Sun, 02 Aug 2020
A group of concerned residents are urging West Berkshire Council to step in to protect a historic former Baptist chapel in West Ilsley.
This follows a number of serious traffic incidents within the proximity of The Old Chapel, in Main Street.
The chapel was erected in the 19th century and served the Baptist population of the village, having been commissioned by Henry Fuller, a local evangelist.
Mr Fuller was highly-regarded in West Berkshire, having spearheaded Baptist missions in Ashampstead, Streatley, East Ilsley and Compton.
The property is now a dwelling and has been owned by artist Simon Tarrant since last year.
A 60mph speed limit is in force on the road that forks either side of the house, where a number of collisions have occurred over the years.
In February last year – soon after Mr Tarrant moved in – a car crashed directly into the chapel's entrance, causing structural damage.
Disturbed by the situation, the homeowner took matters into his own hands, setting planters around the property in a bid to protect it.
It is understood that there is some dispute over rights to the land surrounding the chapel. This prompted a negative reaction from the council towards Mr Tarrant's action. The homeowner said: "The council has not only refused to address the situation, but has now ordered me to remove the planters I installed on my land to protect myself and my property.
"The council has also refused me permission to restore the original brick wall and railings that ran around the front of The Old Chapel and has instead instructed me to install industrial bollards at a cost of £20,000 to myself.
"I have also been instructed to take out an insurance policy for the bollards, to avoid the council being liable in the event of future accidents.
"Beyond being prohibitively expensive, the bollards would be ineffective as the council has stipulated they should be 1.3 metres apart, affording extremely limited protection, and would be highly unaesthetic in such a rural setting."
Mr Tarrant and his husband Nick Ellis are launching a campaign to force the council to take action and alter the traffic regime on the road. In particular, they wish for the measures to respect the historical and aesthetic value of the site.
Mr Tarrant said: "I have used all the means at my disposal to negotiate with the council to agree a more acceptable solution, including employing a traffic consultant and commissioning a speed survey, but without success.
"In particular I want to honour the architectural heritage of the building, located in such a prominent position in a Conservation Area and Area of Natural Outstanding Beauty."
The campaign has been endorsed by local racing trainers Mick Channon and Denis Coakley.
West Berkshire Council spokeswoman Peta Stoddart-Crompton said: "In principle, the council would not object to installation of traffic protection measures on the land in front of the chapel and a proposal for a vehicle activated sign outside The Old Chapel has been supported by both West Ilsley Parish Council and the ward member.
"However, the measures could only be approved provided if there is still a route for pedestrians so that they are not made to walk in the road. Since Mr Tarrant objects to pedestrians walking on his land, we are yet to reach an agreement with him."
Mr Tarrant has now launched a petition to keep the planters in place.
This can be viewed and signed on West Berkshire Council's website.