Monday, 3 December 2012

Building in fields

There is a large and detailed mid-eighteenth century map showing the boundaries and names of all the fields in the single estate which was the parish of Little Coates. It is held in the North East Lincolnshire Council Archive behind Grimsby Town Hall. I’ve had a photocopy of it across several A3 sheets for some time. Recently I’ve tried to copy it across on to a contemporary map, and the picture above is an extract.

Although some fields had been divided and other united, the rural parish was substantially the same nearly two hundred years later in the 1920s when the estate was auctioned in separate lots. So it is not a surprise to see the way modern housing fits into the old field pattern. For example, at the south-western corner of the map, the present Laceby Acres estate occupies exactly the land which was High Field, Mill Close and Old Close.

Some of what I’ve drawn isn’t quite right, but there were an impressive number of places where careful measuring of where to draw a line took me to exactly the place where whole lines of properties back on to each other. For example, just east of St Michael’s, the way the parts of Church Meadows accessed from Laburnum Drive and the parts accessed from Cherry Tree Crescent back on to each other shows very neatly the old boundary between Chapel Field and Home Close.

The power of many old parish boundaries fascinates me. They may date back to patterns of land ownership in the Dark Ages formalised into larger territories as soon as any centralised forms of early English government arranged obligations or taxation by area. This is strikingly visible on this map. Little Coates became part of the Borough of Grimsby in the 1920s, Great Coates in 1970s, and building then took right up to but not across these ancient parish boundaries, so that suddenly they became visible to the naked eye. For example, travelling from Aylesby along Aylesby Road one can look across fields to the edge of Laceby Acres (which follows the ancient Little Coates – Laceby boundary) and the edge of Wybers Wood (which follows the ancient Great Coates – Aylesby boundary).

But the story is not yet over. Consultation is underway to create a new Local Plan for North East Lincolnshire. We are told that we need to build 9000 new homes in the next twenty years or so. Land owners have been asked to identify where they think these might be built, and something like 16000 sites have been offered. Planners now need to know which of these to include in the new Local Plan. Since so much recent building has been on the eastern side of Grimsby (from Scartho Top to New Waltham), and since access to the A180 and potential areas of employment growth are on the western side, there may be some presumption that much new building will be planned on the western edge of the built up area.

So I saw the map last week which shows potential development a field or so further west. Offers of sites exist for some 2868 houses. A new Aylesby Park could be built north-west of the present Aylesby Park across Aylesby Road. A new Wybers Wood could be built south-west of the present Wybers Wood. A new Laceby Acres could be built west of the present Laceby Acres north and west of Morrisons.

If any of this started to become real and immanent possibilities then we would need to have conversations with our neighbouring ecclesiastical parishes because the new Wybers Wood development would actually be in the present ecclesiastical parish of Aylesby, although the houses would all be much nearer St Nicolas’, Great Coates than the tiny village of Aylesby. And the new Laceby Acres development would be in the present ecclesiastical parish of Laceby; in the case, although separated from it by fields, the new houses would be as close to the larger village of Laceby as to St Michael’s, Little Coates.

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