The Princess Royal to open homes in Manuden

The Princess Royal will be opening new affordable homes in Manuden, near Stansted, at the end of the

The Princess Royal will be opening new affordable homes in Manuden, near Stansted, at the end of the month. Photo: CFRS/PhilMynott - Credit: Archant

Princess Anne will visit the village of Manuden near Stansted this month to officially open some new homes and meet the residents.

The Princess Royal will be in David Collins Drive, on Tuesday, March 31 to cut a ribbon at the affordable housing development in David Collins Drive. The four homes were built last year to be let at affordable rents. Princess Anne will see one for herself and meet local residents.

Planning restrictions have been put on the properties to make sure that local households with a genuine connection to the village have priority to live in them.

Elizabeth and Christopher Hannington will show the princess round their home and their daughter Amelie will present her with a posy of flowers. Later, the princess will join other invited guests for a buffet lunch at Manuden’s new community centre, part of the scheme.

The project is regarded as a triumph for a dedicated group of volunteers who have worked on it for 14 years. It began because the village needed a new village hall and new sports changing rooms, both being beyond repair. However, after fundraising for years and reaching a budget of £90,000, the villagers were stuck because they couldn’t get grant or Lottery funding.

Then developers Pelham Structures agreed to finance and construct the new community and sports centre while they were granted permission to build 14 houses north of the village, including the four affordable homes.

The new centre, which cost around £1.6m to construct, includes space for classes, badminton and indoor bowls, as well as weddings, parties and functions. The village also gained two new full-size and one junior football pitch, a cricket green and a flood-lit, multi-use outdoor area.

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John Archer, acting chairman of Manuden Parish Council and part of the original Community Hall Steering Committee, said it was tragic that the late chairman of the parish council, Dr Les Atkinson, who had inspired the Village Community Centre project and driven it through despite all its setbacks would not be there to see Princess Anne give her blessing to the scheme. Dr Atkinson died on March 10, aged 71, after suffering from cancer. He was awarded the British Empire Medal in the New Year’s Honours this year.

Dr Atkinson said at the time: “Although I have received the honour, it wasn’t a one-man job, it was a team of people and each of them deserve a bit of the medal.” He had moved to Manuden with wife Veronica, known as Nikki, in 1974.

Cllr Archer said: “Without Les it just couldn’t have happened. He had the tenacity and experience to be able to push this through and take the helm.”

The development which includes 10 houses for sale at market prices, has been coordinated by English Rural Housing Association of which Princess Anne is patron, with Manuden Parish Council in partnership with Uttlesford District Council and Pelham Structures.

Councillor Julie Redfern, Cabinet Member for Housing at Uttlesford District Council, said: “This is wonderful news for Manuden and the whole of Uttlesford. The visit by HRH The Princess Royal to officially open these much-needed affordable homes is a fitting way to acknowledge the work that has gone in to this ground-breaking project.

“The development is an excellent example of how local people can work with local authorities and developers to the benefit of their community.”

Usual planning policy was changed so the site became a “rural exception site”’ meaning development not normally permitted was allowed because of the benefits to the local community.

Adrian Maunders, chief executive of English Rural Housing Association said: “The visit by our Patron, HRH The Princess Royal will help to highlight this innovative and exciting project. Having identified concerns about the lack of affordable housing and modern community facilities, the parish council took practical and pro-active steps. We were pleased to play our part.”

English Rural Housing Association is a Registered Social Landlord established in 1991 to provide affordable homes in small villages for local people. It currently owns and manages around 1,100 affordable properties, spread among 150 villages, and has a development programme of over 250 additional homes.