Minutes of a Strawford-on-Tarr Borough Council meeting to discuss the proposed relocation or demolition of a local wishing well
- Councillor Dorwood
- Counciller Sisson (Chair)
- Councillor Bagley
- Councillor Fribbins
- Councillor Neary (Dead since January but still technically in office. He was represented at the meeting by his hair brush which, along with other personal affects, was generously donated by his family for a proposed John Neary Museum)
- Councillor Vickerstaff
Julia Catchpole-Midwinter (Minutes)
Councillor Stapleton (Still marooned on a raft in the centre of Peary Pond)
Larby Homes Ltd have applied for planning permission for a residential development on the corner of Dellow Road and Rawley Way. If approved the development will consist of a single block of 43 flats. These will comprise a mixture of social housing, rented accommodation and properties to buy. There will be four retail units on the ground floor facing onto the street.
Planning permission is conditional on Larby Homes Ltd funding the construction of a community centre in the St Steven's Ward of Strawford-on-Tarr. On three previous occasions when Larby Homes has promised to build similar venues in other towns, the company has eventually reneged upon the original agreement. The council fully expects Larby Homes to do likewise in this instance. There exists an unspoken accord between Larby Homes and the council that, when the deal to build a community centre falls through, local politicians will kick up a fuss but will seek no remedial action in the courts. As a concession Larby Homes will agree to partly subsidise renovations of the dining hall at Ruskins – currently the formal residence of the Lord Mayor of Strawford-on-Tarr.
The site of the proposed housing development is classified as brownfield and is currently derelict. Previously it was occupied by The Perry Brothers Magic Sparkle Happy Fun Time Kingdom. The unsavoury actions of the Perry Brothers have left a mark upon Strawford-on-Tarr that will stain the good name of the town for decades – a notoriety that has been bolstered by no less than three salacious TV documentaries and an episode of Panorama, all chronicling events at the theme park. It is thought that it will be better for the image of the town if something goes up on the site sooner rather than later.
The only remaining structure on the land is a wishing well. This pre-dates the Perry Brother's theme park. Although the well is not in the way of the proposed apartment building, its presence on the site is an issue: The Location of wishing wells and enchanted streams act 2007, specifies that residential developments must be situated a minimum of 50 feet away from a wishing well.
For the Larby Homes development to proceed the well must either be demolished or relocated. The purpose of this meeting is to formally discuss the available options.
(i) Councillor Dorwood excused himself from the discussion citing a conflict of interest: In 1983 the well granted one of his wishes. This resulted in charges of electoral fraud against him being dropped after vital evidence was unexpectedly eaten by a powder-blue unicorn draped in a gold silk sash that read 'Miss Anglesey 1997'. The unicorn was, for a time, the star attraction at the Strawford-on-Tarr Porcupine Sanctuary and Petting Zoo. It sadly passed away in 1997.
(ii) Councillor Fribbins gave a lengthy and detailed account of the history of the wishing well, which was a major source of income for the town in the years immediately following World War II. Many landmark buildings in the town are the result of community wishing exercises. The most notable of these are the Strawford-on-Tarr Orangery which was opened by the late Queen Mother, and the Museum of Ploughing.
(iii) Councillor Sisson recounted an anecdote in which the late entertainer and former game show host - Larry Price - was arrested after he was caught urinating into the well. Councillor Sisson said that urination in the well continued to be an issue. Last year seven people were arrested. Six received fines while another was judged to be in breach of the terms of his parole and returned to prison.
Councillor Bagley asked whether excessive urination might affect the well's potency . Councillor Sisson said that no studies had been carried out locally on the effect of urination, however studies undertaken in other towns had found no evidence that large quantities of urine undermined a wishing well's ability to perform its stated function.
Councillor Fribbins reported that last summer a sign was erected next to the well pointing in the direction of the nearest public toilets which are located a minute's walk away. However he acknowledged that “people are still pissing in it.” It was noted that there are currently four videos on YouTube showing people urinating into the well. There was some discussion as to to whether efforts should be made to identify these individuals with a view to 'naming and shaming'.
(iv) Councillor Vickerstaff asked what the current revenue from the wishing well is. Councillor Sissons said that figures for the first three quarters of 2014/15 stood at £43.16. All councillors expressed concerns that the loss of this income along with the wishes provided by the well would put a significant dent in the town's finances and necessitate cuts in local services in order to rebalance the budget. Councillor Fribbins said that the income from the well could be increased if the mechanical coin retrieval system was repaired. Council workers are currently forced to remove the deposited coins using shrimping nets which is ineffective and time consuming.
(v) Councillor Bagley requested information on the quality of the wishes provided by the well. The well is subsidised by tax revenue and, as such, must represent good value to the public.
Councillor Vickerstaff said that she had recently received a complaint from a resident who had wished for a motor home and subsequently won a second-hand caravan in a church raffle.
Councillor Fribbins remarked that people had higher expectations and a greater sense of entitlement than they did in the past. He cautioned that we must be realistic about what the well can deliver.
(vi) Councillor Sissons rambled at length on whether moving the well would have any effect upon its power to grant wishes. There is a theory that the well derives its wish-granting power from an enchanted stream. If this is true would it be possible to do away with the well altogether? Selling the bottled “wishing water” could provide the town with a new stream of revenue and bolster the reputation of Strawford-on-Tarr globally as the place “where dreams are made reality.”
(vii) Councillor Vickerstaff was told by her grandson that there are goldfish living in the well – Is this true? (Councillor Vickerstaff has previously stated for the record that her grandson he does tend to make a lot of things up). If there are goldfish in residence then what is to be done about them?
Councillor Fribbins confirmed the presence of the goldfish. Nobody knows whether they were put there by a member of the public, or if they were wished into being. Since their arrival the fish appear to have made a number of wishes of their own – mostly for ostentatious miniature castles which now clutter the bottom of the well.
(vii) Councillor Bagley wondered whether it would be possible to wish the well out of existence or to a new location. This would reduce the costs associated with demolition/relocation during a time of cuts and austerity. Would any negative repercussions arise from following this course of action?
(viii) In the open public session of the meeting, local resident Leslie Gayle stated that he had recently purchased a detailed model of the well for his scale model railway of Strawford-on-Tarr. He asked that, if the well is demolished, whether the council would reimburse him for this purchase.
The minutes to this meeting were found partially embedded in the muddy embankment of a drainage ditch bordering farmers fields. In the centre of one of these fields there is a small dilapidated well that is thought to date to the 15th century. In 2007 the well was found to contain a small population of goldfish.
There is no record of any town called Strawford-on-Tarr having ever existed.