle formed by School Road, Moor Road, Wick Road and Park Lane. Together with Perry Lane, Chapel Road and the High Street, this area contains the majority of the village’s population, as well as the schools, Community Centre, recreation ground, children’s play area and football pitches, pub and community shop. One of the three industrial areas in the parish is also based here and contains engineering and plant hire businesses. The site, on School Road, was thought to be acceptable but no further industrial development should take place there. There are current traffic problems with heavy vehicles which need to be resolved. The increased heavy goods traffic going to this site is proving a problem for road safety, given its proximity to the primary school and the lack of pavements on both sides of the road. There are several mediaeval houses along School Road, but they are interspersed with more modern buildings and the nineteenth-century mansion which is now Homestead School. Moor Road and Wick Road consist mainly of more recent building, with a few older properties, but are much more built up, to the point where few additional houses could be built in them. The same is true of Chapel Road, although there is some space outside the village envelope. Perry Lane is largely built along one side only, the other currently being agricultural land. Park Lane is less developed, especially in its central part. Recent development in this area has taken the form of infilling, rather than large developments and most new houses have been in local styles and in keeping with the rest of the village. It is clear from the answers to the questionnaires that this is what the great majority of the respondents would prefer and that they would be strongly opposed to ribbon development along those roads with major open spaces.
There is an extensive network of footpaths through out the village, many of which are well used. It is clear from responses to the survey that villagers value the countryside and their access to it. A list of footpaths and a map is at Appendix 4. Issues relating to footpaths fall into one of three areas: protection, publicity and maintenance. The Parish Council already undertakes a role in the first area, although statutory responsibility lies with the County Council. It would probably also be concerned with the second, particularly the strongly supported suggestion that a village map showing footpaths and points of interest should be put on public display. This has now been done, but further efforts, such as a printed version, would no doubt be welcomed. As for maintenance, this seems to be left to voluntary efforts or the goodwill of individual landowners. The latter more than fulfil their statutory obligations in some areas of the parish, but this is not the case in others. Greater coordination of these efforts could pay considerable dividends in the form of useable footpaths around the year.
Wildlife abounds in the village and is seen as an important part of the benefits of living here. The idea that projects which create more natural habitats for wildlife should be supported received very strong support. Inevitably, however, there are balances to be sought between increased wildlife and farming practices. Hens and foxes, to quote an obvious example, do not mix well. If the current situation is to be improved upon, or even maintained (there are areas where farming is becoming more intensive), there is a need for some body to take an overview and coordinate action. This may be the Parish Council or some ad hoc body.
Perhaps the most important aspect of a VDS is to give guidance to those proposing major developments in the village. Langham is not a large village, and it lacks many of the facilities which greater size would bring – more shops, entertainment, doctors’ surgery etc. The very clear message from the questionnaire was that the overwhelming majority of the villagers were content with things broadly as they were. There was a widely expressed view that the number of new houses to be built over the next 15 years should not exceed a relatively small number. Almost 60% of respondents put this number at 25, with a further 18% being prepared to go to 50 and 15% wanting no new houses at all. Only 6% of respondents were prepared to go further than 50. The responses from the young people mirrored this wish to stay small. Similarly, there was strong support (92%) for expanding the development line (at present tightly drawn around the village) only if any expansion was in keeping with the surrounding area. In terms of the size of development, there was strong opposition to anything greater than clusters of 5, and the preference of the majority would be for individual dwellings. There was less agreement about the types of dwelling, but strong support for accommodation for first time buyers, the elderly and families. Relatively recent examples of such housing already exist in the village. Executive housing and housing for rental were less popular. Over 80% of the respondents to the main questionnaire expressed the view that Langham had sufficient facilities for its inhabitants and that it wished to maintain its current character as a village, separated from Colchester by significant areas of countryside. The countryside as such is clearly an important issue for the inhabitants of Langham, and especially for the young people. There is a strong feeling that the large expanses of agricultural land so close to the main centres of population, as well as the more scenic areas, are a vital part of the village’s character and need to be preserved. Easy access is important, as is the creation of more wildlife areas. The community effort to create Hornstreetfield shows what can be done, and some local landowners have shown how the encouragement of wildlife can be combined with modern farming practice. This approach should be congratulated and encouraged.