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Sowing seeds for community farm between Potterne and Rowde
Devizes couple Chris and Helie Franklin want to set up a community farm to benefit children excluded from school, as well as ex-prisoners.
Mr and Mrs Franklin are in negotiation with Wiltshire Council over a lease for Marsh Farm, which borders Potterne and Rowde, where Mr Franklin spent his childhood as his father farmed there. The couple live in a cottage on the farm and have watched as the farm buildings have deteriorated.
Mr Franklin said: “Dad moved out in 2002 and the then Wiltshire County Council sold the farmhouse and leased the land. That didn’t give the tenants any motive to keep the place up so it has become quite derelict.”
Mr and Mrs Franklin plan to renovate the farm buildings and convert them to areas where training can be given. They have been in discussion with Wiltshire Council’s Young People’s Support Services with a view to helping excluded pupils get back into education by showing them the values of farming and rural living.
The couple addressed Devizes Area Board on Monday evening.
Mr Franklin said: “The buildings will be returned to use after 11 years lying vacant, by installing training and support facilities, office space and a studio area with toilets and washroom on site.
“The farmland will be returned to a sustainable and eco-friendly facility. There will be an area set aside and prepared for food growing which will link in with the needs of the local community and schools.”
The farm will be set up as a Community Interest Company rather than a profit- making enterprise.
It will be called Franklin Farm, in memory of Mr Franklin’s father.
Mrs Franklin told the Gazette: “We have been talking to Wiltshire College, the Prison Service and the Probation Service to offer the farm as a way to provide pathways to living an independent and useful life.”
The couple’s proposals were warmly welcomed at Monday night’s meeting, with the exception of Potterne parish councillor Tony Molland who was, he said, quite alarmed.
He said: “This is a complete surprise to Potterne Parish Council and there are so many issues of concern to us here. For a start, there is the problem of access.”
But he was assured that access to the site would be from Caen Hill and not Whistley Lane.