Terms of Reference

Terms of Reference

Jan 8, 2020 | Neighbourhood Plan

Kingsbridge, West Alvington and Churchstow
 Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group. Terms of Reference (v.4 Dec 2018)

1 Basis for the formation of the Group

    1. The combined 2014 – 2034 South Hams, West Devon and Plymouth Joint Local Development Plan is in the final stages of Government approval now. The 2011 Localism Act allows parish  communities to research and write a Neighbourhood Plan to provide parish level detail to complement the district level content in the Development Plan and, once approved, has legal force in guiding parish local development. The relevant town or parish council is the body identified in the Act to lead this process.
    2. During 2017 Kingsbridge Town Council decided to initiate the production of a Neighbourhood Plan to fit in with the activation of the new Joint Local Development Plan. The original Steering Group members were the individual local residents and business people (in some cases both) who volunteered to work in concert with the Town Council after a public meeting called to assess interest in developing a Neighbourhood Plan.
    3. These original members of the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group were appointed by Kingsbridge Town Council in January 2018. The Group operates under its delegated authority, and that of West Alvington and Churchstow Parish Councils.
    4. Some of the interested group who were willing to help with particular tasks but did not wish to become Steering Group members agreed to continue involvement as supporters.
    5. The Steering Group agreed with the Town Council at the outset that the four parish areas immediately surrounding the town were likely to share many of the same land use and planning issues and should be invited to participate in a joint planning process to produce a combined plan. As a result of this Churchstow and West Alvington Parish Councils accepted the offer and the planning process is proceeding on this tripartite basis.
    6. The membership of the Steering Group includes representatives of the Town Council and the two Parishes, nominated by those Councils.

2. Steering Group Purpose

    1. To carry out the necessary data based research, and to consult widely across the local community, to include individuals, businesses and community organisations, to establish local land use and development planning priorities.
    2. To formulate policy proposals as the basis of a Neighbourhood Plan based on this research and consultation, to enhance the wellbeing of the community and the long term sustainability of the Town and two parishes, within the framework provided by the Neighbourhood Plan legislation.
    3. To write a plan document to include these planning objectives and policy proposals which are shown through further consultation to be widely supported by the community at large, sufficient to be approved by the formal plan assessment process and the referendum required by the legislation.

3. Geographical area covered by the Neighbourhood Plan

    1. The Kingsbridge Town Council area plus the civil parishes of Churchstow and West Alvington.

4. Steering Group membership

    1. The group membership comprises Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, (nominated by the original group from amongst their members), the coordinators of any agreed working groups, up to two nominees from each of the three local councils, and general members of the group up to a maximum of twenty members in all.
    2. The group may co-opt additional members as it feels it appropriate provided the maximum of twenty members is not exceeded.
    3. Supporters may attend meetings whenever relevant or whenever a subject of interest to them is on the agenda. Other observers may be invited at the discretion of the Chair.
    4. The Secretary will maintain an up to date list of members and supporters and their attendance at group meetings.

5. Steering Group operation

    1. The members of the Group will generally meet monthly to identify and organise the carrying out of the necessary tasks amongst themselves, manage  the process and assess the implications of the statistical research and community feedback, then agree how these should be translated into policies and project plans.
    2. Members will also work as part of task groups agreed where necessary to pursue the detail of specific areas such as housing or transport. They will be helped by individuals (supporters) who have particular skills or contacts in these areas.  (As at July 2018 three groups have been established each with a coordinator: Publicity and website development, Community consultation, Data research and analysis.)
    3. The group will identify where and when publicity material and public meetings requiring use of the available funding are appropriate and allocate agreed funds accordingly.
    4. Where the group considers that paid professional help is needed it will define, on the advice of the Treasurer, the specification for the task and agree the terms of engagement and the allocation of the required funds from the funding available.

6. Steering Group procedures

    1. The Group will operate on the basis of consensus decision making to reflect its duty to take the fullest account of the output from public consultation and input from all other relevant and interested parties.
    2. The quorum will be six members with voting rights, to include for continuity purposes, two of either the Chair, Secretary, Treasurer and the Working Group coordinators. Voting rights will be available to all members who have attended at least half of the meetings in the preceding six months.
    3. Should finely balanced decisions need to be taken, for example on what to include in the plan, a simple majority vote will be taken at the Chair’s discretion amongst the agreed full members of the Group in attendance at the meeting in question.
    4. An Annual General Meeting will take place in February each year for the life of the plan process. This will comprise a report on progress with the Plan, confirmation of membership and election of officers. A brief special general meeting will be held before a routine group meeting should an officer resign between AGMs.
    5. The Treasurer will agree a budget with the group based on the one-off grant made available by the Government body which provides funding for the provision of professional help with technical issues where necessary. They will issue contracts for this work and monitor the use of the grant and the contractors’ output.
    6. The Group will follow normal public service rules in declaring any personal or business interests wherever this is relevant. The Secretary will record this as appropriate. Individuals should discuss any concerns with the Chair and agree an appropriate way ahead before the relevant meeting or activity.
    7. All those involved in the Steering Group, both members and supporters, will conduct business with each other and the wider community in a spirit of openness, collaboration, trust and mutual respect. They will also treat everyone with courtesy and respect regardless of their age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, ability, or religion and belief.


The three civil parishes covered by the plan all have very long histories much of which is shared. Brief historical and current profiles of the three areas may help residents to visualise how a prosperous and sustainable future for our area might be constructed.


The modern town includes the two ancient ecclesiastical parishes of Kingsbridge and Dodbrooke. Each had, and still has, its own medieval parish church. Whilst the town as a whole has been known as Kingsbridge since it was first  mentioned in a Saxon royal charter of A.D. 962, Dodbrooke functioned locally as a separate place in certain respects until well into the 20th century, being sometimes referred to as a borough in its own right after being granted a market charter. Dodbrooke had its own livestock market and the quayside on the east side of the estuary was known as Dodbrooke Quay.

The earlier history of the area is similarly unusual. West Alvington was the earliest settlement to be recorded in royal documents around 700 A.D and its original church was the mother church for a wide area to the west of the village. West Alvington and  Chillington were royal manors, held directly by the king, in a wider area of royal land holdings which were parcelled out by successive kings of Wessex to thanes and local lords of the manor appointed by the king to administer them. So the whole area around Kingsbridge had royal connections.

At that time, before Kingsbridge expanded onto reclaimed land at the lower end of Fore Street, the estuary high tide line extended up the current Mill Street and Lower Union Road to the west and up the lower end of Church Street to the east. The road from Alvington to Chillington passed on a bridge or causeway over this tidal area and the streams which still run down both the east and west valleys into the original head of the estuary. The lower end of Church Street from the King of Prussia south is still called Bridge Street. It appears that because of the link to the two royal manors it became known as the Kings Bridge, lending its name to the settlement which was growing up alongside.

Kingsbridge was established on the hill ridge between the two stream valleys with houses and other buildings lining what is now Fore Street. Their ancient smallholding burgage plots are still visible in many cases marked by the gardens of the current versions of those houses and shops. The two streams were diverted to power the Town mills, running parallel to Western and Eastern Backways, which some historians believe may also mark the line of Saxon town defensive walls. A number of Saxon era towns like Totnes on sea coasts and estuaries were specifically set up like this to counter Viking raids.

At some point after 1136, when the old Saxon abbey at Buckfast was recolonised by French Cistercian monks, the Domesday manor of Norton which included Churchstow and Kingsbridge was given by the Norman king to the Abbot of Buckfast. In 1219 the abbot was granted a market charter for Kingsbridge allowing him to exploit its prime location which led to it starting to develop into the commercial centre for the central South Hams. The Abbot also ran the town mills and kept a banqueting hall in the town as a base when in the area. By 1238 the Town was given borough status and was the main centre in Stanborough administrative Hundred for the legal systems for controlling trade and collecting taxes.

It is believed that Churchstow was a very early Christian church site like a number of others on the south west coast and it was acknowledged as the parish church for Kingsbridge. It was not until the late 13th or early 14th century that the town was allowed to build St Edmunds church and become an ecclesiastical parish in its own right. Dodbrooke church may well be older.

Dodbrooke is on a very ancient west to east road following the high ground from Modbury and Churchstow towards Chillington, Stokenham and Dartmouth via Washbrook, which means it may have also had an early church. It was in Coleridge administrative Hundred and was a separate manor to Kingsbridge. Dodbrooke was granted a market charter in 1257 and treated as a borough by 1319, but never grew as much as Kingsbridge. Its current church, St Thomas’s, was built in the 15th century.

Both Kingsbridge and Dodbrooke grew steadily in late medieval times. Kingsbridge in particular was well established as the commercial and social centre for the whole surrounding rural area by the Tudor era, and had a market arcade by 1586 and then the Grammar school by 1670. (Both buildings still surviving.) The two towns between them established over the ensuing 200 years all the necessary businesses and trade skills to support the area. Alongside large livestock markets they had tanneries, breweries, an iron foundry, metalworkers producing agricultural tools and machines, mills and agricultural feed merchants, banks, numerous inns and hotels, secondary schools and professional practices in law and medicine. In the 19th century one mill converted to large scale woollen cloth production.

The town was a route centre for turnpike roads, and goods and people moved in and out by horse drawn carts and stage coaches. As mechanisation arrived motor engineers, buses and goods transport businesses appeared and provided extensive support for trade and travel in the area. As a thriving port before the estuary silted up in the early 20th century, large quantities of agricultural and quarry produce were shipped out and coal brought in for fuel and later gasworks use. Sailing ships, and later steam ships, of up to 500 tons, including the famous fruit schooners were built at boatyards on the upper estuary, and local families like the Balkwills were major shipowners alongside those in Salcombe.

When the 19th century Poor Law obliged parishes to provide for the homeless and unemployed, a union of all the surrounding parishes was formed and the Union Workhouse was built in Kingsbridge providing for more than 300 people when full. This did not finally close until the 1930s.

The railway line was built from South Brent opening in1893, (and closed in 1963) principally for trade purposes but enabling tourism and holiday homes to start growing, and signalling the change of the area from purely agriculture and marine business to the varied commercial and tourism profile we recognise today.

Kingsbridge Town – current profile
Kingsbridge, including Dodbrooke, in 2019 is a community of about 6000 residents living in just over 3000 households. (And owning between them about 6500 cars!)

Devon County Council identifies it in its planning structure as the market town for the surrounding 18 parishes in an area bounded by Slapton, Salcombe, Thurlestone, Loddiswell and Woodleigh. This catchment area represents about 18000 residents who all rely on, at least to some extent, services located in the town.

Much of the attraction of modern Kingsbridge as a place to live lies in it being a year round community, retaining many of the local commercial and community services lost in some other small holiday area towns. This has been reflected in it retaining a more balanced population profile than many West Country tourist towns of similar size, and also remaining very much the market town for a large rural area, some of it relatively remote in light of recent reductions in rural bus services.

Some of this population stability has been due to it being a desirable retirement location for the relatively affluent because of its level of local services set in a very beautiful natural environment. However, this has also meant it being a magnet for second home owners and those buying houses as holiday lets, so it also has a significant transient population. As the shopping town for this part of the South Hams this tourist visitor influx is a significant part of the economy, especially for the summer six months.

The economy is much broader than just tourism, although this adds much custom to the retail, marine, catering, hotel and entertainment businesses. Agriculture is still a major contributor along with construction, both new build, refurbishment and property maintenance. Professional services and motor and transport related business are also significant, the latter especially important because of the high dependence on cars, (which also complicates parking issues).

The full time retired residents have bolstered the settled feel of the town and kept local businesses alive to a significant extent, but have inadvertently contributed, along with the second homes and holiday lets, to the strong housing market and consequent high property prices. Average house prices are way beyond the mortgage ceiling of local young people wishing to stay in the town if their salaries are at or below the average local wage. Rental costs are similarly high, restricting the ability to save for a deposit for house purchase. The attractive steeply sloped topography also affects this. Land remaining which is suitable for building is in short supply pushing up prices for that brought to market.

Like everywhere else, on-line shopping has affected the retail centre of Fore Street in a big way, but many local businesses are surviving well by matching on-line convenience with good customer service. Fortunately the two major national supermarket branches are not out of town but within a few minutes walk of Fore Street, so the heart of the town has survived better than in many small UK towns. This positive picture is perhaps confirmed by the fact that, unusually, there are still branches of three major clearing banks in the town.

So far so good! But the town cannot be immune to the powerful 21st century economic forces affecting the whole UK and the particular ones apparent in the South West. The Neighbourhood Plan is an attempt to identify how best to future proof the town and sustain long term this delightful lifestyle for our children and grandchildren.

Information to follow …

West Alvington – History
The ancient village of West Alvington has undergone several name changes over the centuries. Like other South Hams settlements, it takes its name from its one time Saxon chief, being west of the old ‘Aelfwynn’s Town’, and was later part of the Royal Estates. Originally much larger, extending as far as the sea, West Alvington Parish is still sizeable, covering some 4.28 square miles. Standing strategically on the top of a hill and with plentiful water sources, this site has been occupied since around 700 AD and is recorded in the Doomsday Book.

The fine village church, All Saints, stands on a site dating back to 909 AD. The present church, with its imposing pinnacle tower, is a rather grand 15th century building built of green slate quarried at Charleton and brought up the estuary by boat. The interior pillars are made of hard sandstone from Beer. The church’s impressive ‘ring’ (set) of six bells and accomplished bell ringers became famous throughout Devon and beyond, helping to establish the village’s reputation in this field.

Bowringsleigh, originally built in 1303, survives as a fine example of an Elizabethan and Jacobean Manor house and is open to the public each year. Ownership passed from the Bowrings to the Ilberts, who were wool traders, in the late 17th century and they remained there until the death of Miss Margery Ilbert in 1984. West Alvington’s well known ancient woods form part of the Bowringsleigh estate although with public access these days. During the English Civil War the Butts field (on the left as you leave the village towards Salcombe) was used by the local yeomanry loyal to King Charles I to practice their archery.

West Alvington was one of the first Devon parishes to have gas lamps. A hundred and fifty years ago the village was a thriving and independent business hub. It had blacksmiths, carpenters, masons, plumbers, a shoemaker, tailor, and a number of shops on the main road. It also had a Poor House which accommodated up to 30 ‘inmates’ at one time. Quay House in Kingsbridge, built by the Ilberts, was the trading post for West Alvington, receiving the goods delivered by ships sailing up the estuary. This gave the Parish a large degree of self-sufficiency. Historically, those wishing to travel from Kingsbridge to Salcombe took the old coach road, which is still there, running out of Tacket Wood. As the current main road developed, the village provided stabling for horses taking travellers to and from Kingsbridge, at Horseman’s Close, and clothes washing services in Lower Street.
West Alvington – Current profile

Today, although all of the Parish falls within the AONB, the village itself suffers – like others – from being linear, with no central green or square. Along the busy main road, due to the fortunate survival of a good number of original cottages and listed buildings, most of the village is designated a Conservation Area. We have a thriving pub, the ‘Ring O Bells’, and a well-attended Primary School. Set in rolling hills, the Parish is home to some of the South Hams’ most notable historic farmsteads such as Gerston, Longbrook, Woolston and Collapit. It also has a long stretch of pristine coastline to the west of the Kingsbridge Estuary. Once famous for its orchards and cider, swallows visit West Alvington each spring and the area is rich in wildlife. This is a special place.

In deciding to join with neighbouring Kingsbridge and Churchstow to create a shared plan, West Alvington Parish Council has made a commitment to the Neighbourhood Planning process. The hope and intention is that we will embrace this opportunity to bring people together to celebrate what we have and, most importantly, to build on this to make our Parish an even better place to live.

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